Sink ‘r’ swim


Before starting a home improvement project do you ever step back, assess the situation, and think, “Piece o’ cake”? And then get smack in the middle of it and think, “Ugh – I shoulda had a piece o’ cake instead.” And then after you finally finish it, stand back admiringly, and say, “That wasn’t so bad – I deserve a piece o’ cake.”

Me, too.

If, so far, this post sounds like a clever segue into a recipe for cake, then I’ve led you horribly astray. Although a piece o’ cake sounds good about now. Anyway…

After finally reaching the end of my rope, wits, and patience, I decided to stop sopping up the puddle of water that always collected around my kitchen sink due to a leaky faucet and do something permanent about it.

Plumbing is one of those home improvement tasks I try to avoid doing myself. I can paint and plant and put in a ceiling fan or a new electrical outlet, but I’m always wary when it comes to dealing with water. If the paint color isn’t right or the outlet doesn’t work at least you don’t have to replace all the ruined floors due to a leak. So it was with more than a little trepidation and hand-wringing that I broke out the tools for plumb-a-palooza 2012.

I started by systematically pulling the guts out of the old faucet thinking I might be able to get by with just replacing a washer or a stem or something. Let me just say “yuk” at what I found. I don’t know how all that slimy, grimy, greasy black goo had managed to manifest itself inside that sealed faucet (!), but it was obvious that repairing it would be akin to gilding a 1978 AMC Pacer with pure gold. It would:

  1. Take a lot of time.
  2. No doubt involve tears and bloodshed at some point.
  3. Still end up looking old and tacky when it was finished.

Yea – ready or not, it was time for a new faucet.

The good news was that I had a cool new Price Pfister faucet stashed under my bed. (So – where do you keep your spare faucets?) I purchased it at Lowe’s some time ago in a fit of blue-sky home project planning and had just never gotten up the nerve to try and switch it out with the old (and as I had just discovered) decrepit one. At least having a new faucet on hand meant that it had already been paid for and that I didn’t have to go wandering up and down the plumbing fixtures aisle somewhere playing the “this one or that one” game for the next hour or so.

Sink-r-swimSo before I had time to reconsider and chicken out, I had cleared everything out of the cabinet under the sink and, armed with a wrench and a work light, squeezed up in there and began to try to remove the old faucet. How hard could it be, right?

Famous last words.

Let me just warn you right now that the slimy, cankered faucet innards were not the only gross sight I was going to have the pleasure of seeing that day.

One of the wonderful things about stainless steel is its resistance to corrosion; however, the stuff that tends to be attached to stainless steel, such as faucet nuts and other metal ephemera are – at least by my experience that Saturday morning – not. (Resistant to corrosion, that is.)

As I began to try to remove the metal nut that was holding the soap dispenser to the bottom of the sink, it was so rusted that it literally crumbled apart in my hands. Ditto to whatever was holding the old faucet in place. (It was hard to tell – coulda been a metal nut, coulda been a stale, burnt mini bagel.) I backed out of the cabinet with flecks of rust in my hair and realized that my only option was – you guessed it – buy a new sink. (Actually, I’m guessing the title of this post and the shiny new sink photo at the top kinda gave that away.)

Unfortunately, now I had to play “this one or that one” in the plumbing fixtures aisle; fortunately, the selection of sinks isn’t quite as large as the selection of faucets, so it didn’t take that long. Plus, budgetary concerns sort of helped narrow the guest list down considerably.

So within a half hour, I was leaving Lowe’s with a new Kohler double stainless steel sink (pictured above), new PVC pipe for the trap, a pair of new sink strainers, some silicone caulk, and some plumber’s putty. (Plumber’s putty is used between the strainers and the sink to keep them from leaking. Think of it as Play-Doh without all the pretty colors.)

I could have reused the existing PVC pipe, but when I unhooked everything and looked inside the pipe, I was greeted by gross vision #3. Let’s just say that years of less-than-efficient garbage disposal action (or inaction) had resulted in layers of icky foodstuff caked up inside the pipe. The good news is I finally found from whence that unpleasant odor in my kitchen had been emanating…

Although the directions that came with the sink were pretty straightforward (and in English, Spanish, and French, allowing me to make a mess in multiple languages), I still felt compelled to consult a homeowner’s greatest resource – YouTube.

I’m firmly convinced that there is nothing that one can’t find on YouTube. From stupid cat videos to instructions on how to do the lambada, it’s all there. I imagine that if I ever find myself needing to deliver a baby or make a Princess Leia costume, all I need is an internet connection and I’m good to go.

Case in point – this very helpful video featuring a smiling Lowe’s handyman with step-by-step instructions on replacing your kitchen sink:

Anyway, after caulking, puttying, repiping, temper tantrums, prayers, and contorting my body into all sorts of unnatural positions to wedge myself inside the cabinet and hook everything up, I finally have a new sink with drain pipes free from last night’s dinner and a faucet that is tres cool – and doesn’t leak.

Piece o’ cake.

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