Replacing the Kitchen Sink

It doesn’t take all that much work to replace a kitchen sink; here’s a step by step guide and some tips and hints to replace your own kitchen sink and cabinet. First I have an odd sized area that the cabinet was in and it would require me to either order a cabinet for the new sink or have some thing custom made. If you have an odd place the sink or cabinet is going into like I did then think about the project and figure out what your options are. I decided to go with a smaller cabinet and use a longer countertop for my sink and cabinet. The original sink cabinet was a metal one piece 42 inch wide base with one sink on the top, also metal. It is not your conventional sink or cabinet, probably for an apartment. The space I had to work with is 47 inches wide and would sufficiently hold a regular 25 inch deep countertop and a 36 by 24 inch cabinet. I bought a countertop at a discount hardware store and a regular oak faced cabinet at a home improvement store. The entire start of this project came about because I bought a sink at a garage sale for $2 that was in excellent shape. It only had a slightly dented corner but it was ready to install without even having to clean it up. I bought all the materials I would need except a part for the drain as this would have to be installed after everything else was in and set in place, then I would have to see how the drains for the double sink would come out in relation to the drain in the wall. Here are the items I bought or already had:

Clips to hold down sink
Floor tiles
Drain kit for double sink
Two hoses to attach faucet to shutoff valves
Plumber’s putty
Kitchen caulk
Plastic for splash guards
Adhesive glue

Before starting any project like this ensure you read the directions all the way through and you understand everything your going to do. You can also go to web sites such as Home Depot, Lowe’s or even This Old House for more information on hardware and plumbing jobs to better understand the instructions here. With this project I had to get permission from my landlord to do this work. He was very happy to have me do this as he had mentioned it to me before and wanted it done. If you are renting do not do any alterations to anything without your landlord’s written permission. He was so happy he wants me to do the same for the other apartment in my duplex.

Steps I took to replace sink, countertop and cabinet:

First shut off water to sink and allow faucet to drain. I had to install two shut off valves that were not on the two water pipes so that I could have shut offs under the sink for the future. If you have them already just shut these off. If you don’t this is a good time to install some so that you have them for the ease of being able to shut off just the sink when you work on it instead of the whole house. If you don’t have shutoff valves then shut off the supply to the house and install some shut off valves at the ends of the pipes. You can get a valve that will fit onto almost any fitting you may have under your sink or you may have to use an adapter. Ask at your local hardware store or home improvement if you’re not sure. A good idea that I find very handy is to take a picture of your connection and take that to your home improvement to make sure you get the right fitting. If you use a camera phone or a digital camera this works well.

Remove faucet. Take the faucet off if your reusing it, if not you can leave it on and trash the whole deal. To remove a faucet you have to remove the hoses, then remove the two nuts holding the faucet to the sink. This is tricky with the sink in the cabinet and you might need a socket or a special tool. If you’re removing the countertop and sink just pull the sink out first and remove the faucet when it’s out.

Remove drains from bottom of sink to wall. Remove any drain connections and adapters all the way to the wall. When you go to remove them have a bucket under the trap to catch the water that is in it. There will be water there; it is to prevent gas coming up the drain line into the house. Pour this into bucket and remove all drain pieces. Set aside for future use, the drain pieces not the water.

Remove sink and/or cabinet. I could tear apart my cabinet but did not need to when I removed it. I just had to pull up and the top came up, it was held on with small clips that held the sink and top of the cabinet onto the bottom. This is a special deal for the cabinet I had though. Many won’t be like this. Countertops that are screwed to cabinets will need to have any screws holding them together removed. Remove any screws holding the cabinet to the floor or walls. Remove the clips from the sink with a screw driver if you want to reuse sink or countertop and want to get sink off countertop. They will usually be a slotted screwdriver head to get them off and turn them counterclockwise to loosen them. Remove the sink and/or countertop and then the cabinet.

Prepare area for new cabinet. Scrap any old tile or gunk from the entire area. I had to remove the floor tile as it was bad under the sink and replaced it with some new tiles that I glued into place. I did not take out any further than right under the cabinet. I will do this later as a different project. I only put in half tiles for the front that stick out under the base of the cabinet. No use wasting tiles under a cabinet that you will never see.

