Friday, March 30, 2012

Swing Arms: How To Adjust The Centers of Clawfoot Tub Faucets

Swing arms have been on my "short list" of blog topics for quite some time. I just didn't know where to go with the topic until yesterday. Yesterday, an email from Gary arrived with a photo of his British telephone clawfoot tub faucet. Gary's faucet provided the inspiration for today's post.

Before I get to Gary's clawfoot tub faucet, I should probably explain swing arms. Swing arms are adapters that swivel to provide clawfoot tub faucets with adjustable centers. They are sometimes called swing arm adapters, swing arm couplers, or swing arm connectors. Swing arms are also sometimes called swivel arms or S-unions. They are usually "S" shaped (hence the term S-unions) but there are also "C" shaped swing arms called reverse swing arms. There are swing arms for deck mount clawfoot tub faucets as well as tub wall mounted clawfoot tub faucets.

Swing arms are most often found on British telephone style clawfoot tub faucets like Gary's. The centers for these faucets would normally be 7"; which might be fine if the faucet were deck mounted but would not work if the faucet were to be installed through the holes in the wall of a clawfoot bathtub. Faucet holes drilled through the wall of a clawfoot tub are almost always drilled at 3-3/8" centers. Swivel arms allow British telephone faucets to adjust from 7" down to 3-3/8" centers so they can fit the average clawfoot tub. Conversely, swing arms can be used to convert a gooseneck clawfoot tub faucet from 3-3/8" centers up to 7" centers so the faucet can be rim mounted. I guess you could say that swivel arms swing both ways.

The reason Gary's British telephone clawfoot tub faucet provided inspiration for today's post is because Gary's faucet had two pairs of swing arms attached accordion-style to the faucet. According to Gary, this was done by a previous homeowner. The accordion arrangement of swing arms wasn't a first for me. Coincidentally, I saw the same setup just a few weeks previous. I assume it was done as a workaround to raise the profile of the faucet. In many areas, plumbing codes now require the faucet spout to be above the tub's overflow hole or even above the tub's rim. In its default configuration, with a single set of swing arms, the spout on Gary's faucet would not have been above the overflow hole. Rather than replace the faucet, the previous homeowner added a second set of swing arms to elevate the faucet above the overflow hole. This solved one problem (code violation) but created a new problem. The accordion configuration of swivel arms is unstable and Gary's faucet periodically leans one way or the other.

Several years ago, Sign of the Crab introduced extended swivel arms for their clawfoot tub faucets. At twice the length of regular swing arms, the extended swing arms not only provide variable centers but also provide a reliable way to raise the profile of British telephone clawfoot tub faucets. Rather than chain two pairs of regular length swivel arms together, a single set of extended swing arms can increase the spout's height without creating instability or complexity.

Most manufacturers of British telephone clawfoot tub faucets offer swing arms. To my knowledge, Sign of the Crab is the only manufacturer that offers extended swing arms. The caveat is that faucet parts are not universal. The swing arm's connection to the faucet is not assured by an industry standard and not all clawfoot tub faucets can be adapted with swing arms. Choose swing arms from the same manufacturer as that of the faucet to ensure a proper connection.

A special thanks to Gary for the direction and inspiration for this topic.

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