I have this problem. I think a psychiatrist might diagnose it as demolition fixation. After I bought and cleaned up a salvaged vintage corner sink, every time I used the sink it was going to replace, I thought about how much I wanted to rip it out. Even though we’ve lived with the sink for over two years, and I had been trying to ignore its flaws ever since I gave the bathroom a mini makeover, once the possibility of an upgrade was dangled in front of me, I became obsessed. Every time I looked at it, I fantasized about tearing out the ugly, mismatched tile countertop and backsplash, and the very homemade stand (with unfilled staple holes) topped with an Ikea sink and faucet.
So I did. And then I embarked on a sink replacement odyssey that ruined my birthday (but don’t worry, there’s a happy ending!)
Here’s the before and after:
Step One: Demolition
Start prying tile off of the wall to see if I can take it off without damaging the wall too much. Mostly fail at that, removing the plaster in large chunks along with the tile. Cut the caulk presumably holding the sink to the tiled countertop, then try to remove the sink. It won’t budge. Go to town on the old sink tile with a chisel, mallet, and hammer, until I’ve removed most of the tile and can pry the sink free.
Turn off the water and disconnect the water lines. Take the faucet off, now that it’s accessible.
Haul the sink off the stand, then finish removing backsplash wall tile, and pry the stand off the wall, where it’s held with large nails through the 2x4s that make up the back of the stand.
Step Two: Patching the wall
Google how to patch plaster walls, come across this article that explains that you have to use setting type joint compound, because other types won’t bond with the existing wood and plaster. Go the store to buy some, then put multiple layers on the walls, concentrating on the part of the wall that will actually be exposed with the new sink. Wait for the joint compound to completely dry.
Step Three: Hanging the new sink
Because the ReBuilding Center, where I bought the sink, didn’t have the vintage brackets that I would need to hang it, buy four new brackets that I hope will work. And then spend my whole birthday trying (and failing) to hang a damn sink on the wall. Realize that trying to hang a square corner sink on not-quite-square walls is an exercise in frustration, especially when the studs, which brackets for a heavy cast-iron sink need to be attached to, are really inconveniently located for where the brackets need to go. Shed tears, but eventually get it really securely hung with Steven’s help.
Step Four: Plumbing
Feel relieved that the hard part is over. Even though I’ve never plumbed anything, it shouldn’t be that difficult.
Attempt to re-route the drain pipes because the old sink drainpipe was located in a different spot than the new sink drainpipe. Go to store to buy new pipes, and get help from a former plumbing inspector who hooks me up.
Go home to assemble it, realize that when he looked at my pipe photos on my phone, he thought that the p-trap was a different size than it is in reality. Go back, pipes in hand, to return wrong pipes and replace with new pieces. Get home, realize that they won’t quite work for various reasons that are too boring to explain.
Go to another hardware store, nearly start crying in the plumbing aisle when an employee explains that different plumbing manufacturers make p-traps in ways that the parts are incompatible with each other, and their parts won’t work with mine.
Stare at plumbing parts for a while, come up with another solution. Go home, test it out, and it works! Glue the parts together, and assemble my sink drainpipe.
Hook the faucet back up, turn the water on, and test for leaks. For the sake of my sanity, thank god there aren’t any.
Delete ten photos of sink drainage pipes from my phone.
Step Five: Painting and dressing
Prime and paint the walls, and sew a little skirt to hide my functional (but very ugly) plumbing. Sew the skirt out of the bottom half of curtains I shortened for another window, and attach with stick-on velcro on the sink, and sew-on velcro on the fabric.
Here’s the true before, from when we moved in:
And the before from after my mini makeover last year:
And the after:
Whoa, seeing these in a row makes me glad that I tackled this project, despite the difficulties. This bathroom has come a long way!
I started tearing out the sink on Friday evening, and after working on it for what felt like every waking moment, I just finished this project today, Wednesday afternoon. Actually, it’s not quite finished, since I still need to caulk. How hard could that be? (I’ve actually caulked before, it’ll probably be fine.)
Although this project took about ten times longer than I expected, it’s such a huge improvement to our bathroom that I’m still happy I did it. I may have been unhappy on my actual birthday, but hopefully I’ll be satisfied with this sink for far longer, so it’ll be worth it.
In a year or so we’ll give this bathroom a complete overhaul, and while I plan to keep the sink, we’ll move the plumbing so the sink doesn’t need a skirt, and add some cabinets for storage. We’ll also definitely replace the faucet with either a bridge faucet, or a better single-hole faucet. But for now we just reused the one that was already on there (looks like it’s from Ikea), and I put a soap dispenser in the other hole. It’s not the most beautiful solution, but it’ll work for now.
Though the bathroom isn’t in its finished state, it’s a vast improvement. It feels much bigger with just this change, and now I can stop daydreaming about demolition when I brush my teeth!