"Raindrops keep fallin' on my head," I was singing in the shower as I got ready for work this morning. Suddenly my tune changed to "the shower keeps fallin' on my head." Or rather, "the showerhead keeps fallin' on my head." Yes indeedy, the little doodad or whatchamacallit that usually fastens the showerhead to the wall had snapped, landing the contraption right on my cranium! So it looks like I'll have to find a replacement part. With this in mind, I started wondering about the odds and ends of plumbing ... all those pieces, large and small, that hold your shower together, flush your toilet, or perform some other essential household function. When they give up the ghost, how do you find replacements?
If you can find the manufacturer's name and model number stamped or engraved on the part, you're in luck. But even if these details are missing or have worn off with use, don't despair. There are still plenty of ways to track down those elusive plumbing parts.
Check Large Plumbing Manufacturers' Websites
Check the websites of large plumbing parts firms. Most of these will make it very easy for you to find the replacement you need. After all, it's good business for them. Companies like Kohler and Moen walk you through the process of identifying the damaged part online. No reading required -- all you need to do is click on a series of descriptive pictures to narrow down exactly what you are looking for. (You will even be offered an "I'm not sure option" for the commitment-phobic.) And voila! The site will proudly present you with a display of dozens of possible matches, complete with product details and parts diagrams. Add the piece to your virtual shopping cart or if you're the "I want to see it for myself before I buy" type, check out the store locator to find the closest dealer to you.
Search for Hard-to-Find Plumbing Parts
If you still can't seem to find anything that looks like the replacement part you so desperately need, there are actually online specialists dedicated to tracking down hard-to-find plumbing parts. A major advantage of this type of service is that they generally deal with supplies from a wide range of companies, including discontinued products. Even they are not magicians, though, so try to include as much information as you can when you contact them for help. A manufacturer's name and/or part number is invaluable and a photo is worth a thousand words. Do try to photograph the whole plumbing assembly if you can; it will give much more information than a shot of one small individual component. Once the service gets back to you with pricing and availability information, you can go ahead and put in your order.
Ask Your Local Plumber
Much closer at hand, licensed plumbers in your locality are most likely an excellent source of knowledge about fixtures and supplies. If you plan a DIY repair, they may be willing to sell you the necessary parts, but it might be preferable to hire a pro to get the job done right (and avoid any further breakage). TRUE STORY: When my Plexiglas shower door's rollers gave out, I couldn’t find replacements anywhere, since that type was no longer manufactured. The hardware store sales staff told me that I'd have to replace the whole installation ... which would be a major hassle and expense. Fortunately, my favorite plumber came to the rescue by installing a replacement set of rollers that he had left over after removing a similar shower stall from another home. The cost was reasonable and -- just as important -- the mess and disruption to my household was minimal.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.