Life’s Little Triumphs

plumbing cartridge

The Kohler cartridge that was removed.

This plumbing cartridge caused our house guests misery over a period of a couple of years, and almost cost us half a grand.  But this time fortune smiled and we feel great!

The cartridge was in the cold water handle of the shower in the guest bathroom.  It had gotten stuck after ten years of intermittent use.  For the last couple of years it was a struggle to get water of the right temperature to spray out of the shower head.  We thought we had it working well enough a couple of times, but users were still justly disgruntled.

Finally we called a plumber yet again to really fix it.  We have a plumbing contract with a local firm, so the response was swift.  Simple, right?  Any homeowner reading this knows that things that should be simple usually just aren’t.  The plumber took one look at it, consulted his tablet, and let us know that the model was out of stock.  He checked his truck and found he didn’t have any leftover parts for this particular model.  He left, and two days later called us to inform us that the two suppliers his company used didn’t have leftover stock of this model either.  Our only alternative, he said, was to buy a replacement shower set.

Problem is, there aren’t many options right now for our configuration, which is two handles and a separate faucet, as well as the shower head.  It would, furthermore, cost us about $550 to replace the set with one comparable to general appearance and quality to to the now-obsolete one.  And it still wouldn’t match the hardware of the double sinks in the bathroom.

Gloom and doom.  But my good wife persuaded my skeptical self to look online, and lo and behold, using the serial number of the receipt we had kept on file, we found the set on the Kohler website.  The set itself was marked “Discontinued,” but further clicking revealed that some of the component parts, including the very cartridge we needed, were still available!  So, double-checking the correct item–ceramic, cold water, quarter turn–we ordered the part for something like $23.50 plus a couple of bucks to ship.  Even if it turned out to be the wrong part after all, we’d be out very little for having made the effort.

The cartridge quickly arrived, and we called the company to see if we could get a plumber to install it.  Yes, they said, also apologizing that their personnel hadn’t been as persistent as we were, and they could come the next day.

That day was yesterday.  The guy came and tied to install the part.  Bad news: he couldn’t budge the old one.  It was stuck in place.  I even lent him my Liquid Wrench (the odor still lingers in that bathroom).  He went through the options, which sounded grim.  We could cap off the line, so that the water could be on in the house, and wait to weigh our hardware options, or we could order one from the company right then and there, a Moen, that would be the closest stylistically.  They could have it in a day or two.  But he might not be able to get the defective cartridge out without damaging some of the back plumbing.

Then an inspiration.  He removed the decorative ring to give himself a better grip with the wrench, and voila!  The old cartridge budged at last.  The new one did fit, too.  Twenty minutes later he was done.  Since labor is free under the terms of our contract, we now have a functional shower in the guest bathroom, whose hardware matches the rest of the room.  And it cost less that $26 out of pocket.  Now that’s an outcome worth waiting for!

©Arnold J.Bradford, 2016.

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