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Ideas from Ed: Unexpectedly down the drain

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

“Ideas from Ed” (April 2020)

Ed is a do-it-yourselfer who is happy to share some of his ideas and experiences in this monthly column.

This month: Unexpectedly down the drain

Once upon a time, there was a badly corroded kitchen sink faucet, just begging to be replaced. Ed to the rescue! BUT, you need to remember the words I live by: Everything takes longer, costs more, and is more difficult than first expected.

Here’s the faucet. Note the corrosion around everything. It was leaking everywhere on top, plus with the base askew, water was getting under the fixture and dripping into the cabinet.

This particular sink had an odd fixture where normally a sprayer would be attached – an on-demand hot water heater. However, it, too, was corroded, outdated, and rarely used. The main part is the gadget on the right, under the sink in this picture. Note all the visible corrosion on the pipes, especially around the fittings and the valves (which, of course, didn’t work to fully shut off the flow of water).

Usually new faucets are pretty well-thought-out by their designers and engineers, and are actually quite easy to install. It’s taking apart the OLD which sometimes is a challenge, and it was in this case as well. In the picture below, I’ve managed to shut off the water main (in the basement) and disconnect the braided supply lines from the copper pipes to the faucets. BTW, although these appeared relatively new, I planned on replacing them with brand new ones. I really do like these braided hose-type connections over bent copper, polybutylene, chrome, or other supply lines.

The faucet set actually had screw-on PLASTIC nuts under the sink, so it wasn’t that old. They threaded off by hand without too much difficulty. On the above picture, you can see that the hot water supply to the instant heater has a metal nut as its hold-in measure. With some corrosion, rust, and limited working space, those are usually a problem to undo. If you don’t have a “basin wrench” like in the picture below, you should acquire one posthaste. They usually enable you to reach up into nearly inaccessible locations and tighten or loosen a hold-in nut.

Once the faucet nuts were removed, it lifted right out from above.

Then I scraped and scrubbed the area so that the new faucet would fit nicely in place and look good:

Using the basin wrench and a particularly good selection of off-color language, the control for the hot water dispenser succumbed and was removed. Here is a picture from inside the cabinet as more was disconnected. (Obviously, I had to shut off the electricity to disconnect the supply to the heater…)

That’s where the “fun” started, and why I started this article the way I did. I had to use a rag or two to sop up some of the water dribbling from the pipes, and I wrung them out in the sink above. I’d say that 80% went down into the sewer, and 20% ran out into the sink cabinet. Rats! Running my fingers along the underside of the metal waste tubes confirmed my suspicions. There was also leakage from corroded areas (actually holes) in those tubes. Now replacing a faucet was turning into replacing the DWV (drain-waste-vent) system as well. Here’s a pic as THOSE parts were removed, and after cutting the water supply lines at a point where I knew I could re-connect with new:

I’ve preached before about the ease of using push-fit connections (Sharkbite, Gatorbite, and others). They enable the coupling of different materials like copper, PEX, CPVC, etc. as long as the outside diameters are the same. PEX is far-and-away all I’ll ever use for plumbing these days as it’s MUCH cheaper than copper, easier to install, and as far as we know now, not prone to many other issues. I used push-fit connections from the PEX to copper, and crimped-on connections/valves (they are less expensive than the push fittings) where I could. I don’t have a picture of the actual faucet install, but it was straightforward by inserting it into the sink holes and tightening plastic nuts from below. Just follow the directions that come with whatever faucet you’ve selected.

Okay. Now I started to assemble the drain lines. These are normally 1 ½” for a kitchen sink, and often 1 ¼” for a bathroom sink. If these tubes were visible, or you are concerned with making things look “pretty” you can purchase new chrome tubes. Plastic is incredibly inexpensive and makes for a cheap, easy installation. These are for a double sink with a center outlet. If yours is an end-outlet, you’ll need to buy a different style. Actually, I didn’t want the outlet dead-center, so I opted for tubes with one side’s length longer than the other. You should also note that in this case the dishwasher port is very low, in the original metal piping, and won’t be affected by my work. You might need to buy a style of drop tube that has a dishwasher fitting in your situation.

Then, the decision had to be made. Should it be installed (like it WAS) as in this picture?

The answer is NO! In the “DWV” designation noted above, the “V” stands for vent. What is shown in the picture above is called an “S trap”. It pretty much goes straight down into the floor. Sharp eyes will notice that at the back of the cabinet there is a hole cut through the plywood. In there is a remnant of a lead pipe which originally (100 years ago) served to vent the plumbing system. I don’t know why, but seems like in a majority of older homes, that has been disconnected. The problem with unvented drains, and particularly with S-traps, is that water can run down quickly enough to act as a siphon, pulling everything out of the loop in the trap, and allowing sewer gases to come up through the drains. Unless you somehow re-connect the original vent, it STILL should be converted to a “P-trap” and vented, at least with an “air admittance valve”, sometimes called a cheater vent. More on that later. Note the shape of the P-trap and that it wants to connect in the direction of the wall instead of the floor. I also have already applied Teflon tape and screwed on an adapter to the floor pipe, making it possible to install a vertical pipe section of Sch 40 PVC there:

The Sch 40 PVC is much thicker than the tubing for the P-trap itself, and can be obtained with push fittings, glued ones, or threaded ones. The goal for a project like this is to match up the threaded connections to glued ones, and ultimately mate up the tube/gaskets/threaded nuts to it all.

The pictures below show me measuring up the sections so alignment and joining will be possible. I also show the glued-up adjustments to the “T” fitting so the tubing can connect. By the way, the “T” is called a “sanitary T”, meaning that it’s DIRECTIONAL, so it must be installed facing the proper way for the flow to be routed.

Here’s how it all fit together, up to the point of the “T”:

Back to the air admittance valve mentioned earlier. I’ve seen them ranging from $6 to nearly $30. I’d guess some last longer than others, look prettier, or are made in the USA instead of overseas. What they all do is normally block off sewer gases, but allow air to enter the system when there’s “negative pressure” like water running strongly through the pipes. That prevents siphoning, so the trap will always stay full. I used the $6 one for this job. It threads into another adapter glued onto the top of the vertical Sch 40 coming up from the “T”, and should be installed as high as possible.

Final install pics:

I hope all your projects go well. Thanks for reading, and happy restoring!


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