Hard Water – Small Spaces

Shower
I didn’t count them, but there’s a lot of rubber spray holes.

When people ask me if I did anything fun over the weekend, I don’t think they consider “I did some plumbing” to be an acceptable answer. They shake their heads or say something like: “yeah, well I guess you enjoy that kind of stuff…

I really don’t enjoy plumbing.

I enjoy saving the money I would have to spend to have a showerhead and a bathroom faucet replaced. Even more than that, I enjoy the freedom to decide that the showerhead and faucet would be replaced on Saturday, after I walked the dog and before the football game I wanted to watch started.

The bathroom I was working in is off of the family room in our basement. The convenience of a half-bath right off the room with the TV is obvious. The beer fridge is also located off that room. I added a shower after we bought an exercise bike. I like to ride usually ride sometimes ride need to get back in the habit of riding in the morning, and being able to shower right after getting off the bike is nice. Since this bathroom was always going to be an all-business kind of place, we I made it small.

How small is this bathroom?

While you can easily enter and exit the shower stall, you can’t fully open the shower door unless you also open the door to the bathroom. Using the “primary” facility of this bathroom will keep you prepared for using the primary facility on an airplane. If the exhaust fan becomes necessary, you can reach the switch and, if the heater isn’t on, the 60-watt bulb will keep the pipes from freezing.

The title is both the reason why these repairs were necessary and the reason I don’t enjoy the work. We have ridiculously hard water. Our water eats plumbing fixtures, little by little, day by day. Over time, showerheads have fewer and fewer functioning spray holes and some of those send water flying sideways.

If you’re thinking that we should invest in a water-softening system, I’ve had that same thought but I fear we would end up with the water that feels kind of slimy. I’ve showered in such water and I always feel like I’m still covered in soap after rinsing. I’ve also considered a mineral filter, but I honestly think that it’s cheaper to periodically replace the fixtures than to regularly replace the filters. We have a taste & odor filter, so I’m not without data on this one.

The sink faucet had gotten to the point where, once the hot water was hot, the faucet wouldn’t shut off without a herculean effort. I could have replaced the cartridge, but the faucet was a basic we’re-adding-a-half-bath-right-after-buying-this-house model so it seemed like a good time for a modest upgrade.

Fortunately, improvements have been made to bathroom fixtures that improved the look and feel, made this job easier than ever before and may result in a longer lifespan of the components.

The showerhead has an integrated (but separate) hand-held shower. That’s perfect because a stand-up shower is not a tub. That means, when you turn the water on, it comes out of the showerhead and you have to dance until the water gets warm. Now, the initial blast can be diverted out the hand-held unit which can be pointed away from, um, other units. Both the showerhead and the hand-held have little rubber nozzles (technically, they are called spray holes) which, according to Delta:

Allow you to easily wipe away calcium and lime build-up from the spray face of your showerhead and handshower with the touch of a finger.”

In case you haven’t shopped for showerheads lately, we did not purchase a “shower system,” nor did we buy one with integrated LED lights or a digital temperature readout. Again, there are other units in place in the shower that indicate the correct temperature range.

The sink faucet, despite being a relatively low-budget model*, included a feature that do-it-yourselfers have been waiting for ever since the first Cave Depot opened. The multi-part-ill-fitting-dysfunctional drain lifting/closing mechanism has been replaced with a magic cable. There’s no other way to describe the new way of connecting the little pull-rod behind the spout to the “stopper” in the bowl – it’s magic.

As if having to have my feet outside the room while working under the sink wasn’t bad enough, the spirit of Laurel and Hardy or perhaps the Three Stooges was present during the faucet upgrade. First, I disconnected the supply line from the underside of the faucet before shutting off the water. Second, in response to the first, I smacked my head on the toilet which is so close that only the laws of physics prevent it from occupying the same space as the sink.

Mission accomplished. I took the first shower later that day. Since I bought the wrong supply lines, I will be back under the sink next weekend (since I don’t trust reusing supply lines). That will allow me to comply with the three-trips-to-the-hardware-store rule that governs D-I-Y home-improvement projects.

The only possible downside to this project is that my wife likes the new faucet better than the one in the master bath, so…more to come.

*Bathroom faucets at Home Depot range from $10 – $1,340 – just so you know.

68 thoughts on “Hard Water – Small Spaces

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    1. Sorry, no. Given the number of trips between my house and the garage to retrieve yet another tool I didn’t think I would need, I don’t think I could afford the gas. I have a DIY friend and he is certain that no project is completed with fewer than three trips. Thanks for stopping by today Judy.

