Fixing the sink: Matt's Memo

The broken pipe (Matt Mulcahy)

The beads of sweat streamed off my forehead. My knuckles scraped raw from turning a wrench in confined space. The dust of drywall brushed through my mussed up hair. The drip, drip, drip of do it yourself home repair is never a true project until something veers away from the planned fix up.

You see the faucet on our utility sink next to the washing machine has been leaking...for months. It's the sink where we fill our dog's bowl with water, wash out a paint brush or clean off a dirty pair of running shoes. Nothing fancy, but useful.

I stopped in a few home improvement stores, searched online and then picked up an affordable replacement faucet. I've replaced faucets before. No problem. Shut off the water beneath the sink. Disconnect the supply lines. Pop off the old faucet. Install the new one. An hour or two and you're done, right? Oh no.

Problem one: I shutoff the cold water line with a twist of the knob. When I did the same on the hot water valve it snapped off in my hand. Now I needed a new faucet and a new valve.

Problem two: I popped out the old faucet which revealed two holes in the utility sink. Perfect for my replacement faucet, right? Not so fast. Once out of the box I realized it needed a third hole in the center.

Problem three: When attempting to replace the broken hot water valve I struggled to loosen the nut that attaches it to the copper piping. I turned so hard and tore the copper piping. Creating problem four.

Problem four: I now needed to cut into the dry wall for access to the curved joint that makes the turn from the copper piper in the wall to the valve that needed replacing. That led to problem five.

Problem five: using a pipe cutter to snap off that curved joint for a clean section of pipe to reconnect my new connectors.

All the while I avoided any major water spraying disasters by shutting off the water to the whole house. Of course, the project that was supposed to be a couple hours had doubled that time and then some.

Piece by piece I rebuilt connectors, the valve and the supply lines. I drilled a third hole in the heavy plastic sink top. I installed and connected the faucet. Most of the work was one on my back with my head stuck halfway under our washing machine and dryer. Tools scattered around the floor. So did receipts and plastic bags from Ace, Lowe's and Home Depot.

It was time to return water flow to the house from the main valve. I twisted the basement valve. I ran up to the utility sink. Yes! Nothing leaking or spraying.

I then turned the handle of the newly installed faucet. Nothing. I tried the hot water side. Nothing. The clock had been ticking on my time available to finish the job. I thought I had won this game of Beat the Clock. But, alas... the conclusion would have to wait until another day. Satisfaction delayed will be even sweeter when I solve the final problem and fill my dog's dish with water tomorrow.

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