If you follow my blog, you know I like to work with my hands and that I also like a challenge. Installing a bathroom sink and faucet was the most challenging home project I have ever attempted. It was difficult and I’m not going to say you should try it. But I can give you some tips on what to look out for if you want to do it yourself.
Things You Need
You need the right tools for the job. Here is a photo of the tools I used. They are in the top portion of my pink toolbox (ignore the bottom part). The donut shaped object below the safety glasses is Teflon tape. It’s cheap. Buy it.
You need safety glasses because you will be laying down on your back in your cabinet under your sink and when you loosen or tighten parts, you will get gunk, dirt, dust, and water on your face so you want to protect your eyes. You might even drop a locknut or worse, your pliers on your face when your hands get tired from loosening and tightening parts. I kept repeating to myself, “Use both hands to hold onto the pliers!” This worked for me and I didn’t drop anything on my face. In fact, I didn’t have any injuries other than accidentally squeezing my thumb in my pliers! No damage was done fortunately.
You need the patience of Job (In the Bible). You need determination, perseverance, and commitment. You need to laugh at the face of the unknown. I knew nothing about installing a sink or faucet. I knew nothing about water pipes. You need to be fearless when you go to your local Menards or Lowes for help because even if you find a female sales associate, they will inevitably get a male associate to help you. Some male associates feel threatened by a woman who wants to install a sink herself or who has “technical” questions. Ignore their attitude and focus on their answers. If they stump you with a question that you don’t know the answer to or they become stumbly, bumbly themselves, don’t give up! Stall. Ask more questions. Read the label yourself of the item they say you need. If all else fails, ask to speak to another associate. Don’t let them intimidate you. As a last resort, ask to speak to the manager and tell him the problem. Fortunately, I never had to go that far.
You need silicone to keep water out of certain parts and to keep certain parts in place. The instructions that come with your new faucet will show/tell you where to use it. There were no instructions with my sink, but the sales associate at Lowes told me to use it under the sink to anchor it to the top of the cabinet. He said it would hold. He better be right! I bought Silicone Extra. That “extra” better stand for extra strong adhesion! But more about that later.
You need a roll of paper towels. Leaks will happen. I started with a nice thick bath towel but once that got wet, then what? So, I found paper towels to be better. And a small bucket for the bigger leaks.
You need a small fan to help dry out the cabinet from the leaks. It is also helpful to help dry the silicone and WD-40 or anything else you use. It is also important for adequate ventilation when using these chemicals. I opened a window and my patio doors too and turned on the fan vent on the ceiling.
You need light! It’s dark in that cabinet. I used a small desk lamp and also a large flashlight. It has a 6V super heavy duty battery and is used for the outdoors. I use it indoors when there is a power outage.
You need a digital camera. If/when you get to a part/area that either doesn’t fit or doesn’t work and you’ve tried everything you can think of, take a picture of it and go to your local Menards, Lowes, or wherever and tell the sales associate the problem. If you are having problems explaining it or he or she is not getting it, show them the photo of it on your camera. I had my digital photo ready but I remembered the magic word “flexible” while I was at Lowes, and didn’t need to show my photo. I reasoned that I needed a flexible trap pipe because my sink drain was mysteriously at an angle instead of straight down and I couldn’t figure out why! It is also shorter than my previous drain. If you don’t have a digital camera, draw a diagram.
You need something soft and cushiony to lay on, kneel on, and sit on. You will be doing all three. I used my rubber exercise mat and doubled it. It was a knee saver!
Reserve books about plumbing from your local library. Search the internet to see photos and instructions on installing and removing bathroom sinks and faucets. My old sink had anchors and screws to hold it in place. My new sink came with zilch, nada, nothing. You get what you pay for: $29 at Menards. Cheap, but looks good!
My cabinet is 30” wide so for my cabinet, I needed to be able to squeeze my body into the 16 ½” x 12 ½” door space. At 5’8” and 164 lbs, that was a challenge. Sometimes I had to angle my shoulder in on the diagonal. You need to have the stamina to go in and out of your cabinet many, many times to make adjustments! If this is your first time installing a sink and faucet, make that many, many, many times! Bonus: I lost weight doing this project!
I began this project on September 3rd, 2015. Then I got sick with bronchitis and had to leave everything “as is,” code words for the mess from hell. It stayed like that for several weeks until I recovered! It helps to have a second bathroom with a functioning sink. I do have a half bath but the sink doesn’t function so I had to substitute my kitchen sink for brushing my teeth, etc., etc. Actually, all of my sinks need work.
