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Upgrade Your Toilet! September 16, 2008

Posted by FaucetMaster in Buying Tips, Toilets.
Tags: , ,

Water closet, commode, toilet, white throne, porcelain altar (after a late night drinking or an unsuccessful potluck…) – It’s as essential fixture of your bathroom.  One you want in fully functional order – it’s gotta work!  So if your ‘royal seat’ is in less than austere condition, below are some tips on what you need to do for selecting a replacement.

Seems easy, but beware.  Are you sure that’s white?  If you have a truely white model, then you should be ok.  Make sure the lighting in your bathroom isn’t lying to you.  However, some people have slightly off-white colors like ‘bone’, ‘biscuit’, ‘colonial white’, sedona beige’, or some other odd color probably made to match the sink and tub.  Maybe you have something further off like black, blue, etc.

If you have an off-white color, check the manufacturer of the toilet.  If it’s not right there at the back of the bowl, behind the seat hinge (stop looking underneath, it should be right on top).  If you don’t see it, check under the tank lid – that may have it also.  Stick to that manufacturer.  These are often bought colors, that they usually stick to.  You might have to stay with that manufacturer to get a correct color match.

If you have a true-white color, then you are good for open season on toilets!  You should be able to just match a few other critera for your selection.

Rough-In Measurement Diagram

This is pretty easy.  It’s the measurement from the wall to the center of the bolt-caps on the toilet base.  These line up with the center of the waste-outlet through the floor.  Normal residential is 12 inches.  Common variations include 10 inches or 14 inches.  If you have a basement toilet you probably have a through-the-wall outlet, and need that specific type of toilet (possibly a pressure assisted as well).  Look for the “Rough-in” mention in the toilet you are looking for – they should always mention it.

Elongated vs Round Bowls

Elongated vs Round Bowls

Bowl Shape
Elongated or Round? Galileo, preferred elongated/eliptical (sorry, astronomical bathroom humor). Round is usually for more compact installations, and most men (*cough* – I say this with personal opinion) often prefer elongated. The size differences are, measured from the center of the seat hinge-holes to the front of the bowl*:
– Elongated: 18-1/2″
– Round: 16-1/2″
*Cited from the master toilet seat crafter Bemis (www.bemismfg.com).

ADA Measurement

Bowl Height (ADA)
ADA says the toilet bowl height minimum must be 16-1/2″ from floor to top of bowl, less seat. Non-ADA toilets can be a bit lower.  Personally I like the ADA models, but if you have small children using this, a lower one might reduce the little ones having to climb.

Purchase Tips
 – Did it come with a seat?  As there are many options, sometimes toilets do not come with a seat!  Check the description, and make sure you get one in a matching color.  Soft-close are great for not waking the spouse.
 – Flushing system: Every manufacturer has a ‘better’ one, but read product reviews to see what people are saying about theirs.  Manufacturer websites also have a plethora of information.  Pressure assisted ones often sound like a aircraft taking off.  Gravity-assisted (water-weight driven) are often the norm.
 – “Less Supply”: As most people already have a wall angle supply (brass/chromed water outlet), they don’t sell these, nor the flexible or ridgid riser tube that connects.  These can often be easily obtained from a local hardware store depending on your connection needs.
 – Glazed trapway: Trapway = exit path to the outlet hole.  Glazed = smooth path instead of rough unfinished porcelain.  Galzed trapway = less clogging.  N’est-ce pas?
 – Two-piece / One-piece toilet: Tank is seperate or not.  Two piece are easier to ship (internet purchase), but that’s about it.  It is also thought that since there is no seam in a one-piece, that germs have no place to hide and it can be kept cleaner.  I believe Simple Green can go anywhere :).
 – GPF: US Federal Law – A toilet must be 1.6 Gallons per Flush.  However, a lot of older toilets were a ton more, 3.5 GPF up to 7.0 GPF.  Yes, thats a lot of water to ensure a good flush.  However, if something’s gonna get stuck – that’s a lot more water on your floor causing damage.  Not to mention several swimming pools more worth of water down the drain each year.  There are some lower-flow models below 1.6, but there is still issues of getting that extra “oomph” per flush.  This is more of a personal preference or location-demand.
 – Shipping when Buying Online: Check the box on delivery (both if a two-piece toilet).  These are made from vitreous china, so can chip/crack.  Not to mention manufacturer defects, warehouse mishandling, etc.  Make sure the boxes are intact, no impacts, etc.  Also if there are no major flaws seen BEFORE signing for the delivery.  If there are, note it on the bill of lading.  Often, rejecting delivery works.  Check with your online retailer for how to handle freight claims.  Often these are ‘field scrapped’ by the manufacturer and they just send another.  Stuff breaks, it happens.  Be sure to order early for your install, so you don’t have a time crunch if this occurs.  Here’s a video that actually explains some points on getting a freight shipment: YouTube Freight Video.

