The Hose Bibb Flat Washer Conspiracy (000 15/32″ or 11mm)

This is going to sound crazy, but I think there’s a conspiracy  by plumbers to frustrate DIY plumbing repair efforts.  My mom had a hose bibb that was leaking, so I went to fix it. What a nightmare.

The washer didn’t fit. I ended up jamming a 00 washer in there, and that kind-of worked.

The last time this happened, she had the plumber take care of it, as he was doing some other work, as well.  So, this was a nice, shiny new hose bibb.

It also used a smaller washer than the widely available 00 washer.  It turns out there’s an even smaller washer, the 000. (See here for an article about sizes.)

The 000 washer is 15/32″, the 00 is 16/32″ (1/2″), and the 0 is 17/32″. There are sizes up to 19/32″.

Does this not seem totally absurd?

So, now I’m stuck with this hose bibb that uses an odd sized washer.  I went to find some at Home Depot. No such luck.

I went online, and they cost between 50 cents and $5 each.

For comparison, the 00 washer usually sells for less than 10 cents.

I went onto Alibaba.com, hoping to find my fortune there – I could be the 000 washer guy.  No such luck.  There is nobody on Alibaba selling this neoprene washer, at least not ready to go.

Next up, I thought maybe this hose bibb is from China (duh, it probably is) and they probably use metric.  What’s the closet to a 00?  11mm.

After some digging through my bag for the original washer, I verified that it was 11mm, close enough.  The 000 is a small fraction of a mm larger.

Now, the real bad news: it’s hard to find 11mm washers in the United States.

I got a sack of 11mm washers on ebay, from Hong Kong, and it worked.

If you need these, shoot me a message thru this site, and I can mail you a small bag of them for $6. I have some for sale on this ecommerce site, but it doesn’t have card payment.

This is maddening.  If you ever replace a hose bibb, you should check the washer size. I believe made-in-usa are still using the 00, because I did a quick refurb of a different hose faucet, and I don’t recall having any problems replacing the washer.

The Hack: How to Carve a Washer

In the meantime, while I wait for the boat from China, I am going to do a little washer modifiction.

I had a 00 washer, and needed to downsize to 11mm.  The difference is 1.7mm, or 0.85mm removed from around the entire circumference.

My technique is a little weird, but I’ll explain a bit.  My goal is to carve off just the “bottom” edge, to get it down to 11mm.  This isn’t perfect, but it allows the washer to fit into the hole, even if the top of the washer overlaps with the seat.

I whittle away the edge with a utility knife.  Hold the knive steady in one hand, the dominant one, and the grip the washer in the other hand.  Shave off little bits of material by gently pushing forward with your thumb.  Your arms must not move – if you use too much force and flail around, you’ll cut yourself. The knife and washer should only be moving around 1/4″ to 3/4″ for each cut, and it should be more like shaving than cutting.  All your motions should be small.  All the force should come from your fingers and hands, and they should not hurt.

Don’t try to remove all the material at once. Just try to whittle down around 1mm at around 12 to 16 points along the edge.  Just work removing the corner bits; don’t whittle the entire edge. It takes too much energy to push through all that material. It’s ok to take a few shaves to get there.  It won’t feel round when you’re done.

This should feel more like peeling fruit with a knife, or knitting, or clipping your nails. It’s a delicate operation with a sharp knife.

Next phase: take a nail file, emery board, or even sandpaper on a hard surface, and smooth out the edge.  Put the board onto a hard surface that doesn’t move — you need to push into the abrasive pretty hard, because the rubber will squish down, absorbing your energy. The sandpaper will knock down the high spots, and make the washer round-ish, again.

Then, try to sand down the edge  you didn’t cut, to roughly match the bottom edge.  It won’t go down as far, at least not without a lot of effort.

Then, sand down any “bulge” along the midsecton of the washer.  You want to remove some more material there and smooth it out.

Using this trick, you can carve down any washer into a slightly smaller sized washer.

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