Thursday, February 23, 2012

Just a little, easy, inexpensive kitchen redo

Chapter Two

    Wherein we find Vindaloo Tiramisu's husband with that sinking feeling...

The day the sink was dropped in, I wisely had plans to be away from the house.  I semi-planned this departure to give my husband (we'll call him "Poopsie") space and time to work on getting the sink in.  But I also don't like seeing my kitchen in disarray when it's not my doing.  It tends to pierce right to the heart of my control issues.  Tools, plumbing supplies, cardboard boxes and little plastic bags everywhere, like the beginning of a rat's nest.  Call me intolerant, but there it is:

  A good start for an audition on Hoarders.
 Let's get the straight poop from Poopsie:  

       "You would think that putting in a kitchen sink could be done in a reasonable amount of time and effort.  But of course, this was not the case.   The removal of the old sink went without any major hitches except for all the crud that was built up in the drain pipes as well as underneath the sink flange.  Having a weak stomach, it put me off a bit.  But I steeled my resolve, went to my Happy Place and once that mess was cleaned up, I was ready to get on with it.

"The new stainless steel sink, which is sold with absolutely no attachments whatsoever, needed to be dropped in the existing countertop hole to check for proper fit.  The old saying, 'you can't put a round peg in a square hole' comes to mind.  Let me explain: the old sink had rounded corners.  Which meant that the countertop was cut with rounded corners.  The new sink had square corners.  This proved to be the first of several challenges in my wife's little, easy, inexpensive home improvement project.

"After very carefully analyzing the situation and using my considerable problem-solving skills, I decided to bend the square corners of the new sink into round corners with a high-quality pair of Channellocks.  Now, you may be wondering, 'What the hell??'  But my philosophy is to never send a boy to do a man's job.  If you're gonna use a tool, then use a TOOL.  It's also important, especially in this case, to consider the end of the journey, not the road it took to get there.  Because all the bumps and potholes in the road (i.e., dents and modifications to the new sink) are now hidden below the surface.  And you'll be distracted by that great new countertop (and all its accumulating issues) that my wife already told you about in Chapter One.  Hey, I'm not a plumber.  And I'm not a magician.  I build elevators for a living.  So hopefully, nobody will be the wiser, including my unsuspecting wife, who has so much faith in me and all my domestic engineering skills.  Unless she reads this. 

"Somehow, I managed to get the sink to fit, but now I had to install all of the attachments that didn't come with the sink, per manufacturer's instructions.  So I removed the sink to fit the attachments separately (which is much easier than doing it after it's already installed) and got them securely fastened.  Perfectly aligned.  I then dropped the sink back in the hole, smooth as silk, and proceeded to hook up all the water hoses.  I was finally ready to install the 'drain kit.'  This is where my frustration started to ramp up.

"My wife convinced me that she wanted a deeper sink than the old enameled cast iron one that we had had.  I didn't say anything at the time, but I knew I would have to make modifications to the plumbing in order to get the new sink installed.  She also decided to totally remove the garbage disposer, something she was convinced was the result of divine communication; she claimed to have had several conversations with a plumber (whom we might construe as equal to a god, or at least a minor superhero) she had contracted previously.  Said conversation was allegedly about kitchen drains backing up  and the usefulness of the garbage disposer in combination with a septic system.  Apparently, she claims, garbage disposers that handle a lot of food and septic systems don't play nice with each other.  So it was ixnay on the garbage disposer.  Now we have a lovely compost pail.  Do you remember I said I had a weak stomach?

"It turned out, of course, that nothing was standard in this 'standard drain kit,' even though our friendly plumbing department guy at the local big box store assured us that we had everything we needed and that all drain kits were 'standard.'  We've heard this kind of story before, right?  So what this meant was that the kit didn't include several key features, including an adaptive pipe for a lack of a garbage disposer (which determined Trip Number 1 to the local hardware store), an adaptive pipe for a deeper sink (which determined Trip Number 2 to the local hardware store).  And just when I thought we were all hooked up and ready for business, the sink leaked from the drain flange because the 'standard drain kit' didn't fit properly (which determined Trip Number 3 to the local hardware store).  

And I had decided to tackle all of this on Superbowl Sunday.  Guys, some sympathy here, please.