There might be a myriad of more small suggestions I could make, but will leave it to comments Q&A.  I hope this helps you upgrade your toilet and gives you some pointers on how to replace the most important seat in your house.


Resources for Repairing Faucets August 25, 2008

Posted by FaucetMaster in Repair.
Tags: , , , , , ,

The faucet leaks, has an annoying squeal, you broke the refill bottle on the soap dispenser – How can I answer all of these questions best?  Best way to start is listing out the top manufacturers or other resources I know available online for repair.  Think of it as a directory listing for where to look next to get your answer. If I miss something on here – leave a comment and I’ll try to answer and/or update this post.

Manufacturer Resources
Those that brought the faucet out of the ethers (or at least brass & finish vapours) and manufacturered it, know best about what makes it tick..  Or pour.  Ticking faucets are bad.

They usually have a staff of tech support agents to help you find: A. What model you have and B. What part you need to fix that model.  Those are the two big steps in fixing any faucet.

** Tip!  If you have or find out the model number of your faucet, store or download & print your instruction manual and parts explosion and keep it in a ziplock bag under your faucet sink.  Should you need it again, you need not go through much trouble.  And if you sell your house, the buyers will think you are awesome :).

Delta Faucet Co.
Delta faucets are one of the most popularly used.  Good for expense, but they range in a selection of durability.  They are also well known for using the “seats and springs” (part number RP2993) technology.  They’ve always had great tech and warranty support.  I recommend the website and phone support.
Website: www.deltafaucet.com
Phone: 1-800-345-3358
Email: customerservice@deltafauct.com
Purchase parts directly?  – No
Alternate Online Parts Website: deltaparts.faucetdirect.com


Moen Inc.
Moen has a wide variety of faucets, not to mention matching accessories (called CSI – no, not the show!).  Moen also is known for having only three main shower valve types: Positemp (no volume control), Moentrol (w/ volume control), and ExacTemp (thermostatic – temp only, needs seperate volume control).
Website: www.moen.com
Phone: 1-800-289-6636 (BUY-MOEN)
Email: Unknown – http://www.moen.com/contact.cfm?location=TopNavCustomerSupport
Purchase parts directly?  – Yes: http://www.moen.com/buymoen/buyparts/index.cfm
Alternate Online Parts Website: http://moenparts.faucetdirect.com

Price Pfister
Part of the Black and Decker family, along with Baldwin Hardware (door locks), Kwikset, Dewalt, etc.  Decent selection of faucets, but a touch more economical (IMHO).  Also, often used as builder models in past.  I have these in their triple-handle shower variety in a 1960’s house.
Website: www.pricepfister.com
Phone: 1-800-732-9238 (PFAUCET)
Email: Unknown – (really long link that wouldn’t fit)
Purchase parts directly?  – No
Alternate Online Parts Website: http://pricepfisterparts.faucetdirect.com

Oh-la-la!  Nothing says ‘shiek’ (or expensive) like Kohler.  They have a huuuuuuge selection of everything from faucets to fixtures (tubs, toilets, sinks) to furniture, accessories – even generators!  If you want the entire bathroom to be in one matching line by a single manufacturer, you’ll probably go Kohler.
Website: us.kohler.com
Phone: 1-800-456-4537 (4KOHLER)
Email: Unknown – http://www.us.kohler.com/general/contact.jsp
Purchase parts directly?  – Yes: http://www.kohlerserviceparts.kohler.com/
Alternate Online Parts Website: http://kohlerparts.faucetdirect.com

Well, these are the big 4, but there are tons of others.  Comment if you need someone else, and I’ll hunt them down and add them to the post for future browsers.