Read over the instructions that come with your faucet and sink. Carefully study the diagrams. I labeled parts in the diagrams myself which helped. But be prepared for instructions that don’t tell you everything! Just when I thought I was all finished and began cleaning things up and putting stuff away, I found a small, black washer in the box that the faucet came in. “What is this? Where does this go?” I re-read the directions for the 5th time. Nothing about a small black washer. I scrutinized the diagrams again. And there it was. It wasn’t even labeled! I could strangle the author! So, I had to undo a pivot nut, pull out the horizontal rod, and slip on the washer. (It had been a place where I was getting a LEAK. No wonder!) It was an easy fix, but it could have been much more difficult. Hey, I couldn’t have ALL bad luck!
Differences of Opinion
My instruction sheet said to use silicone on the underside of the flange. The flange is the shiny round part that you see when you are standing up, looking down at your sink drain. It’s where the water goes down the drain. One of the library books I borrowed said to use Plumber’s Putty on the underside of the flange. I decided to go with Plumber’s Putty but only in that area. Why? Well, I’ve watched many episodes of Ask This Old House on PBS in the past and they always use Plumber’s Putty. Also, the putty is easier to work with and to clean up. Most of all, I believed that if I had to remove the flange for whatever reason, it would be easier to remove after using putty and nearly impossible to remove with the use of silicone. Fortunately, I didn’t have to put that to the test!
Advice vs. Reality
Some of my plumber’s books rated each project from easy to difficult. Most were labeled easy. If you are a plumber, it’s easy. If you are like me, it’s difficult. Don’t believe everything you read. I screwed and unscrewed every locknut, pivot nut, and part at least twice. The instruction sheet showed four areas where you need to look for leaks when you are all done and start to run the water. Don’t believe them. Nearly every connecting part leaked when I ran the water at the end of the project. I’m not exaggerating. This was after I, with all my might and pliers, tightened each part. LEAKS!
So I loosened water tube parts, cleaned them off as roughly as I could to remove any debris and retightened them until I was exhausted! That worked. I already told you about the black washer above. In fact, now that I think of it, the only two parts that DIDN’T leak were two of the four parts the instructions said would leak! Idiots! By the way, if they say not to over tighten, ignore them. Unless you know for sure that you are as strong as a plumber, tighten with all your might. A tornado might be able to move me but it won’t be able to move my sink and faucet. Not now, anyway!
Don’t give up hope! Towards the end of this project I was getting discouraged at all the leaks and wondered if I would need to get a plumber. Yet, after all I went through, I wasn’t fully ready to surrender. I’m beginning to realize where my son gets his stubborn streak.
With all the information you have at your fingertips, sometimes it just isn’t enough. So, you have to use your noodle! Although I hate the expression, “Think Outside the Box,” you may have to think outside the box. For example, I kept having a leak at one of the pipe joints. This was a connection between my old pipes and the new pipe part. The old pipe part had a screw nut to attach to the old pipe trap part. The new pipe trap part came with a similar screw nut. At first I used the new screw nut but it kept leaking at the joint. I counted how many times I could turn the new screw nut. Eight times. I removed it and put on the old screw nut and counted how many times I could turn it. Thirteen times. The old screw nut made more sense to me so I used it instead. No more leaks! Do you understand the logic there? I hope so.
After watching repairmen do their jobs in my house, I am confident that anything they can do, I can do too. Maybe even better. Certainly without breaking something as I’ve seen them do to my property! Some of them are careless and klutzy. I am not, neither will you be because it is YOUR property! One of them broke my newly installed thermostat and didn’t replace it! Another broke off the spigot of my water heater while he was fixing my furnace. I had a flood in my kitchen! Another threw away my faucet filter into the trash without telling me that it could be cleaned out and put back! Aaaargh!
I am not so secure in my work in that when I use my new sink and faucet I won’t be checking for drips and leaks. I will definitely be checking underneath every time I use the sink, at least for the first few weeks. I even put a mini-bucket under the pipe trap where it had leaked during testing. If I find water in it, I will know I have a leak and either need to tighten some more or find some other solution. But folks, really, with all the tightening I did, I’m expecting my sink and faucet to BOING out of my bathroom!
Was it all Worth it?
You bet it was! My new sink and faucet are gleaming! I need sunglasses when I walk into the bathroom! I feel the need to dress up! I find myself wiping up every bit of moisture in the sink and on the faucet after I use it! It’s like having a new car! Better! I have pride of ownership and tremendous pride in the success of my project. I am so happy! If you tackle this project, contact me if you need help. GOOD LUCK!
Job satisfaction is good for your health!