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  1. Well, Vasai also has similar issues. I never use the shower. I prefer the Indian-style where you draw water from the bucket with the help of a mug. Simple and effective. I like the faucet as well, (here we call it water tap) quite stylish design. I must say you’re a one-man Mr. Fixit and although you might not enjoy it, but you’re brilliant at it. You know the dynamics of how these things work. If it was me, I would be only calling in my plumber. I suck big time when it comes to home electricals, plumbing, kitchen repairs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sharukh. I had an apartment in college that did not have a shower. I rigged up a system with a hand-held unit and I taped plastic up to protect the walls. I don’t think I’d make it long with the Indian method but it does seem simple and effective. DIY home improvement is not for everyone, and there are certain benefits to calling the pro in to take care of the problem.

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  2. DIY, for us, means further Disaster-is-inevitable. Needless to say we’re on first name terms with the plumber, the electrician, the roofer, and the appliance repair person. Perhaps you could write: The Dan Antion Guide to Household Maontenance – bound to be a best seller!

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    1. Thanks Jill. I’ve read a ton of home improvement books. I think my contribution would be to add elements of the real story, like the fact that you will probably have to visit the hardware store three times during each project. Also, by the time you’re done buying all the tools you need/want, you could have hired a pro. Still, I do enjoy fiddling with things and I really do like not having to schedule home repair visits.

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  3. The hard and soft water issue is something I’ve noticed here Dan. In South Africa the water is pretty soft whereas here in the UK when I shower you can actually feel the difference. We have already had plumbing problems. But it seems to me there’s a whole product industry built around this problem. Need to get to know it. :-)

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    1. I do notice the difference in the feel of water as I travel Don. Home improvement is s huge industry and it seems to be growing worldwide. I like the feeling of tackling a project with a definite beginning and end with a visible result. Some of the stuff I do in my job seem unending, with very few real signs of progress, ev4en though I’m working hard. Thanks!

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  4. Cracked up at the ‘like, usually sometimes’ biking line, totally busted when you hit your head and then waited for the cat picture. What a riot. Growing in NJ, we had hard water, too. Every month, we had the ‘salt man’ dump this huge bag of salt in the water softener in our basement….and I know what you mean about that slimey feeling. Pretty gross stuff.

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    1. Thanks Lois. I do need to get back on that bike. I can’t use the defective shower as an excuse any longer. MiMi always shows up when there are tools around. She was supervising when I added the shower, including while I hammer-drilled my way through the concrete slab to add the drain. Unlike any cat we’ve ever had, she is drawn to noise.

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  5. There must be something in the “water”. LOL Hubby is fixing/replacing our kitchen sink faucet. I lost count how many times he has come and gone to the store to return something he bought, to get something he couldn’t find here, and to return something else because he changed his mind. Then he is on the computer for hours reading how best to do what he is in the middle of. Now this I know when that man is finished the job looks great. Well, not really. I did have to deal with a faucet that had the hot/cold features backwards cause hubby put something in wrong and he just walked off the job telling me that’s the way it’s gonna be until he fixes that. That’s fixed. FINALLY. You DIY’s …. YOU I wish hubby would take a few lessons from. You got this down, Dan. :)

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      1. You are making me laugh, Dan. You and hubby make a fine pair. Tell you what. He can discuss with you what he did to fix our kitchen faucet and you can discuss with him how you fixed the shower head because we have one of those in our house that needs fixing. hehehehehehe I’m tempted to call a plumber!!

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  6. Gosh, I thought I was the only one who teeth-gnashed over that stupid drain-plug mechanism! Thanks for making me feel better about at least this one bit of “don’t you think you’re overreacting” angst.

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    1. That magic cable was the bright spot of the day Steve. I hate messing with those adjustments under the sink, where the wrench doesn’t fit, movement is restricted and then the thing leaks until the minerals in the water gunk it up. Give me the old plug/stopper and chain any day over that mess.

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  7. Even though I am not handy, I know EXACTLY what you mean by the sink stopper innovation as I was always fiddling with our old one that would get knocked out of alignment. I have also started repairs before turning the water off. Another baffling aspect of this: why are water turn off valves so easily rusted and thus impossible to turn or in attempting to turn too hard, simply come off in your hand with…bad results and lots of swearing?

    Sigh.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

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    1. I’m glad these things seem to strike a chord with so many readers. As for the valves, I guess the minerals build up inside and get in the way of normal functioning when needed. Of course, when we forget to shut them off, I guess we only have ourselves to blame. Thanks for chiming in Elizabeth. I’ll file that under misery loves company, or maybe safety in numbers, or my favorite – great minds think alike.

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  8. And that’s why when it became time to put in the new vanity and new faucet, we opted for a professional plumber. My husband could have done the work (for years we did all our own home projects), and it would certainly have been cheaper, but golly, we get so tired of running to Home Depot every 5 minutes or so. And of course, the first vanity/faucet always turns out to be the wrong one, or defective, and has to be returned. This time, at least, it was well worth the money we spent just to avoid the swearing.

