Home Handyman, Not Really…



Rock saw Last year, my neighbors and I got together and had a contractor trench in front of mine and the next door house in an attempt to ward off the Oak Wilt that is prevalent in Oak Hill.It has gotten as close as across the street and two of my neighbors have lost beautiful trees. The machine that the contractor uses is a very large rubber-tired tractor with an enormous 12 foot wheel blade on it.The point of the exercise is to dig a trench five feet deep cutting through any roots that may extend that touch the already affected trees. The disease is passed from tree to tree through the roots.

In the process, the contractor knowingly cut the water supply into the house and made the necessary repairs after locating the pipe.Unfortunately, the repair failed and I eventually ended up with a $400 water bill spread over two months. In fairness to the contractor, they made good the repair and reimbursed me most of my expense. Since then, I have been watching the water meter very closely to make sure there are no more leaks.

Well, you say, I have it covered, right? Wrong. I went to bed the other evening around my usual time of midnight and did as most people do and went to the bathroom before retiring.Three hours later and being an old man, had the usual problem that old men have and had to go again. When I got in the bathroom, the toilet was running and had been from the time I used it before going to bed. Damn it, I thought. So much for trying to cut down on the water bill. What this meant was that I now had to make sure that the flush valve was not stuck open before walking away, a wait of at least 2 minutes. This seemed like an eternity in the middle of the night when I was already half asleep plus it meant a conscious effort on my part to remember to wait each time I flushed.

Being an impatient sort of man and not wanting to subject myself to the wait, I decided that I would replace the two toilets in the house with more modern water saving split flush models so with a trip to one of my two favorite stores, Home Depot, I purchased two brand new units and with the help of the Home Depot employees, loaded both into my little Escape. Of course they were not there to help me unload the same boxes which although tricky, turned out to not be that difficult a task. Even so, I bet each box probably weighed 60 pounds at least.I loaded them onto my dolly and wheeled them into the house outside of the respective bathrooms and let them sit overnight, ready to start the next day.

I am no stranger to doing this sort of work and looked upon it as yet another challenge.I finished the first one in a little over an hour and a half and the hardest part was cleaning up the mess I created by not emptying both the tank and the toilet before I moved them. I had water everywhere but luckily for me, my house floors are of 12″ by 12″ ceramic floor tiles and it was pretty easy to clean up. My other problem was in breaking the water pipe that connected the tank to the wall and had to make a fast run to Lowe’s, my other favorite store, to get a replacement. It just so happens that the Lowe’s in Bee Cave is almost next door to a Starbucks so it was only right that I rewarded myself for a job well done.

New Glacier Bay Toilet

New Glacier Bay Toilet

The next day, I started in on the other replacement and this time, I made sure to empty both the tank and the bowl before wheeling it outside to join the first one. Having just completed the one, the second one was a piece of cake and I had it done in an hour this time with no trip to Lowe’s and therefore, no reward. I spent a happy couple of minutes flushing on the half and then the full just to watch the water disappear so quickly I thought it would suck me down the hole.

Not content with completing the toilet jobs, I decided to replace the kitchen sink which had been in the house when I bought it new, thirty years ago and was beginning to show both signs of age and rust. It was a cast iron enameled double sink and it had served it’s purpose. I was no stranger to these projects either having replaced sinks and toilets when I had my own construction company up in New York 45 years ago.

My first problem was trying to decide which sink I wanted to buy to replace the existing one and I even went on our local Neighborhood website and asked around about the pro’s and con’s for a single over a double. I got a lot of good answers but they really just confused the issue, some for and some against so I finally decided on a double stainless steel with a larger pot cleaning sink on one side. I planned on using my existing faucet unit as I had replaced the original a few years ago and mine was perfectly adequate and in good shape. The only thing I planned to do right this time was to hook the hot and cold faucets up correctly as mine were backward when I replaced them before. Didn’t really matter as the water came out just the same and I had quickly learned which side was cold and which was hot.

I set to work early afternoon and the first thing I had to do was to take off a dozen clips that attached the sink unit to the counter. Doesn’t sound very hard except the only way to do it is to lay on my back in the cupboard under the old sink unit and reach up and unscrew each one all the time, trying to focus my heavy-duty lamp where I was working. Of course, when I wanted a different tool, I had to crawl out and then lever myself to a sitting and eventually, standing position. It’s amazing that years ago, getting up and down from difficult sitting or laying positions was never a challenge but I don’t know what the hell has happened in the ongoing years but it is harder than all get out to keep getting up and down now.

