An Unexpected Yak Shaving

One of the bathtub faucets has leaked for a couple weeks. Monday, I could no longer ignore it. That same day, Seth Godin introduced me to Yak Shaving.

yak shaving: Any seemingly pointless activity which is actually necessary to solve a problem which solves a problem which, several levels of recursion later, solves the real problem you’re working on.

Tuesday, I headed to Home Depot for a replacement faucet stem seat.

According to the helpful Home Depot associate, great strides in faucet technology have been made in the 50 years since my bathroom’s was built (the faucet’s obsolete). He recommended I find a Plumbing Supply Specialty Store for the parts or pick up a new faucet. I opted for the new faucet.

Today, the Yak is clean shaven, er, the leak is gone.

Follow along if you will:

    Day 1:

  1. On Home Depot Trip #2 Jen and I pick up a new faucet.
  2. The old faucet framework wasn’t persuaded by the monkey wrench. It was however persuaded by Mr. Pipe Cutter. Unfortunately, Mr. Pipe Cutter left bare copper tubing rather than the more useful copper tubing + threading.
  3. Home Depot Trip #3 brought compression connectors adding threading to the bare copper tubes.
  4. With the faucet framework attached, it is obvious the old holes aren’t big enough for the new stems and the hole for the tub faucet is about an inch lower than the pipes will reach.
    Day 2:

  1. On Home Depot Trip #4 grab a 1 3/4″ hole cutter for the newer, bigger holes. (Where’d I put the power drill’s chuck wrench?) and a couple of pipes to reach the faucet hole.
  2. With the new holes drilled and faucet installed, I notice the faucet stem lengths don’t accommodate the wall between the plumbing and tub.
  3. Here I ponder tearing out and replacing entire the tub, surround, and wall. Instead…
  4. Mr. Hacksaw and I cut two copper tubing-size channels out of an offending 1×4, proving just enough space to connect the handles.
  5. Handles installed. Faucet installed. Leak ended. Mostly

Update 19 Mar 2005
My dad came by today and looked at the repair. Looks like I got it mostly right. Just needed to be more liberal with the teflon tape. Thanks dad.

Walking into this, I had no intention of shaving a yak. Nor did I anticipate replacing a small bit of formed metal would take 2 days. On the outset, I expected 2 hours, max. That reminds me, here’s a special bonus thought of the day from David J. Anderson: Stop Estimating.

Something takes as long as it takes. ETA isn’t known until you’re deep into understanding the problem you’re solving (i.e. doing it). In physics, there’s the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle principle: you can know a particle’s velocity or its precise location. Not both.
Let’s say ‘velocity’ is ‘doing’ and ‘location’ is ‘planning’. So, to rephrase; You can do or plan. Only doing will give you an ETA.

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