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      1. Not to say that DIY’ing isn’t valuable. If you can do it and do it well, fine – but our efforts always looked like DIY, and always took twice as long as just bringing someone else in to do it. Now that we can finally afford to hire someone, we prefer to avoid the hassle of DIY.

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  9. As soon as I saw the topic at hand, I knew what I was going to say in my comment. And then you proceeded to say it for me, Dan! I have a water softener, and while soft water is great to drink, and my long hair loves it, yes, it CAN be very frustrating when you spend half a shower trying to rinse off soap that’s not even there. I have showered in places with extremely hard water, and I’ll admit, I would take my baby soft water over that ANY day. Some water is so hard that it physically HURTS to stand in it. And after showering in hard water for the first time, I realized why body moisturizer is such a great seller — I really hated how dry my hair/skin felt afterwards. But another downside to softened water is that it takes longer to boil, and it doesn’t cook as effectively. Most people can boil pasta in just a few minutes (thanks to the abundance of minerals in hard water which also get hot). But it takes nearly an hour to cook it in my water. Which is also kind of frustrating, tbh!

    There’s not a lot of maintenance with my softener. The old one used way too much salt, but the newer unit is much more efficient. It only cycles when it needs to (based on the volume of water you’re using) rather than running steady. Here, the problem is iron in the water — hence the softener. So the little filters need to be cleaned every so often, and it’ll use a couple bags of salt every year, but that’s pretty much it.

    So, it’s really whatever a person gets used to, I guess, and each kind of water definitely has its pros and cons. And I too dislike plumbing. The only thing I hate more is electrical work. Last month, my dad and I fought with a shower drain that needed replacing. The lesson learned? If your shower comes with a NON-standard drain, never, ever, EVER install it. Throw it away and go spend $10 on a standard one so that in 25 years when you need to replace it, you don’t end up having to rip out all the surrounding plumbing to make the new drain configuration fit. Ugh.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comment Wendy and for the information about the water softener and the pros and cons. You’ve seen my picture so my hair isn’t much of an issue, but my wife has long hair. On the other hand, she cooks and we love pasta – there may not be a good answer here. As for standard components, I agree. Actually, because the Big Box stores change inventory so often, when we bought a new kitchen faucet, I bought replacement cartridges the same day and put them in storage for when I need them.

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  10. “I really don’t enjoy plumbing.” Amen, brother! Of all the household-repair jobs out there, I like working with water the least, especially when I’m dealing with water under pressure. Give me a drain fix, if you must, but not a water-feed line, I beg you! And whatever the job, YES — give me space! I can’t stand being cramped in some corner, twisted up like a pretzel, trying not to bang my head a dozen times. At least your feline assistant was on hand to help. Good post, Dan!

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    1. Thanks Paul. We are in agreement pretty much all the way around. The worse thing is when I solder a joint and find that it leaks because then you have to drain the plumbing. I haven’t had that problem often, but once is enough. MiMi loves noise, loves complicated spaces but is no fan of water.

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      1. Oh, yes. Got a new hot-water heater (one of my favorite redundancies) for the upstairs last year … AFTER I had tried repeatedly to fix a leak that ultimately proved unfixable. This determination was made by filling the old heater after a repair was made, and subsequently draining it when it still leaked, several times. O_O

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  11. Ugh. We also have unusually hard water. I actually didn’t notice this so much until we moved home. Georgia’s water is softer by far. I clean my coffee pot all the bloody time here and I’m convinced Indiana’s limestone has a direct line to my coffee pot!
    However, our water tastes way, way better than Georgia, and I guess I like drinking all those mineral deposits? I love the water here.
    We do not have room for a water softener. It is a non-issue unless we remodel the laundry room, and that’s not on the list. We have chatted a bit about those tiny box water heaters…for later.
    Vinegar helps a great deal. About once a year, I set the shower head in a bowl of vinegar overnight, et voila! You must use a 2-part water and 1-part vinegar when you’re dealing with actual stainless fixtures tho. And a baggie and a rubber band, but it works.
    MY issue is more the tile surround. Cleaning the tile surround is Quite A Job and I’m fairly certain an hour every two weeks counts as cardio!
    When looking at kitchen faucets, I was shocked, like Whoa! shocked when I saw the variety of prices. Oh.My.Word.

