Plumbing a New Galley Faucet is Hard
Our boat is in pretty good shape. I say “pretty good” because mechanically and structurally – it’s great. However, everything else is 20 years old. This year I’m determined to correct a few of these issues. Some of them because I want to – others because I have to.
This is our faucet:
This is a project I’ve wanted to tackle for a while. This faucet sucks. Water comes out of the faucet at about half the rate it’s supposed to – and it comes out at 20 different angles all at the same time. It has needed replacing since we bought the boat 4 years ago but I’ve avoided the project mostly because of one thing: I’m no plumber.
In fact, I’m not really all that handy in general, so my home improvement skills are a little lacking. Like my dad says: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, or you’ll never learn. So I’ve decided to do it. (Plus the faucet started leaking badly this year when we put it in the water a couple weeks ago. I couldn’t put this project off any longer.)
After a little research, I settled on your standard kitchen faucet from a big box store. Not only was it half the price of a boat-specific faucet, there were many more options that would work for us. It seems like adding the word “boat” or “marine” to a product will instantly drive up the price by 2 to 4 times.
After a bit of research, I was able to find out that a lot of people use standard faucets on their boats without issue. So I figured it was safe to do so. I was a little worried about the low-pressure environment of the boat, but after looking up the flow rates of marine faucets and the faucet I wanted, the kitchen faucet was actually even better which meant it should work fine.
I went with the Moen Integra:
I chose this faucet for a few reasons:
- Price. The sweet, sweet sale price of $99 was just right.
- Single hole installation (with optional 3-hole plate). As you can see in my old faucet, it’s single hole. But there’s also a sprayer-hole. I figured this faucet gave me options.
- Length. It’s a shorter faucet from base to sprayer (or whatever you call those parts). My galley sink on the boat is a bit shallow, so a shallow faucet works perfect.
The only problem with this faucet is that the sprayer is built in – which meant I had an extra hole in my sink where the old sprayer was. So I thought I’d be clever and fill that hole with a built in soap dispenser:
If this didn’t work, I could use the optional plate that came with the faucet to cover over the hole – although that wouldn’t be ideal and would look slightly ugly, it would work if needed.
This brings us to the plumbing portion. This is the under-sink set up:
Basically what looks like some PVC pipe with white fittings. The grey lines going to the top of the photo go right into the faucet base:
The plan: unscrew fittings, remove old faucet. Put in new faucet, screw in new faucet to existing fittings.
This is where I learned a few things about plumbing. Removing the old faucet was easy enough:
I cleaned up the hole and inserted the new faucet. It’s all worked well enough:
I didn’t have to do anything to the holes other than clean up the opening a bit. Seems like they were all standard size. The soap dispenser hole was already perfect too…
So far so good.
Then I went to screw in the faucet to the existing fittings. Not exactly “like a glove”:
The faucet comes with a standard 3/8″ compression fitting. I have no idea what size I was trying to screw it into – but it was clearly too big.
Ok, so the fittings were not standard. You can’t see it too well, but the white piece I have in my hand was some type of reducer fitting. I have no idea what size the part touching the faucet fitting is – but the part covered by my thumb was about 1/2″. I figured that out by taking the piece to Home Depot and plugging the white plastic fitting into various pieces until it fit something. Then I knew the size seemed like 1/2″. It didn’t fit exactly – as it seemed the threads might be spaced differently.
That’s when I learned about BSPT/BSPP and NPT pipe fittings. I won’t get into it here – except to say that NPT is a North American standard, and BSPP is used everywhere else. The difference between the two is simply how tapered the fitting is – and thread spacing. The problem with mixing them, even though they may seem to fit together, is that they’ll leak if the threads are off.
Spiral leakage: I didn’t understand it – but I knew I didn’t want it.
I didn’t have the tools to tell what type of fittings I had – other than my eyeballs. I just guessed that based on how things were working that I had BSPP fittings.
I was able to read that sometimes BSP will work with NPT in certain cases, even with the threads being different, if you load up the fittings with teflon tape.
So that was my plan.