Tub Fillers – Getting Yourself In Hot Water! September 12, 2007

Posted by FaucetMaster in Buying Tips, Roman Tub Faucets, Tub & Showers.

The problem is you AREN’T in hot water – yet.  Here are some tips to look for when considering when looking for the facuet that gets you that relaxing bath: for keeping your water hot.  Also some goodies that can help!

How fast does it fill?
Flow rates – what is the faucet rated for GPM (gallons per minute)?  Tub faucet’s don’t have/don’t need aerators, so they are USUALLY limited by:

  • The valve that’s in the wall or under the deck (of the tub) for flow rate.  When buying, check how many gallons your tub can hold to give you an idea of what flow-rate you want.  Example: Have a 32 gallon tub?  A 4 GPM tub filler will fill it in 8 minutes.

Kohler high-flow valve

  • Pipe size: When purchasing your faucet – if the trim (the shiney, finished part) may be sold seperately from the valve.  Online stores often do this.  Check to see if there is a “high-flow” or 3/4″ pipe model.  You may have to check your inlet pipes (hot/cold) if they 1/2″ or are 3/4″, but if they ARE, I definitely recommend getting the 3/4″, which will give you the higher flow rate.  **Also, if you are having trouble finding the flow-rate on websites, check the manufacturer’s.
  • PSI (pounds per square inch) or your water pressure.  Usually spec-sheets on valves or faucets give an approximate estimate of what the flow-rate is based on what your water pressure is.  Here is an example (see the chart on pg 2 of the PDF).

Will you have enough hot water?
Ah ha!  Yes, you have the great 3/4″ high-flow valve and you’ve got good water pressure in your house already.  BUT, can your water heater compensate?  Gah – I know…  You’re probably headed out to the garage with a flashlight to check.  It’s ok, I’ll wait.

Ok, you’re back!  Well, if your heater does have the capacity to fill you’re tub in one go, then you should be good.  If you have a reeaaaally large tub though that even your pool-heater shudders to think about, there is another solution: tankless water heaters.  Not only are you not constantly heating a tank of water (keeping it hot), the larger units can easily keep up with your tub’s demands AS you demand the water.  I recommend the “whole-house” heaters, as “point-of-use” are usually for a smaller application, like a sink or small tub.  Most online stores are nice and give you a GPM flow rate right up front – yay!

Will it STAY hot?
In-line heaterThe heat fades and you’re left sitting in a tub of luke-warm water – bleh.  Some manufacturer’s, like Jacuzzi, make in-line heaters that keep the tub water hot as it’s jetted.  It’s actually fitted on the pump-piping and is NOT really made to heat the water, just keep it hot.  Not for the faint-of-heart :).

Also – material of the tub can effect how the tub water stays hot.  Cast iron can cause the poured water to start off a little more tepid because the metal might be cooler to start with.  Acrylic or fiberglass tubs might not have that effect, but depending on how well they are insulated (the underside), they might bleed heat after being filled.  For material I’d recommend sticking for appearance or your durability in mind – those are usually a bit more important.  Also, the point might be moot as I have yet to see a cast-iron jetted tub :).

Well, thats about all I have for how to keep your bath water hot.  More to come about other fun topics like replacing a bathtub drain, different types of bathtub faucets, etc.

What’s PVD? September 4, 2007

Posted by hipster in Lavatory Faucets, Style.

What is PVD?  What does it stand for? What does it mean?  Do you even want it?  These are the questions I am being asked, so I am obliged to answer.

PVD has a lot of different definitions. I have heard “Particle Vapor Distribution,” “Particle Vapor Deposition,” “Physical Vapor Deposition” and several others as well.  Whatever it’s called, it’s effective, and PVD finishes are unlikely to be scratched or blemished. So the question is, “how does this process differ from the typical finishing process?”  The answer is very very very subtle, about the size of a molecule.

Normally when a product is finished, it is coated in a conductive liquid, hung on a conductive bar and dipped in a bath.  The product is charged with electricity and an ionic bond is formed between the liquid and the product. In other words, dip it and forget it.