"So let's just say that half the kit didn't work.  It had to be custom fit.  And it turns out that I purchased an additional $35 of plumbing equipment and supplies at the local hardware store (in three separate trips) to supplement the original 'standard drain kit.'  But there's a silver lining!  I now have an impressive assortment of spare plumbing parts.  And I'm now on a first-name basis with all the guys over there--they've promised me a part-time job when I retire in 2025.

"So once again, I get things situated and I'm finally ready for another test run when my wife comes through the door.  She had already called me in excess of 3 times to ask me if I wanted something to eat.  Yes, of course, I'm hungry and a footlong from Subway would be great (Call Number 1).  OK, the line at Subway is out the door and the person in front of you tells you she's ordering 4 Giant Subs.  How about barbeque? (Call Number 2).  OK, the line at the local barbeque joints are all out the door (Call Number 3).  Hell, I don't care what I eat!  I just want to eat! (Call Number 4).

"It would be an understatement to say that I was a bit testy by this time.  Frustrated, hungry, irritable, knowing that the Superbowl is going to start.  Soon.  So when my wife walked through the door, I was not ready to hear what she had to say.  I should have been.  But I was not.  I know that look, that bewilderment making its way across her face as she scans the new sink.  I wonder to myself, "What now?"  She hesitates, knowing that I've been working on this sink for many hours.  She has no food for me in her hands.  This fact does not make things better.

"She began tentatively, 'Honey?' Oh no.  Here it comes.  I stare at her, knowing that her next words are not going to make me feel much better.  'Honey, the soap dispenser needs to be on the other side of the sink.'  In a cloud hunger and fatigue, I saw the hands of the kitchen clock spinning furiously in my mind.  And then she added, meekly, 'And for that matter, all the other attachments except for the faucet need to be rearranged.'  The Super Bowl was going to be underway in less than an hour.  I saw this project stretching into infinity.  The long and winding road of plumbing repairs has many potholes and detours.

"I would have to do this 'rearranging' from underneath the sink, which I estimated to be about 8.5 times harder than my previous attempt.  So I removed everything except the faucet, as my dear wife requested, but then, somehow, I couldn't get the faucet to stabilize.  It wiggled.  A lot.  I couldn't line up the gaskets as well as I had previously.  I fiddled with it some more, but once I got the faucet stabilized, water still leaked from the drainspout and flange (this is where Trip Number 3 to the local hardware store, above, came in).

"I finally managed to change out the drain flange, sealing it with plumber's putty.  Finally, no leaks!  And more importantly, no more complaints from my wife.  And I did manage to finally get something to eat since she took pity on my situation and whipped up something for me, even managing to stay out of the kitchen briefly. 

At this point, I would like to say that I'm not planning to install any more sinks, even though I have to finish the wet bar on the patio in the back yard.  But I'm doing it my way.  No soap dispenser.  Hell, no soap.  No sprayer.  That's what garden hoses are for.  No universal temperature control.  Just straight-up, standard controls that give you cold, hard, running water.  Man water.  None of this prissy, soapy, spray-y thing.  A man sink.  For a man.

"The upside of all of this is that my wife is very happy with the new sink.  She says it looks beautiful (we all know that what you don't know won't hurt you).  She's named her sink Clarice (WHAT???) and says Clarice has a certain subtle sheen and stately elegance.  Hummph.  And she's named the faucet Caprice (Oh my everlovin' GAWD!!!) and says Caprice has a simple, clean arc that can do the job with grace and style.  I suppose my wife is right:

"So, our little, easy, inexpensive kitchen redo spanned several days and, all told, cost us about $450.  True, it was under-budget if you really want to quibble.  But after about 30 woman and man-hours and a lot of frustration, I guess you could tally it up to about an additional $1500 of labor.

"And one more thing.  If you really want to find out the nasty truth about do-it-yourself kitchen projects, check out our friend Steve's blog and his kitchen capers as he puts in his new sink.  It seems times are tough everywhere...


  1. Fortunately I didn't have a wife "supervising" the installation so mine was a little less painful. So now we both know, from hard experience, why plumbers get paid so much: IT'S WORTH IT!"

  2. The advantage to him is that he gets a brand new counter top and gets support paying for it. The obvious advantage to you is that it'll price you less to repair the damage you caused. All is not lost though. You get to live in a place with a brand new kitchen countertops.