The bucket of water under the sink had overflowed again. I was on my hands and knees mopping up the output of the latest disposal run with paper towels, under sink accouterments scattered about me on the floor, when it hit me: it was time to replace the sink. For real this time. The sink had been on The List since we'd bought the house. Other things had been on The List and been checked off. The furnace had been replaced (after it had coughed soot all over the basement and gone out twice in the first two weeks of December). The shower no longer caused a rain storm in the basement. The seal around the sewer vent on the roof was freshly caulked. The List was rather extensive. Each item on it made me have just a little bit less respect for the previous owners. You lived with that?!? But then again, we were living with The List too. Life, with its commitments and other expenses, and The List were often at odds.
But now, come hell or high water (wait, we had the water...) the kitchen sink was on the top of The List.
It wasn't just that the drain pipes leaked out from under their layers of orange plumbers tape. It wasn't just that the sink itself was old enamel that retained the color of coffee, wine and tomato sauce unless a direct bulls eye was made into that leaking drain. It wasn't just that the cold water faucet was installed backwards (gotcha! you just thought you were turning me off - ha ha!), or that the disposal seal and been subsumed into the muck that had built up over however many countless bouts with improperly disposed bacon grease. It was that the combination of all this made the sink a living, breathing, dribbling opponent that confounded my attempts to keep the kitchen clean around cooking fifteen meals a week and working full time. The kitchen sink had become my enemy, and it was time that I showed it who's boss once and for all. It was time to check it off The List.
While I was full of vim and vigor and a desire for vengeance, my husband was much less inclined to be put out over such things. He did the dishes, but when he forgot to empty the bucket under the drain, he was rarely the one to sop up the aftermath. So it was with some cajoling that I got him to agree to the nice stainless number I picked out from an online plumbing supply store. It was sexy -- an eight inch draw on heavy gauge stainless, with sound deadening! -- and it sat, undisturbed in its box in our basement for a good two weeks after it arrived. By this point, we had lost momentum. Then the bucket overflowed again.
There's an Italian chain next to the Home Depot near our house. We went on one of those "only when you're married" dates after work on a Friday. Italian food and sink fixture shopping: "We can just go look and see what we like." We both liked the same stainless steel set with a nice high faucet curve and a spritzer for the fourth hole in the sink. Despite having saved a hefty amount by buying the sink online, time was now key and momentum was critical. We took it home.
Saturday morning saw a good bit of procrastinating. Outside I saw our neighbors. After some pleasantries, plans for the weekend came up. What are we planning on doing? Why funny you should ask - we're replacing our kitchen sink! Oh my... have you ever done that before? Of course not... but we're not the sort of people that let that sort of thing get in the way of diving right in. So out came the wrenches and crowbars. Thanks to the little voice in my head that sounds a lot like my grandfather when it comes to DIY projects, we did remember to turn off the water.
Now, I must say that while my husband had some inertia to overcome at the beginning of the project, he did end up doing most of the heavy lifting. I was put on flashlight duty while he inspected the enemy. Peeling away the plumber’s tape revealed duct tape. Yes, duct tape on water pipes. Peeling away the duct tape revealed, well, nothing. The pipe coming out of the disposal drain was no longer really a pipe, but rather a corroded C-channel that had been held round by the duct tape. Really, it was spectacular that it held water at all. Perhaps one really can do all things with duct tape. But that's a topic for another piece.
So here we were, the trap attached to the drain pipe in the wall rather permanently with a good amount of corrosion and gunk, and the old disposal dangling off the bottom of the stained old sink, still firmly in place in the counter top, and nothing in between. It was at this point that we rather brilliantly deduced that we would need new pipe bits to replace all that. So we hopped back in the car. Instead of Home Depot again for trip number two, we went just up the road to the local hardware store. They were in fact quite helpful and we left with a bag full of various PVC pieces, a double hose-clamp rubber sleeve thing to fit the PVC onto the metal wall drain pipe, and a little bottle each of PVC primer and PVC cement. I couldn't help thinking how nice and handily clever having those bottles in our basement cupboard would make us look... to anyone odd enough to go rummaging through our basement cupboard. Anyway, we returned home and kept going. It was about this time that we realized that the disposal was farther gone than we had originally thought. The subsumed seal notwithstanding. It was also dinner time. Time for Home Depot Date number two of the weekend! (Fortunately, there's two restaurants nearby.)
While we were at Home Depot (this is hardware store trip number three if you're counting), I encountered a basin wrench for the first time. Now these are odd looking creatures, the storks of the wrench world... maybe a stork in need of a chiropractor... anyway, I held one up, said "do you think we'll need this?" was told no, and put it back. Fateful moment, that. The decision-making process on which disposal to buy was a case study in marital compromise and harmony if ever there was one. We celebrated our success with a couple of beers over dinner.
Then we went home and got out the crowbar. See, whoever had installed the old sink had wanted to make sure that it wasn't going anywhere. Just in case gravity got flaky, it was glued down. With a LOT of glue. Working daintily with box cutters, putty knives and then finally the crowbar (can you be dainty with a crowbar?) we got a corner loose. Carrying that awful hunk of steel down the basement stairs was one of the least pleasant things I've ever done half of. I suspect that it will remain in the corner we dumped it in for a good long while; I know I'm not going to volunteer to help move it any time soon. A trophy perhaps. After scraping the old glue off the sides of the hole in the counter, we decided it was time for bed.
Sunday morning! We test-fit the new sink. It, of course, didn't. The hole in the countertop was too small. This actually wasn't so bad -- it could, afterall, have been too big -- and it meant that it was time for hardware store trip number four. We got a new toy: a beautiful flush-cutting saber saw and a complete set of blades (with portable blade case) is now comfortably installed in our workshop. It made relatively quick work of enlarging the hole, though in the process it did shake the countertop free of the back splash. We got the fixtures attached to the new sink and seated it in the newly resized hole before lunch (takeout Chinese). I was perhaps overly proud of myself when the next steps, banging the trap out of the wall with a mallet (it worked!), attaching and sealing the new sink, installing the disposal, and fitting the PVC bits together, didn't require another hardware store run. I even managed to only die one finger out of ten purple with the PVC primer. We were starting to get the hang of this!
With everything hooked up, it was time for the moment of truth. Turn the water on! "Off! Turn it off!" There was a leak up in the fixture attachments. It was at that moment that we realized we'd forgotten the Teflon tape when we'd hooked the water up to the valves. Oops. No big deal though, right? We'll just unhook them, put the tape on and tighten it all back up... but a wrench doesn't fit up in there with the sink in place. Hence the market for basin wrenches and hardware store trip number five. I figure I might as well get some grout to fix the backsplash while I'm there. Wouldn't want to have to make an extra trip.
No sooner had I pulled into the driveway than my cell phone rings. My husband. He's managed to get the Teflon tape on and things hooked back up without the wrench. But now the new trap is leaking, am I still at the hardware store? The gasket for the plug at the bottom is bad. Hardware store trip number six commences without delay. Forty-nine cents later, I'm back. We pop in the new plug gasket and fire her up again. Success!
So what's next on The List? Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink!
Disclaimer: I'm sure Carl would tell this story rather differently. I love him anyway and am very grateful for his help around the house.