You can kind of see it here. (The flashlight is propped between the hot and cold feeder line I need to hook the faucet to). In the top pipe the reducer fitting is removed, leaving a simple 1/2″ place to screw something in. The bottom pipe still has the reducer piece screwed in.
So I figured I needed to have something that was 1/2″ that could screw into that pipe and reduce down to 3/8″ for the faucet fitting. I’d just wrap it in teflon tape and hope for the best.
This is what I bought to do the job:
You can see the valve and reducer fitting. I’ll no longer need the reducer fitting as the valve will essentially do that for me. With any luck the valve will just screw right in and the teflon tape would keep it from leaking. Worst case: I’m out $5 on a valve that didn’t work.
It didn’t work. I was out $5. As soon as I attempted to screw in the valve to the existing pipe fitting, it was clear this wouldn’t work. The fitting wasn’t working with the valve. Could be the threads, could be the size, but it was a no-go.
At this point, I was resigned the the fact I’d have to put new standard fittings on the pipe in order for this to work.
I cut the fitting off of the pipe, and brought it into Home Depot and said “help?” – I told them I needed to make this thing in my hand fit a standard faucet. That’s when they told me they don’t have fittings for that pipe. He asked me if I got it from my RV or Boat? I said I did… how did he know?
This is where I learned about pipe. Specifically polybutylene pipe (sometimes called poly-b). Which apparently they stopped making / using 20 years ago when my boat was assembled. There were fittings out there, but they were hard to get and expensive. You can google it if you want – but it’s a rabbit hole of plumbing nightmares.
Bottom line: I’d likely have to use a conversion kit to convert to a newer pipe like PVC or PEX and then buy the proper fittings and make it all work. This meant many points of failure were now possible if I messed one step up. Ugh. Not looking forward to this job anymore.
At this point, I was wondering if I’d just spent double on the marine faucet – would it have just worked? Plug in and go? Might have been worth the extra cash if that were the case.
Lots of googling later, I found a possible solution. SharkBite fittings. These are twice as expensive as normal fittings ($10 compared to $5), but they’re supposed to be easy to install. No clamps, no glue… just slip it on the pipe. The teeth grab it and the unique washer system keeps it leak-proof.
They sold these at Home Depot in a lot of different configurations and sizes. The Sharkbite fittings said they worked with copper, pvc and pex piping. No mention of Poly-B. However, the internet told me that it would work as Poly-B has the same outside diameter as PEX – it’s just the inside diameter that’s different (Poly B is a slightly thicker pipe, which mean the inside diameter was smaller/tighter and why other fittings don’t work). Lots of folks said they used Sharkbite on their existing polybutylene piping and it’s worked great.
They had a Sharkbite valve that went from 1/2″ pipe to 3/8″ standard faucet fitting. My lucky day?
So, here we go. A simple, easy solution that sounds too good to be true.
It fit like a glove. It was almost too perfect.
I put the rest together hoping it would all fit:
At this point I’m waiting for something to go wrong. It was time to test the faucet. First – I turned the water on.
Wait… wait… ok – no leaks.
Then I tested the faucet before finishing the job. It worked. I let it run for a bit. Then shut it off. I went under the sink and looked at everything. It appeared to be working. I tightened everything up, screwed on the faucet/shower spray part for the final test…
WATER EVERYWHERE. When I turned on the faucet now – water was shooting out the underside of the cabinet. I tried it again (because that’s what junior plumbers do – try the exact same thing again hoping it wouldn’t happen)… Same result.
Crap. No luck.
I checked the fittings – they were wet, but so was everything else under the cabinet.
I tightened everything back up. Turned the water on. Everything seemed fine.
Turned the faucet on: WATER EVERYWHERE.
Turned the faucet off: it’s fine.
At this point I realized it wasn’t the fittings. It was only leaking when I turned the faucet on. The leak was in the faucet. “but this is a brand new faucet?”
Then I realized I didn’t install one simple washer when I screwed the faucet head on:
After I installed that, all was well!
I went back a few days later after the boat dried out to check the fittings again. (Since it was hard to tell if they were drip leaking as everything was soaked.)
Everything was great. It worked!
And now we have a new faucet that works great.