Failed faucets and relationships

Some of you readers know that I am separated and in the process of divorce. Separation and divorce create a dramatic life change. Having been married for 21 years, it’s an odd discovery to learn how much the dating world has changed in this time period, mostly because of technology. 

Realization No. 1 came with the differences in the art of communication. When you meet someone new face-to-face , after the phone number exchange the first real communication starts when you begin texting. It’s very different from the casual text exchange of the day-to-day; it involves wit, timing and a delicate level of expressed interested. Realization No. 2 came in the form of the Internet. People often go to bars to meet up with someone they first met online. They don’t go to bars with the thought of meeting someone random. If you aren’t online, you aren’t in the game.

All that being said, I will get to what this has to do with plumbing. A while back, I was dating a gal, but as the dating progressed things started to get rocky. Before things completely ended, I was invited to her home, which was recently renovated. 

She was frustrated that after the renovation her master bath lavatory faucet worked fine on the cold side but trickled on the hot side. Clearly, there was a blockage of some sort in the supply fittings to the hot side of the faucet. So, one evening after work I headed over with some tools, intent on fixing her faucet and smoothing out what was becoming a bumpy road between us. Turns out neither were any easy task.

Upon arrival it became pretty clear that she was in a foul mood. After struggling through an awkward dinner, I decided on just fixing faucet. As soon as I put my head below the lavatory my heart sank. What I saw was not the installation I was familiar with, meaning supply stops with compression fittings and IPS connections to the faucet valves. Instead, it was a network of plastic tubes replete with never-before-seen crimp fittings and plastic tees. The main connection between the hot and cold supply to the faucet had a small drum-like tee with a plastic cap that appeared to be removable. I thought this fitting might have had screens inside clogged with debris so I pried off the cap with my fingers. I instantly regretted it. Not only was there nothing inside the fitting that would have trapped debris, but the inside of the cap had a hexagon of plastic barbed teeth, two of which were clearly missing. Not good. But, I was quite certain it was already in this condition when I took it apart, so I thought I could probably put it back together in the same condition.

Since the supply connections to the faucet valves were made with the same unmanageable crimp fittings as the rest of the supply tubes, there was no way I could remove all the supply hardware and replace it. I had no choice but to admit defeat and reassemble the supplies, but that didn’t go so well.

As I tried to put the cap back on the drum-like supply tee, I heard a crunch. I looked back under the cap of the fitting and saw that I had broken off two more of the eight barbed teeth, meaning there wasn’t a chance it would stay together with just four of the eight barbs left. With that, I cleaned up my tools and the lav and her that I had failed because her faucet was now entirely out of commission. She would have to buy a whole new faucet, just because two plastic barbs had broken off as I tried to fix the problem. The lesson learned here was that you always have to know what you are getting into, be it a faucet or a relationship. Quick connect fittings on the supply to an otherwise good quality faucet might reduce cost and speed installation. But, at what price? 

Having to buy a whole new faucet if one of the cheap connecting fittings breaks in your fingertips is ridiculous. I told a colleague about this event and asked, what kind of plumbing is that, that which can be broken and rendered useless with your bare hands? That’s not plumbing; that’s child’s play. Beware of child’s play. 


Timothy Allinson is vice president of Engineering at Murray Co., Mechanical Contractors, in Long Beach, California. He holds a BSME from Tufts University and an MBA from New York University. He is a professional engineer licensed in both mechanical and fire protection engineering in various states, and is a LEED accredited professional. Allinson is a past-president of ASPE, both the New York and Orange County chapters. He can be reached at

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