Saturday, January 30, 2010

The guys at Barron Park Supply rock! Also: Rohl U.1213 kitchen faucet demystified

When we re-did the kitchen in 2008, the lovely Carol chose a fancy faucet with three levers (for hot water, cold tap water, and filtered drinking water) and a sprayer. It's a "Rohl" U.1213 -- the spec sheet is at ; I found it very handy to refer to the diagram.

Naturally, we had some problems. The first thing, which happened some time last year (but probably more than a year past the purchase date) is that the maximum flow rate dropped. You crank the faucet full-on but after a half-second or so it acted like you'd just turned it back down. The lovely Carol went to the retailer (Plumbing'n'Things in Redwood City), and they told me to wash the valves (9.13247 and 9.13249 in the diagram). "How do you get at them?" I asked. Turns out that you just pull out on the lever. It takes a little doing, but the handles come off.

That didn't do it, so they put me in touch with the manufacturer. I called the number (which escapes me now -- your retailer will have it) and the first thing the guy told me to do was... you guessed it: wash the valves. I told him I did that already, and I also mentioned that I was able to get full flow out of the sprayer (9.27434 or 9.27424). My speculation, which I shared with him, was that the valve that sends water to the sprayer (9.13157) -- that valve was going goofy on us. He concurred, and they shipped a new one at no charge.

I had a really hard time getting it properly installed. It seemed as though the pipe was just a little too narrow for the valve. H'm... maybe I should use some sort of lubricant? But I was out of time; I jammed it in as well as I could and reassembled the faucet. Turned the cold water on full -- yay! The only problem was that the sprayer was sort of half-hearted about doing its job. I mean, it did spray, just not with much enthusiasm. And whereas before the flow from the spigot would all but stop when I pushed the sprayer button, now it continued at about half-strength.

Well, I was mystified but I sure wasn't going to disassemble the thing yet again; I wanted to quit while I was ahead (getting full flow out of the spigot was #1; having the sprayer work 100% was a distant second). Anyway as preparation for "someday," I asked my contractor friend about what kind of grease (or ...?) to use inside the pipe and he suggested waterproof plumbing lube, which the guys at Barron Park Supply, 650-948-7160, might know about.

That was back in September. Fast forward to this week, when the lovely Carol informed me that the faucet was flopping around. I could see it, and knew exactly what the problem was: the mounting hardware, in particular the C-ring (or C-plate? it's part of 9.26400) was busted. Same drill -- visit the retailer, they passed on the manufacturer's number, I called them, they agreed to send me a warranty replacement part. (It's been over 18 months but they were very sweet about it.)

The part came yesterday, and since I was going to work on the faucet anyway, I figured why not see about getting the valve in "right" this time. And since I was going to visit Barron Park Supply anyway, why not try to find a replacement for the missing stopper control knob/rod from the bathroom sink? So off I went.

Now their website says they're in the San Antonio Shopping Center near Sears, so I parked in front of Sears. Our mini-poodle mix, "Popcorn," was in the car, so I left it in the shade. I walked around the back of Sears, and... no joy. Fortunately I had their phone number, and my cell phone. It turns out (I should have looked at a map first) they're a lot closer to the "Milk Pail" than they are to Sears. Anyway, I had the stopper control knob from the matching bathroom sink, and showed it to one of the guys (they're all guys) behind the counter. "I need one of these," I said.

"We don't have any," he replied. "You could order one. That looks like a Price-Pfister." That sounded good to me, and he pulled a book down from the shelf. I entertained myself with the news clippings on the wall, then looked around a bit. Eventually there was an empty spot at the counter so I positioned myself there. The first guy was taking a long time, and I wondered what was up, but fortunately I wasn't in a hurry.

But while I was waiting, another guy freed up, so I asked him about "waterproof plumbing lube." He pulled a package off the wall (I *never* would have found it!) and started describing some alternatives. I then told him what I was trying to do. It turns out that the stuff in the package would work, but it was $10; he found a smaller package, maybe a half-dozen capsules (small ones like Benadryl, not bigger ones like CONTAC) of silicone grease. Perfect.

While he was still talking, I saw the first guy reach up and grab a box of parts. He pulled out a knob/rod combination that looked quite a bit like mine. The rod had a bigger diameter, but I was overjoyed. "You are the man!" I told him. He gave me the original part numbers, in case I had to order them later.

Drove home without incident. Sure enough, the new rod doesn't fit into the hole in the faucet. Harrumpf. Looked for my reamer... where did it go? Oh well, one thing at a time. First, I crawled under the sink and installed the new "C" plate. It's shaped like a large letter "C" and went on like a champ. The original one was made of pot metal (I thought it was plastic but the parts were cold to the touch) but it looks like they're making them out of something stronger now.

Now for the sprayer valve. I undid a small hex screw at the rear of the faucet, and rotated the spout while trying to lift it. It took quite a bit of doing, but off it came. Was it ever full of junk! I had a hard time removing the valve (9.13157); eventually I hit on the idea of passing a common screwdriver blade through slits in the spout and prying the valve out gradually. It's not supposed to be this hard!

Following the advice of the Barron Park guys, I took an old toothbrush and some vinegar and tried to clean out the area the valve went into. After rinsing well several times, I declared victory and put a little of the silicone grease on the part of the valve that seemed to be hanging up. All looked good, so I tried inserting the valve.

No joy! How could this be? It just wasn't supposed to be this hard!

Here's the story: there's a part -- two actually -- that aren't on the diagram. Passing through the spout is a hose for the filtered drinking water. It mates with the aerator thingie at the business end of the spout -- 9.25553. The other end of the hose is connected to a piece of plastic that looks like a tripod. In short, this is how the filtered water gets out into the world. It turns out that this tripod-shaped plastic thingie was what was hanging the valve up as I tried to insert it.

The way around it? Pull the unnamed tripod-shaped piece of plastic part-way out of the spout's tubing, so that its legs can expand. Put the "top" end of the valve (9.13157) between the tripod legs so that when the tripod-thingy goes back into a narrower part of the spout, the valve will be embraced rather than rejected. Does that make sense? The tripod's legs have "toes" that point inward. If the tripod is placed first into the narrow part of the spout, the toes will reject anything bigger than a certain size (7mm? diameter?). Naturally, the top-end of the valve is bigger than that minimum size.

Therefore, what we must do is mate 9.13157 together with the tripod-shaped thingie, and then push the whole shebang into the narrow part of the tubing. And it works! Water full-blast when the hose button isn't depressed; respectable pressure from the hose when the button is depressed.

That was it! I love it when things work as they're supposed to.

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