PVD on the other hand works on much of the same principle, but instead of a chemical bath products are set in a chamber and given the same charge.  A vacuum in the chamber is created and a bar of finish is placed in the chamber.  This bar is blown up and its particles hover in the chamber and are affixed to the product.  This forms a molecular bond, which is much stronger.  Where a bath will cause a rush of molecules to bond, the PVD process causes one molecule at a time to bond to the product.

So what are the end results of the PVD process?  A finish that will last longer than a finish that went through the bath process.  One of the drawbacks of this process is it takes a lot of energy and time.  These are two things that manufacturers don’t often have.  Usually you will find PVD in chrome and brass only.

Chrome and brass are easy metals to finish with as they are so responsive to bonding.  If you are looking for a sturdy finish on a bathroom faucet, I would recommend Newport Brass, or Danze.  Newport Brass is a leading manufacturer that specializes in obscure and hard to find finishes.  They do all their work custom, and they have several PVD options.

Until next time.

Deposits On Your Faucets? August 24, 2007

Posted by hipster in Lavatory Faucets, Repair, Shower Systems.
1 comment so far

Calcium deposits, white flakes on your beautiful finish; what can you do? Well the answer is fairly simple.  Vinegar.  The vinegar is acidic enough to eat through the white film but not your finish. You are going to need:

·        Water

PH Scale·        Vinegar

·        A soft bristled toothbrush.


You need a mild acid to get rid of the calcium deposits.  Soap would be a good choice, because it has a low pH of 6.  The problem is soap actually chemically reacts to the minerals in the water and is the cause of that film. Vinegar’s pH is usually between 2 and 3.5.  Water has a pH of 7 and the lower the pH the more acidic the product is.


Now you aren’t going to scrub straight vinegar onto your faucets.  You’re actually going to dilute it down to about a cap full for a cup of water.  If you want to do a really thorough job, use filtered water. Also, don’t forget to test the mixture on a concealed part of the faucet, and its better your mixture be too weak than too strong.


This trick can be used to clean your shower heads.  The scum and calcium build up is the number one killer of shower heads, so a regular soak isn’t a bad idea.  There are lots of little problems some vinegar water can solve.

What tools should you use? August 22, 2007

Posted by hipster in Lavatory Faucets, Repair.
1 comment so far

Be sure to begin your project on the right foot, by using the right tools. Here are a list of tools and why they help.

Pipe Wrenches: They are designed just for plumbing problems and are far superior compared to a normal wrench when dealing with plumbing. When you are using a pipe wrench take a towel and wrap it around the pipe you are working with. That way it won’t get scratched up.

Plumbers Tape: Plumbers tape or silicon tape is a tape you will wrap around the threads of your pipe. It will make sure you get a water tight seal on your connection. Pull and wrap the tape two to three times around the male threads of a pipe and then screw it into place.

Auger: What do you do if you have a leak? Use the right tools. An auger is more commonly referred to as a pipe snake. It removes and breaks up clogs in your line. Also, at about $30 for the basic auger, it might be a good idea to pick one of these tools up, just in case a punger can’t cut it.

Tube Cutter: It does what it name implies. It cuts tubes. If you need to adjust a pipe or cut a pipe, these little pieces will do the job. Sometimes designed shaped like a “C” you simply roll your hand over it and the tube gets cut. These cuts are always clean and straight if you use the tool correctly.

Detection Device: The big daddy. About ten thousand dollars will get you a snaking device that can help you detect leaks, clogs and all sorts of plumbing abnormalities. This is no do-it-yourself tool, but neat to look at anyways.

While you are using your tools remember safety. Always pull the wrench, don’t push, last thing you need is your hand in a wall. Also, don’t use a wrench to lift or bend a pipe, they have another specialized tool for that, it’s called a pipe bender.

One of the beautiful things about plumbing, especially when considering bathroom faucets is that it’s so easy. Anyone who has used a garden hose can fix a faucet for the most part. If you do get stumped though, don’t be ashamed; get a professional to help you out. That’s what they are there for.

Let’s Talk Bronze Faucets! July 17, 2007

Posted by FaucetMaster in Lavatory Faucets, Roman Tub Faucets, Shower Systems, Style, Tub & Showers.
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I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing I like better than shopping for faucets!  Ok, I’m not THAT crazy (yet).  But, one of the most popular things people do shop for when looking to upgrade their faucet is a “bronze faucet”.  This can include “venetian bronze” (Delta Faucet), “Brazen Bronze” (Kohler), Brushed Bronze (everyone), and all the others that people can think up adjectives for: hammered, distressed, antiqued, chocolate-covered…  (I swear that last would be a hit).

