Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.08.05
Stanstead, Quebec


How I fixed the kitchen faucet and washed the kitchen floor before my wife got home from work and won!

I've written before about how my family uses little quotation marks when they say I "fixed" something. This does not stop me from fulfilling my God-given right to tinker and/or putter. There are rumours, however, that I undertake these chores only so I'll have something to write about.

Our kitchen faucet had been dripping for about a week. I've replaced washers before with no personal injury or increase in insurance premiums so, while Deb was at work one recent Saturday, I decided to surprise her by fixing it.

How hard could it be?

Not very hard if you plan ahead. Me, I simply headed to the hardware store and picked up what's called a "repair kit," a variety-pack of washers. This is the hardware equivalent of those $2 Surprise Bags lurking around dépanneur checkouts that kids hound you into buying but end up being filled with junk that fell on the floor and other stuff the store couldn't sell.

In other words, not a wise purchase.

Back home, I shut the hot water off, unscrewed the tap, and removed the cartridge. The tap was in bad shape. The metal around the base had eroded and something was crumbling around the cartridge. It was either a cork washer or years of accumulated gunk - plumbing toe jam.

I turned on the cold water to rinse off the corrosion and cork/jam. Doing so, however, caused the cold to start running out of the empty hot water socket. I quickly shut off the cold.

I decided it was a cork washer. But my repair kit didn't have cork. Ah well, one washer's as good as the next, right? I jammed a rubber ring over the cartridge and reinstalled it, even though I had forgotten to note exactly how it all was put together when I first disassembled it.

It didn't work. The tap dripped more. Hmmm, I guess one washer isn't as good as the next.

I decided to shut off the cold water in the basement, take the cold tap apart and see how it was put together. Aha. It all made sense now. I'd need to go get a cork washer. I put the cold tap back together, went down the basement and turned the water back on.

Now, every so often you are given insight into how you would react in an emergency. Would you respond quickly and instinctively? Or would it be like one of those dreams where you're running but don't get anywhere because your feet have turned into freshly baked crème brulées?

In this case I was tested and found wanting. I was crème brul&eacue;ed.

In fiddling with the cold tap, I had unknowingly left it on full-blast. The hot water tap was still removed. When I turned on the cold in the basement, I heard the water running. And running and running. I went upstairs and looked across the room at the sink. Water was billowing out of the empty hot water socket onto the counter, floor, cupboards….

Now, a quick-thinking person simply would have gone to the sink to shut off the cold water tap. No. Faced with this urgent, albeit non-bloodletting situation, I instead ran back down to the basement, found the main water line to the house and cranked it shut. By the time I did all this, a small pool had formed on the kitchen floor.

As water ran across the floor, my first thought was, "I've got 45 minutes until Deb gets home."

Not only did I clean it up but I went back to the hardware store, bought a full replacement cartridge rather than fool around with washers and got both taps back together. Granted, because of the erosion, the grooves in the tap had worn away and the tap wouldn't turn and right now you have to turn the hot water on and off with a vise grip. But the important thing is that it "works."