I eventually released all of the clips but no effort on my part could move the sink unit. Closer examination revealed that it was not really glue but caulking that was holding the unit in place and it had set solid. What I needed was a jack but as I didn’t have one, I improvised and cut a length of 2″ x 4″ just a little longer than the height between the cabinet bottom and the bottom of the sink. I allowed for a 2″ x 4″ laid flat and set my piece of wood upright on the block and under the sink bowl and then by skillful use of my 4 pound club hammer, drove the wood upright until it broke the seal. I had to do this a couple more time in different areas to completely free the sink unit. The next problem was lifting the sink unit out of the hole cut in the counter-top and I wasn’t sure that I was going to do it on my own. As I mentioned, it was a cast iron sink and heavy. I pride myself on being ingenious and thinking of ways that by myself, can perform work that usually takes a couple of people. Then I thought of all of the weights I lift and the hours I spend in the gym working on muscles for just such occasions as this and grabbed the sink and with a mighty jerk, lifted it out of the hole and carefully placed it on the floor. “Wow”, I thought, “There’s hope for this old man yet”. It was really a question of convincing my mind that I could do it.

I took the faucet unit and the drains off the old sink and then loaded it onto my dolly and wheeled it out the back door, through the gate and deposited along side the of Thomas Springs Road by my driveway.In the past, I have found that is a useful way to get rid of a lot of unwanted but still usable stuff that I no longer have the use for. I only put stuff that is re-usable for someone else and don’t discard trash this way. At one time years ago when I kept birds, I had a bunch of cages that I no longer had a use for and they went almost quicker than I could put them out. On the other hand, I left two small filing cabinets out and a week later, had to bring them back inside as no one wanted them. This might be true of the sink. If I have to bring it back in, I will put it out in the garden and use it as a planter.

New Sink

New Sink

Back to my story. I attached the faucet unit and drains along with the aerator to the new sink unit and after putting a bead of caulk around the opening in the counter top, lifted the sink and carefully lowered it into the hole. This sink unit, even with the plumbing and aerator attached, was nowhere even close to the weight of the old unit and I was quite comfortably able to place it where it had to go. Just as before, I had to hook up a dozen clips to hold the sink in place and just as before, the only way to do it was to lay on my back, inside the cabinet and reach up and over my head. I finally finished this task and knew that the hardest work was already complete.

I hooked up the water pipes making sure to hook the hot one to the correct connection this time. The next thing that gave me a problem was hooking the electricity back to the aerator but it was only because it was a little tight and again, I was laying on my back. The very last thing was to hook up the drains. It was almost like for like except that the fixed drain did not line up with the old unit and was off by a couple of inches and obviously, the existing plumbing was going to need additional work. Back to Lowe’s in Bee Cave where I spent a half an hour looking at various parts and going over in my mind how I should complete the job. I finally came up with a couple of solutions and which meant my buying a couple of new parts. Even though the work was not quite complete, I rewarded myself anyway with a stop at Starbucks for the work I had done so far.

Luckily for me, I was able to make the plastic parts work on hooking up the plumbing and I rushed outside to turn back on the water which I had shut off while I was working. I turned on the faucet and checked for leaks in both the plumbing and the water connections and everything held firm. I turned on the aerator and it worked just fine and after cleaning the surplus caulking from around the counter top, the job was finished. This project took me from 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm to complete which included 45 minutes in Lowe’s but is well worth it. I now have a brand new sink and I finished it off by going to Bed, Bath and Beyond and buying a new dish rack among a couple of other things.

I still have the two used toilets that I need to decide what to do with. Should I put them alongside the road to see if someone has a use for them? They would work just fine in a camp of cabin and would work in a house as well. The last one I replaced, I took out the back and broke it up into tiny pieces. Maybe I can take these two and use them as planters out the front, one on each side of my garage. What do you think?

My next project is to remove the master bath and replace it with a shower bottom to turn it into a shower only. I never use the bath and I am afraid that now I have degenerated into a klutz, I might trip over getting in or out when I take a shower every morning. More on that later.

Who knows, with all of this activity, I might get tempted into dusting the rest of the house. Really?

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