 Kohler K-12182, Brushed Bronze  Delta Faucet, 3555RBLHP  Moen T6125 ORB Finish

Seriously though, bronze faucets are a hot item.  Rustihttp://www.faucetdirect.com/index.cfm/page/product:display/productId/TS511ORB/manufacturer/ShowHouse%20by%20Moen/categoryId/86c, “olde-worlde” style, not to mention they can go great if you are doing more darker tones in a room.  Also, these faucets often have a design that may add to their antique look – more stylized spouts, lots of metal texture on the handles, etc.

Frozen in time or Living Finish?
Beware – some of the faucets, especially those that aren’t of the bigger manufacturers tout “living finish” faucets, or “genuine” bronze.  These will continue to change over time from air moisture, oils, dust, etc.  Most manufacturers are pretty honest about it, as some people DO look for these.  It’s often hard to get a genuine looking “weathered” faucet.  These are usually a base-bronze or similar metal that just doesn’t have a sealant, so they will fade from bright, splotch or patina.  If you’re not looking for this effect, check the product details to make sure they say the finish is sealed.  Even then, be careful about cleaning the faucet and taking off the sealant.

Finishing Touches
Every brand does their bronze differently – everyone thinks that their’s is better (of course!).  Do you like it darker?  Lighter?  A bit of antique added so there is some dark on the textured areas?  A lot of antique so only a little of the bronze shows through (a dark faucet with lighter metal accents)?  So much to choose from…. Let’s take a close look at the most popular out there:

  Thousands of variations, limited blog space…  Hopefully, this gives you a good sampling of what is out there in the land of Bronze Faucets!

How To Clean A Brushed Nickel Faucet July 13, 2007

Posted by FaucetMaster in Lavatory Faucets, Repair, Roman Tub Faucets, Shower Systems, Tub & Showers.
Tags: , , ,

Kohler Devonshire Brushed Nickel Faucet 

With EasyOff and Sandpaper!  Err.. No.  I know it’s tempting, especially with those hard-water deposits.  White gunk so calcified it might look like a excavated fossil, not your bathroom sink faucet.  Or just all splotchy with finger and smudge-marks…  Why does brushed nickel show that so much?  Yech.

What to use? 

#1 – Avoid anything that you would use on the floor or oven.  If you have to get decked like you are going to be conducting chemical warefare with rubber gloves and a face-mask, you’re sure to ruin the nice finish (not to mention the warranty).  Also, some basin/tub cleaners are caustic or acid/ammonia-based, and can harm brushed nickel (read the bottom of this post for more).

#2 – Try a simple soap (dish-soap), a clean rag (not from the work-shop please) and water.  These are usually soft enough to remove finger-smudge marks, which Brushed Nickel is most prone to.  Avoid using scented hand-soaps as these might leave additives or have things like scrubbing-grit.

#3 – The drain parts of a faucet (called the “pop-up” drain) that have matching trim also often need to be cleaned.  Since these usually has water deposits, softer cleaners like Bon-Ami, Barkeeper’s Friend, Zud or Soft Scrub might be good.  Again – beware of anything that is made for harder substances like tile or flooring.

#4 – Do not use scratch-pad sponges like Brillo or steel wool.  These can take almost anything off of steel, but can take the finish patina or protectants – even the nickel, off the faucet.  Soft cloth please!

Why be so careful?
I’m glad you asked!  Most often decent big-brand faucets (like Moen, Delta, Price Pfister, Kohler) have “Lifetime” warranties on the faucet’s finish and function.  They will cover if the finish suddenly starts peeling, but only if a corrosive substance isn’t involved (Ooops, I used Liquid Plumber on the pop-up drain – not covered).  Using those will void that, and admittedly, most DO have a pretty decent warranty department.  Delta Faucet was one I dealt with frequently and they had a fast response.

