Regular PopCult readers probably remember that, about nine months ago, your humble correspondent was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, an auto-immune disorder that affects how my muscles respond to nerve signals. While this is usually a serious disorder, my case has been atypically mild. I don’t believe I’m in remission yet (I’ll be tested next month to see), but I’ve recovered enough of the use of my fingers to tackle a home improvement project, and that’s what we’re talking about today.
Last weekend, I replaced my bathroom sink.
I own the house I grew up in, and so I pretty much know the history of when repairs and remodelings were done. This particular bathroom sink, made of steel, was installed around 1975, and it really should have been replaced five years ago. It was a mess. The enamal was flaking off inside the bowl, but more importantly, rust had eaten away underneath, and it leaked badly.
It leaked so badly that I had to remove the floor of the vanity cabinet underneath, due to extreme water damage and the beginning of a mold problem. I’ll tell you more about that in a bit.
It had been years since I’d tackled a project like this because for years my hands didn’t work. I’d adapted my typing style to adjust to my hands being mostly paralyzed, but I wasn’t able to do that when it came to using tools. Now I can, once again, so there there was no excuse to put this much-needed home repair off any longer.
The sink was an under-mount, held in place by a series of clips. I shut off the water and disconnected the feed lines to the faucet. I planned on re-using the faucet, which was only about a dozen years old, because it was a rock-solid Delta and still worked perfectly.
I then went under the sink and unhooked the trap. I took a look at the drain coming out of the sink, and thought I’d have trouble removing it because it was large and rusted in place. The rust was a major issue. Every time I tapped the sink with a wrench while disconnecting the feed lines, a shower of rust came down. When I reached up to assess how difficult it was going to be to remove the drain…it came off in my hands. Apparently the sink had been held together with hair and rust for some time. All that was left to do was to remove the bowl and the first part of the job was complete.
Not having removed a sink before, I had some concerns. I was afraid that, once the retaining clips were removed, the sink might drop suddenly and damage what was left of the drain or the feed lines. I took precautions, but my fears were unfounded. When the last clip was removed, the sink didn’t budge. It was cemented in place by a piece of decorative trim, to which it had been affixed for over forty years.
I wedged the handle of a plunger under the faucet, to keep the sink from dropping, and began to pry up the trim. That went easily enough (having working fingers makes life much easier), and in less than a minute, the trim was off and I was able to grab the sink by the faucet and pull it up through the cut-out hole.
I was suprised at how light it was…and how nasty it looked (seen left).
At this point, I was able to measure the cut-out hole in the sink. It was slightly off from the recommended sizes, but since we were replacing it with a drop-in sink, I knew we had some leeway.
I should mention at this point that replacing the entire vanity cabinet was not an option. It was custom-made to fit in the bathroom (see the picture at right) and we couldn’t just go buy one of the ready-made ones that they sell at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
We knew that Lowe’s had a nice ceramic drop-in sink for $68, made by Kohler, but I was saving that for day two. I still had some stuff to do before we were ready for the new sink.
This is where the story takes a sweetly weird turn.
With the sink gone from the rather large hole in its top, suddenly the cabinet below was flooded with light. And it became clear that the floor of the cabinet had to go. Years of leaks had destroyed it, warping and delaminating it and there were patches of mold. It was in such bad shape that I decided to take it out in pieces using a claw hammer. After a few minutes of punching holes in the floor and ripping the pieces out with my bare hands, I finally got the last, and largest, piece of the cabinet floor out. It dropped to the actual floor below and when I picked it up, I heard the familiar “clink” of metal.
Once I had cleared the debris, I looked and saw a golden ring. It was the wedding band that my father had lost sometime before 1980. I remember when it happened. After a frantic search and the removal of the trap, the entire family assumed that it had either dropped in the toilet, or passed through the trap before we could catch it. That’s it in the picture to the left.
What we didn’t realize is that there was a small gap–maybe half an inch–between the floor of the cabinet and the top of the toe-kick along the front of the cabinet. The ring must have hit the floor and bounced up at exactly the right angle to pop through this gap, sitting underneath the bathroom vanity for nearly four decades.
It was a happy surprise. I posted about it on Facebook, where over 140 people liked the photo. If you follow me on Facebook, this whole column may have a bit of an air of deja vu to it. It was a nice diversion and a bittersweet resolution, all at the same time.
There was another happy surprise awaiting me underneath the cabinet floor. There was a tiled floor, at the same level of the bathroom floor, only with a different style of flooring, underneath the vanity. So I didn’t have to replace the cabinet floor at all. I just had to clean up what was there, and I gained some extra storage space under the sink.
The entire process up to this point was done while Mrs. PopCulteer was out getting her hair done on a Saturday afternoon. We had other things to do that evening, so we planned to head out on Sunday to get our sink and try to finish the job.
We found our sink at the Kanawha City Lowe’s (after finding the model we wanted had sold out at Dudley Farms) and brought it home to install. I attached the old faucet, after Mel cleaned it up a bit, to the new sink and dropped it into place. Mel also helped a bit with the plumber’s putty around the rim of the cut-out hole. We dropped it in place and it fit perfectly. The job was 90% done when I realized that I had no idea how to plumb the drain. So we called in a professional. It looked good, but wasn’t workable yet in the photo to the right.
Part of successfully doing a home improvement project is knowing when you are in over your head. I was not confident enough in my skills to try to do something I’d never done before. When the plumber did arrive, it turned out that we needed about two inches more pipe. He got the job done in less than twenty minutes and told me that I’d saved myself about four hundred dollars by doing so much of the job myself.
I could not have attempted this before I started my treatment for Myasthenia Gravis. The treatment is working and I’m feeling better than ever. And we can use the bathroom sink again. Here’s our new sink in all its glory.
That is this week’s PopCulteer. There will probably be a PopCult Toybox later today. I hope that the local music lovers among you are considering attending the all-ages show tomorrow night at Rock Lake. I told you about it last week. A family situation has made it unlikely that I will be able to show up as planned, but it’s still going to be a cool night and a great opportunity to catch several young area bands.
Check PopCult for all our regular features and remember to keep your head up in the face of adversity.