I waterproofed the whole cabinet before installing it. This is something that is optional but a very good idea if you have ever seen old cabinet’s that get water soaked over time. I then place the cabinet and screwed it to the floor and wall. Make sure you have thought this entire process out and are sure of where you want everything before taking the drastic steps of screwing down the cabinet or worse cutting the countertop and getting it off. When I had the cabinet in I then placed the countertop in place on it. I was lucky and found a countertop that fit right in the space I had. I would have to use some spacers to fill in about an inch on the sides of the countertop but this was no problem. I made sure where I wanted the countertop and drew lines from underneath on the underside of the countertop where the cabinet inside is. This way when you pull off the countertop and turn it over you can see exactly where the sink can go. If you purchase a new sink from a home improvement store many times the company that made the sink will include a template as part of the box or packaging for the cutout of the sink. Use this to get the exact cutout for the sink you are making in the countertop. There should be instructions on the box or packaging telling how to use the template. Using the template draw your lines on the top of the countertop making sure the sink will go in the correct place for it to fit in the cabinet. If you use a sink that does not have a template turn the sink over onto the underside of the countertop and draw where the sink will go. Use a marker in one color to show where the edge of the sink has to go. DO NOT CUT ANYWHERE TO THIS LINE. The cuts for the sink will be about a quarter to a half inch from this line on the inside of it. Measure the lip of the sink to the edge of the channel used to hold the sink onto the countertop. This measurement will be the amount you will draw inside the line you drew for the outside edge of the sink. You should have two lines on the countertops underside. One will be outside and is the edge of your sink; the other is smaller and is your cutting line. Drill holes with a smaller drill bit, about a 1/8 to 3/16 inch bit on the eight corners where the straight lines of your cutting line start to curve to the next side. Use these as guide to mark the top of the counter and cut on the top. Cut the straight lines on the top but have tape under the blade the entire cut, to prevent the countertop from chipping. Cut this using a circular saw or a rotary saw with a cutting bit. When you do this make sure you don’t go as far as the one line that is the edge of your sink. Test fit your sink when you have the entire rectangle cut out for your sink. If you need to cut some more do so but do not go close to the edge line on the underside of the countertop. When you have it fit make sure you can also install the sink clips by the package directions. They may need a little extra room beside the channel and the edge of the countertop. Do not screw down the clips yet.

Place countertop on cabinet without sink. Place countertop where you want it and screw it down to the cabinet, my cabinet had plastic corners with holes in them to hold down the countertop. Make sure your screws are not too long to go through the countertop. Just measure the distance from the clip to the countertop and add less than the thickness of the countertop, use this as the maximum length of your screws. If you have no screws short enough you can use longer ones just add some washers to the screw before screwing into the cabinet hold downs for the countertop. Some cabinets may not have any way to hold the countertop and you may need to get some L brackets to hold the countertop to the cabinet. Once the countertop is in place and tight you install the sink into the hole in the countertop. Install the faucet into the sink here as it is much easier when the sink is not in the cabinet. Just put the pipe ends through the holes and fasten with the nuts. Many faucets will have a gasket underneath them between the faucet and the sink to prevent water from getting under the sink in the holes. If yours does not use some plumbers putty or caulk under the faucet before fastening it to the sink. The clips for the sink go into the metal channel with the barbs on the wood of the countertop and the bent piece between the channel and the countertop. You will also want to put a large bead of plumbers putty around the sink to prevent water from leaking into the cabinet that gets spilled on the countertop. Knead the putty and make a long rope that you put under the edge of the sink all the way around. Once you tighten the sink down scrap the excess putty and put into the container for reuse. Tighten down the screws on the sink clips some till they hold and get several installed around the sink. Then tighten them all snug as you go around the sink.

Install the drain. If the sink did not come with the drains for the sink installed you need to install them first. The inside piece goes in and then the nut goes on the bottom, some plumbers putty should go between the sink and the drain insert. Knead the putty and using a small bead around the insert place the insert in and then tighten the nut from underneath. Some putty will squeeze out and this is what you want. Scrap excess putty off and put it back into the container for use on other projects. It will never dry out and should be useable for a long time. Some drain inserts come with gaskets made of plastic or rubber, if yours does use them instead of the putty. After installing the drains install the rest of the drain pipes. The trap will go below the drains and below any T’s connecting both sinks if you are installing a dual sink. You may need to use some adapters or extensions if you are changing the placement of your sink. They are not expensive and are handy to have around for future projects if you buy some and don’t need it. Once the drain is installed hookup the hoses to the faucet using Teflon tape or Teflon leak stop on any non gasket hoses or pipes. Tighten the nuts and try the water, watching for leaks. If you do get a leak try tightening a little more or using some leak stopper like the white Teflon tape or white leak stop.

Seal the sink with caulk. You will want to seal the edge of the sink with caulk before using the sink. Some people don’t like to and this is fine depending on the type of sink you installed. The cheaper sinks will not have a very good lip on them to seal well and will probably leak if you don’t. Once you squeeze a bead around the sink smooth it out and remove excess with your finger and rags or paper towels. I use water on my finger to get a nice smooth bead. If you use a more expensive sink many times you can put a bead of caulk down on the countertop before placing the sink the last time. The sink may have a nice flat spot especially if you are using one of those fake granite sinks that have a good thick lip on them. With these you just turn the sink upside down and apply a bead on the sink and then place the sink, then tighten it down.

Once you have installed the sink and made sure there are no leaks you can paint or stain the cabinet if you want. You may want to wait a few days before placing things inside as the waterproofer or any paints on the inside will be a little strong for till the cabinet airs out some.

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