I spent a good part of the weekend fixing a leaky faucet and almost ended up with a remodeled bathroom. The reason I hate DIY. Small projects always morph into major ones. The thirty minute project becomes a weekend obsession.
No. A two day nightmare.
It seemed easy enough. Fix a leaky faucet. Simple matter of replacing a rubber washer. Actually, for our forty-year old faucet, a rubber boot and a rubber washer. I’ve done it before. Only this time, it kept dripping. The metal had finally worn down.
I should perhaps pause here to point out this is a good reason not to procrastinate on routine maintenance. Replacing the washer sooner instead of simple trying to turn the handle tighter might have prevented the larger problem from developing. Lesson learned. Small problems put off or ignored become large problems.
Not to worry. My thrifty mother-in-law provided us with a slightly used faucet from a yard sale. In theory, I simply needed to remove the old faucet and replace it with the almost new. Of course, nothing simple in theory is simple in practice.
It seems forty years of hard water had cemented nuts to pipes. Even after completely disconnected the plumbing and removing the wall-mounted sink from the wall, I could not remove the faucet or the drain.
First trip to Big Box hardware store. We considered just replacing the sink. Instead of a wall-mounted sink, perhaps a small vanity. (It’s a small bathroom. Space is tight.) Naturally the one we liked (and could afford) wasn’t in stock.
The sink – and toilet and tub, and tile trim – is blue. Anything other than plain white would look really out of place. Should we replace these fixtures? Perhaps paint them?
Only two weeks ago I had to reseat the toilet. A gruelling four hour process, the first three-and-a-half hours of which involved unseating the toilet, giving me a new appreciation of the term hangover, having spent most of the time hanging over the toilet trying to remove the floor bolts with a hack saw in a space almost too small for my arm of a flashlight.
Fortunately, the had a white, wall-mounted sink. Unfortunately, it required a centerset faucet – one in which the faucet and handles come as a single piece – while the free set we had was a wideset faucet – one in which the faucet and handles mount separately. We purchased the sink and the faucet set. It was still cheaper than the vanity. All the new vanities tend to use a centerset anyway.
Back home and ready to install new white sink and centerset vanity, only to discover the new sink does not fit on the forty-year old bracket of the old sink. Installing the new bracket means drilling four six new holes (naturally none of the six bolt holes for the new sink fit the four bolt holes for the old sink) into ceramic tile.
Do I really want to drill new holes into the tile? The holes should go through a backing board mounted behind the wall. I’m sure one exists, because the old sink would have required it. But will I hit it when I drill the holes? What if I break the tiles?
Time to punt. I take the hacksaw and spend about an hour cutting the old faucet and drain off the old sink. For the drain, I had to cut the pipe flush with the large hex nut holding it to the bottom of the sink, then cut the hex nut in half to get it off the pipe. That was simple compared to cutting off the faucet. Obviously, the sink designers did not have this technique in mind when they designed the sink.
After finally freeing the old sink of all plumbing, I was prepared to install the slightly used mother-in-law faucet, only to find it would not fit through the mounting holes in the old sink. Did I mention I hate DIY?
Trip number two to local Big Box hardware store to purchase a new wideset faucet. This cost as much as the sink and centerset combined.
The instructions said to have the faucet installed by a locally licensed professional. Why then, did they provide instructions? Wouldn’t a locally licensed professional know to begin by shutting off the water?
It’s a conspiracy between the manufacturers and the professionals. Sucker the public into believing they can do a project themselves, and when they have made a bigger mess than when they started, they will gladly pay a professional to bail them out. But I thwarted their plans.
It took me about twenty minutes to install the new faucet and connect it to the water supply. Piece of cake. Now all I had to do was connect the new sink drain to the P-trap and the drain pipe in the wall. In theory, simply a matter of tightening some connectors.
Remember the relationship between theory and practice. The threads on the connectors and trap were stripped. This was not going to work.
Trip number three to the local Big Box hardware store.
Finally, after replacing every bit of plumbing from the water inlet to the water outlet, I managed to make the ugly blue sink usable again. It only took three faucet sets, two sinks, and discovering a hack saw is the most useful took in plumbing repair.
G.K. Chesterton said an inconvenience is simply an adventure wrongly considered. I guess you could say I had an adventure this weekend.
It also reiterated another important lesson. Fixing small problems almost always leads to new problems. This doesn’t mean small problems shouldn’t be fixed. It means simple solutions and quick fixes are a pipe dream.