Friday, September 11, 2009

Repairing Vintage Strom Plumbing Faucets

Strom Plumbing has been supplying antique reproduction plumbing for over 30 years. The company has been around for so long that some of their reproduction faucets are now themselves considered antiques. No offense to our senior readers but one phenomenon that occurs to old things with moving parts is that they eventually begin to break down. Wear and tear over time creates a natural need for repair parts.

In a faucet, the moving parts are called valves. When the valves break down, they begin to leak and the faucet drips. Like many older faucet manufacturers, Strom Plumbing originally used compression valves in their lavatory faucets, kitchen faucets, and clawfoot tub faucets. When technology introduced the ceramic disk valve, Strom Plumbing converted to the more modern valve. They now offer ceramic disk valves exclusively but for many years Strom Plumbing gave customers the option of either valve type. The compression valve appeased restorers concerned with historical accuracy while the ceramic disk valves pleased renovators looking for the reliability of ceramic disk valves.

Strom Plumbing (also known as Sign of the Crab) versatility did create a problem, however. Repairing a Strom Plumbing faucet became more difficult because the faucet owner now needed to know if their faucet was configured with compression valves or ceramic disk valves. Although the faucets look identical, the internal valves are different and not interchangeable. Therefore, you must determine if the faucet has compression valves or ceramic disk valves in order to repair it with the correct parts.

Strom Plumbing ceramic disk valves only require a quarter turn to fully open or close the valve. This can be a hint that your faucet was likely configured with ceramic disk valves but it is no guarantee. To determine with certainty if the faucet has compression valves or ceramic disk valves, you must inspect the valve. First, turn off the water supply to the faucet. Next, uninstall the handle from the valve stem. Depending on the type of faucet, remove the packing nut or escutcheon. Finally, unscrew the valve from the faucet body and inspect it.

The valve pictured at left is an example of a Strom Plumbing compression valve. Strom Plumbing used several different types of compression valves, depending on the faucet, so your valve may not perfectly match the valve pictured. Strom Plumbing compression valves have a hard rubber washer (usually black) secured to the bottom of the stem assembly by a screw through the center of the washer. Turning the faucet handle rotates a stem at the other end of the valve which causes the rubber washer to press against a seat in the valve body to seal the valve or lifts the washer away from the seat to open it. Eventually the rubber washer wears out. Hard water and over tightening the handles are particularly damaging to the washer. Eventually, the rubber washer will wear out and the faucet will begin to drip. Repair kits that include replacement washers for Strom Plumbing compression valves are available from Shop 4 Classics. If compression valves are not maintained, it may be necessary to replace the complete stem assembly. This is more expensive than replacing the washers but is still more economical than replacing the faucet.

The valve pictured at right is a Strom Plumbing ceramic disk valve. As is the case with compression valves, there are different types of ceramic valves. Therefore, your valve may not exactly match the valve pictured but the photo should help you with identification. Ceramic disk valves rely on two-part revolving ceramic disks in a sealed brass cylinder. Turning the faucet handles rotates the valve stem causing the disk to rotate inside the cylinder. Each disk has a port in it that, when aligned with the other, will allow water to pass through the valve. The white disks are usually visible through holes in the brass cylinder. The ceramic disks have a much longer lifespan than rubber washers and are impervious to contaminants such as sand or sediment. If a ceramic disk valve leaks, it is typically because a disk has cracked. It may be a hairline crack that is undetectable to the naked eye. Unlike the washers in compression valves, you can not replace the disk. If a ceramic disk valve leaks, the entire cartridge must be replaced. Again, replacing a ceramic disk cartridge is more economical than replacing the faucet.

New Strom Plumbing kitchen faucets, lavatory faucets, tub and shower sets, and clawfoot tub faucets feature modern ceramic disk valves. The ceramic disk valves are backed by a five year manufacturer warranty; although they should provide many, many more years of satisfactory use. If repairs are required, you can be assured that Strom Plumbing will continue to support it's faucets as it has for over 30 years.

10 comments:

  1. I have FINALLY found the compression stem I need, pictured on this page. Every time I get out of town guests, they crank the handle extra hard and I have to take the faucet apart and put in new washers. No problem getting the washers. This time, the guest had superhuman powers and ruined the stem, just as described here. But, how frustrating to find a page that pictures the stem and discusses how this can happen, as well as the fact that it's getting hard to find them, but gives no information about how to do so!

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  2. The type of valve employed depends on the faucet. Covering every possibility is beyond the scope of this blog. For help purchasing repair parts for your Strom Plumbing faucet, email customerservice@shop4classics.com and provide as much information as possible about your faucet and we will do our best to assist you with repair parts.

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  3. Can Strom compression fucets be retrofitted for ceramic cartridge use?

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  4. In some cases, Strom faucets with compression valves can be converted to ceramic disk valves but it may require returning the faucet to the manufacturer. Email customerservice@shop4classics.com and provide as much information as possible about your faucet and we will do our best to assist you.

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  5. I have SotC 1/4 turn ceramic valves installed in a restoration home job I completed 9 years ago and they work great. Over time the adjustment seems to have expanded to where the valve still operates and seals but it turns past the 1/4 point and turns on again. So here I am at a call back with the question of why is this happening and so I am asking.."why is this happening?".
    May I re-adjust these valves on site? Are the valves done for and replacement is the only option? If it matters it has a blue washer. Thanks!

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  6. There is no way to adjust the Sign of the Crab ceramic disk valves. If the handles turn past their stop point, the cartridge must be replaced. If the faucet is 9 years old, it's warranty has expired. Email customerservice@shop4classics.com for help ordering a replacement cartridge.

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  7. Are there still compression style old-fashioned style faucets in production by any company?

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  8. Most manufacturers--even manufacturers of vintage style faucets--have converted to modern ceramic disk valves. If historical accuracy is a concern, you may require a faucet with compression valves. We are not aware of any manufacturers that offer compression valves as a regular production option. At times, Strom Plumbing has offered some faucets configured with compression valves but this option is only available as a special order. It requires switching out the stem assembly and seats. It generally doesn't significantly change the price or the lead time but you should request confirmation prior to ordering the faucet. If you would like to special order a Strom Plumbing faucet with compression valves, email customerservice@shop4classics.com for assistance.

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  9. I have two new valves and they both turn on by turning counter-clockwise. This causes a problem with most people thinking the right hand vlave should turn on turning clockwise, and they turn it on the wrong way. Is it possible to change the direction of the stem, or do they make a different valve for this purpose?

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  10. By default, Strom Plumbing (among others) uses the same valve on both the hot handle and the cold handle if the faucet has cross handles. Both cross handles will turn in the same counter-clockwise direction to open. On the other hand, if a Strom Plumbing faucet has lever handles, the handles will turn in opposite directions. The hot handle will turn counter-clockwise and the cold handle will turn clockwise. If you prefer that your cross handles turn in opposite directions, you can configure your Strom Plumbing faucet with the same cold side valve that Strom Plumbing would normally use if the faucet had lever handles. This can be requested at the time of purchase or, if you already have the faucet, you can email customerservice@shop4classics.com for help ordering the appropriate valve. Strom Plumbing has many different valves so it will be important to identify which faucet is being modified.

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