So, there is the warranty to consider, but also the finish itself.  Each brand has it’s own special finish that they tout will last for “all-time”.  Delta’s is called “Brilliance“, Kohler is “Vibrant“, Moen’s “LifeShine“, and Price Pfister’s “Pforever Pfinish” (they like “Pf’s” – sorry, I’d link that one too, but their site doesn’t have the info). 

What it comes down to, is most of these have a cool PVD finish, which is Physical Vapor Deposition.  This is technobabble for the finish was put on atom by atom (ya, thats a tight bond).  Chances are it won’t PEEL (or crack, chip, etc).  But it might tarnish, fade, etc.  Most of these have a simple seal on them to protect against all the abuse that comes about on a bathroom sink.  Those harsh chemicals can take off that off that protective layer.

http://www.faucetdirect.com/index.cfm/page/product:display/productId/3026/manufacturer/Herbeau/categoryId/64/finish/Weathered%20BrassFaucets that have a vintage or or old-world look or finish be warned – These might have a “living finish”.  They are supposed to tarnish, patina, mottle or fade due to air/moisture exposure.  So cleaning them may take them back to the original base metal, but that may be up to you and you’re preferences.

Lastly, be careful of the internal parts.  Soaking the faucet with rubber or plastic corrosive chemicals can break down pieces that keep the faucet from going BLOOEY.  This includes the crunchy bits like seats (o-rings), valves, or even some basic silicone that may have been used for lubricant for smooth movement (I can’t use a pun here that wouldn’t get me in trouble).

So, you need to clean your faucet.  What do you do?  WHAT DO YOU DO?  If you have the instruction manual (yeah, right), that almost always has a “Care and Maintainence” section.  Failing that, most manufacturers have websites that have the info posted.  What it comes down to is you can use simple soap and water, but if you use something harsher beware of not damaging the finish, warranty and/or internal parts.

Update (9/29/08)
With the recent comments, I am updating this post with more info on specific cleaners to avoid, and things you can look for to see if that cleaner is safe.  NOTE: As most cleansers can change their formula, it’s hard to say “just use this!” so I’ll try to stick to those things that don’t really change, like white vinegar.

Chemicals/Cleansers to avoid using on Brushed Nickel: Delta Faucet states in their FAQ to avoid abrasives and polishes, including bleach-based cleansers.  They specifically state to avoid Scrubbing Bubbles, Lysol Basin Tub, Soft Scrub and Tile Cleaner (avoid on the brushed nickel – it probably works just fine on tile/tubs/sinks).  Beware product that say they “remove rust or tarnish” – those containing hydrofluoric, hydrochloric and/or phosphoric acids, anything with caustic agents (usually mentioned in the warning sections of the product). 

Kohler mentions to avoid anything with ammonia, bleach or acid.  Kohler also suggests considering Windex Original (has “Ammonia-D”?), Fantastic Antibacterial Heavy Duty (avoid the Bleach version!), Comet Bathroom Cleaner (Comet has citric acid – 6%). 

Moen doesn’t suggest anything specific other than 50/50 of white vinegar and water, and a soft cloth.

If I did not mention it before – never use a “Brillo” or other scratch-pad sponge.  It’ll get burnt stuff off the bottom of a pan and will remove any protectant if not the actual nickel off the faucet.

Bathroom Faucets at Last! July 13, 2007

Posted by FaucetMaster in Repair.

Well, here goes :).  Writing about bathroom faucets – you know it will be a thrilling ride, lol.  Why am I doing this? Well, we all have questions and I find I often have a lot of answers in this area.  I’ve answered product questions, technical questions, repair questions, talked to manufacturers directly, been trained, even run a website dedicated to the sale of faucets.

 I freely admit I will even link to them. Many times. Oh so many.  Why?  Because I like the site, I know it, and every blog needs consistancy, right?  Sure..

 Anyway, I hope to be posting answers to peoples questions, solving those burning needs where people type in a question like “how to fix a leaking faucet” to Google, and my modest blog comes up.  That would kick butt, lol.  Will I make money off this?  Meh, maybe.  If I ever figure out how to put ads up (if I get to that point), maybe you’ll click on them?  Please?  Pretty please?  Well, I’ll beg later…

SO! Onto the wonderful world of Bathroom Faucets.  Please comment, question, mock, rant or otherwise comment on my ramblings.

-FaucetMaster (yes, it’s corney I know)