Vail Daily column: How $9.31 cost $373
November 4, 2013
Not quite on par with Saint Reagan paying $435 for a $7 hammer (which was more urban legend than truth anyway), this scenario is absolutely true, and sadly I can prove it.
I am a completely inept fix-it type guy. My lack of ability to accomplish any basic household repair is repeatedly confirmed if the job requires more skill than the twisting of a light bulb.
And I've broken more than my fair share of the evil photon-emitters.
The hot water lever on the "his" side of our "his and her" sinks, after years of teasing me with a slow yet inconsistent drip, finally decided to let loose with a small and steady steam, no matter how hard I twisted its shiny handle.
Off to Home Depot I went — wife in tow — where I found the correct cartridge replacement for $9.31.
Simple enough, right? Did I mention my wife went along for the ride?
One hour, three catalogs, two websites and two extremely friendly Home Depot sales associates later, and I was standing at checkout holding two complete 4-inch Centerset lavatory faucet boxes and some Christmas decoration she couldn't resist.
Total costs: $300.
With all the excitement of a high school freshman going to the orthodontist, I opened one of the boxes to discover it contained the wrong faucet. The other box revealed the correct faucet, yet the product models were identical, as well as their bar codes.
Back to Home Depot.
One hour, three more boxes with the wrong product, two phone calls to the manufacturer and two extremely friendly Home Depot sales associates later, I left with the order (and finger-crossing hope, as nothing could be guaranteed) of the correct faucet being delivered within a week.
I spent the next few days attempting to disassemble the old faucet and install the new one and learned many exciting things along the way.
Fifteen-year-old knobby plastic nuts are best removed with a short screwdriver, a hammer and an ability to swing hard over a short distance. Oh, and wear glasses for all the gravity-fed crap that comes your way.
My crescent wrench was about 31⁄32 of an inch too small to remove the largest nut. Back to Home Depot.
Plumbers putty is not the same thing as caulk. Back to Home Depot.
Plumbers seal tape is not the same as masking or duct. Back to Home Depot.
Supply line water connectors come in many, many different lengths and sizes (3⁄8-inch to 3⁄8-inch, 3⁄8-inch to 1/2-inch, 3⁄8-inch to 7⁄16-inch, 1/2-inch to 7⁄16-inch, etc.). Back to Home Depot, twice.
Two more trips to Home Depot and another $73 bucks in tools and supplies, and I was finally ready.
Installation was smooth, as long the instructions were followed perfectly, and voila!
The hot water valve under the sink sprung a leak (the one I merely turned off at the beginning), sending the back of my head up against the underside of the sink, reminding anyone around of a singular Three Stooges routine.
Luckily, I was alone.
So after a week of trips to Home Depot and bothering my friendly neighbor, Bob the Builder (actual name: Phil), I stood up, went downstairs, unplugged the car and drove down to the Gore Range Brewery.
With my wife reminding me on my way out the door about three other bathrooms and a bar sink, I concluded having a beer trumped this handyman equivalent of the short bus from ever using tools again.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes a weekly column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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