Where is this water coming from and how do I make it stop?
March 23, 2010 8:13 AM   Subscribe

PlumbingFilter: Where is this water coming from and how do I make it stop?

I have an old clawfoot tub in which I installed this shower conversion setup several years ago. The faucet started dripping after a few years, which slowly turned into a constant stream, so I ordered a new faucet and brought in a plumber friend. He replaced some of the supply lines and added shutoff valves to both the hot and cold water. We tested the shutoffs before installing the new faucet and they work perfectly.

But now that a couple weeks have gone by, the new faucet has a nice steady drip. What's strange is that with both the hot and cold shutoffs completely closed, the drip continues. I figured maybe it was just dripping water leftover in the riser pipe, so I lifted the lever that turns the shower on so that any water from the riser could drain out. I dropped the lever and left it sit with the supply shutoff valves turned off for 24 hours, came back, and the faucet still had a steady drip.

Where is this water coming from? I confirmed that I get no water with the faucet on and the shutoff valves closed (except for the same drip), so I'm a bit confused. And it's a brand new faucet, so is it possible it's already broken internally? And if so, can I fix it or do I need a new faucet?
posted by thejanna to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
A new set of washers for the faucet would be relatively cheap thing to attempt, and they're usually pretty easy to get to - knowing the make and model of the faucet should make it easier to get an exact set of what you need. It shouldn't set you back more than a few bucks.

I'm more puzzled by the water still getting in there even with the shutoffs closed.
posted by jquinby at 8:24 AM on March 23, 2010

Maybe there are two things wrong: one of the shutoff valves is not closing properly, and the new faucet has an internal leak.

You'd need to disconnect the outgoing pipes from the shutoff valves to see which one is leaking. I haven't successfully repaired a shutoff valve; I think replacement is easier.

The faucet might be repairable by replacing the internal seals, but that's not really a fun operation.
posted by anadem at 8:28 AM on March 23, 2010

Response by poster: I should mention that he didn't install the standard plasticky shutoff valves - they're pretty heavy duty, like this. And if both the brand new shutoff and brand new faucet failed at the same time, is that just a huge coincidence or is there an underlying problem that could cause that?
posted by thejanna at 8:43 AM on March 23, 2010

I used to have the same set up (and boy, was it hard keeping air out of it.). Just a suggestion, if you haven't tried it, open the diverter to the shower head right after each shower. The water might be coming from the pipe to the shower, it doesn't look that long, but a slow drip could take hours to empty that pipe.
posted by Some1 at 8:52 AM on March 23, 2010

Some1's answer is the answer.
posted by From Bklyn at 9:38 AM on March 23, 2010

if the new shutoff valves were soldered in without first disassembling them then it is possible that the rubber seals were melted. ( your link shows threaded valves, are you sure they aren't the soldered type, which is more typical for that installation.)
posted by Gungho at 9:46 AM on March 23, 2010

Response by poster: Gungho - nope, they're definitely threaded.

I did open the diverter to the shower head to let the excess run out. It definitely poured out faster for a second, then back to the same old drip. For 24 hours.
posted by thejanna at 10:32 AM on March 23, 2010

Okay, so this is a low-risk-test-all situation. Get hold of a description how to disassemble that faucet and to replace the seals. Buy new seals. Shut off the shutoff valves. Replace seals, taking care that the surface inside the faucet against which they close is smooth and clean (no lime deposit...).
That should take care of the tap drip.

Unless the shutoff valves are all the way gone which, according to your description, they're not, you'll be able to replace the seals even if some water keeps running. And you'll know whether you should take care of those valves as well.

The problem might, in fact, be the hot water installation. If yours is a modern heat-while-running device, I'm wrong. But if you have a boiler of yore, which is basically a tank with water that's being kept warm, every time the heater re-heats the cooling water, pressure rises and even the newest faucet will temporarily drip. My parents have this system, has driven me nuts as long as i can remember.

They tell me that new faucet seals keep tight longer if one closes the taps gently.
posted by Namlit at 11:13 AM on March 23, 2010

Here are some thoughts: Do you have hard water such that there could be a lime build-up in the pipes? If so, some of this scale could have been dislodged during the re-plumb and gotten wedged in the seat(s) of the gate valve(s). This would keep them from closing completely, allowing a slight drip. Second, the same thing may have happened with the new faucet. Lime scale and/or grit in the water line can ruin the washers or cartridges very quickly. Last, check and see if your water heater has a zinc anode in it. If this has eroded away, then scale from the tank can get loose and act just like a grain of sand.

The first thing to do is to replace the washers if this faucet has them or inspect the cartridges for damage. Next, I would replace the gate valves with ball valves as they make a more positive seal if the water is even a little bit gritty.
posted by Old Geezer at 2:55 PM on March 23, 2010

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