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    1. A new kitchen faucet is probably up next. I have to at least remove and reinstall the one we have because the sprayer is leaking and there is no way to disconnect it from under the sink. My theory is that once I have the old one out, I might as will put a new one back in. My wife likes the one we have, so we have to shop for “as good or better” and yes, Oh my word indeed on those prices. My wife routinely cleans the coffee maker with vinegar and pours the hot vinegar down a couple of different drains. the other problem child is the shower diverter thingie in the tub spout. It was replaced about a year ago and it just started refusing to drop back down when the water is shut off. One more thing to clean soak or replace.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting. I strongly feel that our tub was outfitted in the last five years or so. I wonder how long we have…
        When I was at HME’s, I noticed their new to them home has the white composite fixtures from the 80’s. I wonder if they’ll bring those back…I was a bit jealous, lol!
        I like our faucet as well, but I’d retrograde to a white one!
        Good luck with your plumbing excursions :)

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  12. I hate plumbing. I also hate those little turnoff valves on the faucets and toilet. Once you turn them off you have a leaker from then on. Good luck on the hard water fight. We don’t have a softener either and are water has been soaked in limestone. Good post and I’m glad I didn’t know about the miracle drain thingy. I’ll be on the lookout when time to change.

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    1. That feature was listed on the box John. I didn’t know what it meant, but I’ll never buy one without the magic cable again. Since I have to replace the supply lines, I might replace the valves because I had to crank them down to keep them from leaking.

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  13. My hat is off to you. My husband usually does these type of projects with one of his brothers. And what starts out as simple usually takes all day and as you say several trips to the hardware store, the “Cave Depot,”( good name for it. :)

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  14. Hahaha! Dan, I feel your wife and I have so much in common….
    But, does she stand in the doorway and keep you company, hand off tools and do while wearing pom poms? Lol well, I scrapped the cheerleader outfit some years ago. That three trip to the hardware is a hard fast rule without a doubt. Good luck with Plumbing Phase 2.

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  15. Having just purchased new shower fixtures, and vanity faucets for both bathrooms I can tell you, you saved a fortune doing it yourself.
    He-Man’s least favorite diy is plumbing. When the job requires more than cleaning out hair or backed up kitchen sink..which always happens at Thanksgiving, or seems to he calls in the “Pro”. :)

    After reading your post I went to check out our stoppers. Our new Grohe faucets have the same old rod closing and opening system. Those will break. Sigh… He-Man gave up trying to replace the rod on our last one that broke in the Mstr Bath.
    When these go I’m calling in the plumber that installed the sink if he doesn’t. I have to say he made moving the pipes and lining up the fixtures look easy. And, no leaks! He was worth every penny.

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    1. The pros are definitely worth the money, especially during new construction or renovation where there are options to move pipes and get things lined up correctly. I hope to never see another faucet with that rod and lever system. No leaks is always good. Saving money is nice, but no leaks is better. It shouldn’t be a choice. When I renovated our master bath, I made sure that we had solid blocking where we needed it for a grab bar and for the shower supply lines. That would have been impossible with the shower surround in place. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I enjoy these stories so much, Dan. My husband sometimes gets in the DIY mode, but we have a firm rule: anything other than very basic Ikea assembly goes to the professionals: our marriage suffers if we attempt any other sort of DIY project :D. To be fair, in an emergency like a suddenly-flooding sink, he can come to the rescue, and pretty efficiently, too.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Damyanti. We have been doing the small projects forever. I think my wife likes it better than having to deal with outside pros and the dog and the waiting and other stuff. I went a bit too far when I tore the roof off and added a 2nd floor, but the pros our friends had caused as much turmoil, so I don’t feel too bad.

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  17. There was a time, just beyond our lifetimes, when bathrooms weren’t considered a necessity. Many homes in rural American didn’t have a bathroom until the 1960s. Even in this new century, there are homes far back in the woods that don’t have this luxury and the residents get along fine without it. Still, I would not like to experience this type of thing on an ongoing basis. When my main bathroom was renovated, I made sure that a faucet was installed for the sink that had a high curved neck on it. I made sure the same was put onto the one in the kitchen too a few years before. Why? I hate, hate, hate trying to maneuver containers just to clean them or even put water in them.

    Did your ‘helper’ make sure the caulking was done? O_o

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    1. We have the high curve spout in the kitchen. My wife likes it for the same reason. My helper prefers to try and steel small tools out of my bag or off the floor. She takes them and buries them under a rug. I’m not sure what her plans are. One mini-prybar went missing when I installed the shower. We still blame MiMi for that. Thanks for the comment and the reminder about how “modern” plumbing really is. I guess I should be grateful I’m not digging a new pit :)

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  18. Enjoyed your cheerful work ethic and comments on doing this project, Dan. I like that you shared the opening door to get into the shower. I do like attractive faucets, Dan. :) Hope you have a great weekend and have a chance to telax and will you still have jet lag? I miss your trip arrival home date. No chance to look back, though. :)

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  19. I like that you do all this by yourself, Dan. Once, I was hired to evaluate electrical repairs for a home before the contractor could be allowed to proceed with supply and installations. Later on, I saw the quotation for mechanical works which involved mainly plumbing and drainage. It was almost equal to that of electrical works. There had been no mechanical engineer and the plumbing guys had quoted for themselves. It was crazy.
    So it’s great to learn to do these things by oneself. Saves a lot of cash, regret, and bad relations afterwards.

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