“You mean you’re going to charge me $100 just to change a washer?!” I heard this question from more customers than one. When I heard it, I knew that I was talking to someone who never had to spend two hours and a trip to the parts house trying to keep an old faucet alive. Faucet repair can be a nightmare.

If you invest in good tools, stock your truck with plenty of faucet parts (although you can never have them all), have a fair amount of experience, and are working on a faucet that’s in good shape, the repair can go quickly. Such jobs are uncommon, though. More common is encountering a handle that swears it will stay on the stem or die defending its position, a valve frozen into the faucet body as though the last “plumber” used Super Glue on the threads, a screw broken off where it cannot be reached, an oddly sized seat the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Memphis since Austin Peay was governor, or maybe just faucet demons that hover over the work space and knock handle screws down the drain, smooth out splines so that handles no longer work, or cause leaks even though all of the parts and packing are new.

Have you ever noticed in those do-it-yourself books that the worker is always immaculate and the parts he’s working on are brand new? Reality is nothing like that.

Even when a job goes well, a number of steps are necessary to ensure that the service is of the highest quality. A “shade tree” plumber might not be conscientious enough to attend to the details. He might not even know about all of them.

Replacing a faucet is seldom necessary; most can be rebuilt internally. When the exterior begins to look ratty, that’s when people elect to have a new one installed. It genuinely improves the kitchen or bathroom; whenever you reach and turn on the water, the pleasure of having something nice and pretty occurs all over again. If you can afford it, I recommend that you get a nice new faucet; not because you need it, but because it really is a rewarding purchase.

I usually advised customers to go to Lowe’s and choose a faucet made by either American Standard, Delta, Moen, or Kohler.

At Lowe’s a decent faucet will cost about $160 or less. A cheap one will cause you immeasurable misery until you repent and replace it with a good one. Save yourself the pain and get a good one the first time.

And here’s a final warning: the prettiest faucets in the store are probably junk! Don’t be seduced by appearances. Stick with American Standard, Delta, Moen, or Kohler.