That’s the sound that started when we had our counter replaced in the master bathroom. We had it done at the same time as the shower was installed and they were supposed to give us a couple of days notice. Since they didn’t call until that morning and didn’t tell us to have the existing faucet and drain unhooked, everything was still connected. The installers typically don’t mess with plumbing, but decided to try it to save a trip. As he started to turn off the valve to the sink, it started dripping. It can happen with old valves. The packing (a material to help prevent leaks) and gaskets inside get old and stuck in position. Everything’s fine until you turn the valve and it all breaks loose. So they didn’t get the sink done then.
I was kind of torn on what to do. The plumbing in our house is all copper pipe as most older houses are and I had never sweated copper together before. I was a bit hesitant to try, but decided why not, that’s what this is all about. So, I did a little research on how to sweat pipes and then came across something else. A compression fitting valve. It has a thin piece which gets wedged between the valve body and the pipe to hold it in place without sweating. Not a professional installation, but it would be quicker and work for me. I stopped at Lowe’s (once again) to pick up some new valves and other parts.
Of course, the valves are always at the back of the cabinet in the hardest to reach places:
First step was to go turn off the water to the whole house:
Sometimes this can be done with a valve right outside the house. Our house has one of those, but it seems frozen and I was advised by the plumber who redid our shower valves not to force it since it’s old and it might leak. So I had to go out to the valve where it comes off the main water line.
Since the old sink was coming out anyway, I decided to take it off to work on the valves to have more room. First, I had to unhook everything from it. If the valves look hard to get too, the piping going to the sink itself is even worse:
Most of these pictures were done with the old camera and here’s the shutters getting stuck like I mentioned as one of the reasons that we wanted to replace it:
Fortunately, removing the piping doesn’t require special tools, just some finagling with a wrench. Although, I did see a tool at Home Depot that looked like it would make things quicker. The drain is even easier:
It just has a plastic nut that unscrews from the pipe and then everything could be lifted out.
I say that as if just lifting it out was very easy. It wasn’t. I didn’t realize how much those sinks actually weigh. They’re not screwed down, because they don’t have to be. They’re not going anywhere. This one was 4’ long and weighed 108 pounds. That’s almost like trying to carry Vanessa except a little harder since the sink wouldn’t wrap its arms around me and help out. The hard part is that I couldn’t just tilt it out the front since there was a notch cut in it to go around the door trim. I had to tilt it up on its side a little to get it past that. But I got it out:
Now the fun part which requires this:
Time to take the valves off. I decided to just remove them instead of cutting the pipe and making it shorter in case I needed the length some other time. To do that, I had to heat the pipes up hot enough to melt the solder. It’s not really that difficult, just turn on the gas and use the striker to light the torch:
Then turn it down until the flame is all blue to get the most intense flame:
Finally, heat up the valve until the solder melts and it becomes loose enough to pull off:
You’ll get a little steam and some smoke as it burns off old dust and such so it would probably be best to use a mask. Also, a wet rag placed on pipes or cabinets or other wood will help protect them. Here’s a better picture showing the flame:
Sweating the valves on uses a similar heating process, but parts of the valve may be removed to avoid having the heat destroy them.
After I removed the valves, I heated the solder some more and quickly wiped it with a wet rag to remove as much as I could and then I sanded it down smooth before installing the new valves:
Here’s the compression valves I was using:
Of course you want to make sure you get ones with the inputs and outputs pointing in the right direction. For sinks, this typically means they are pointing 90 degrees from each other.
Removing the big nut exposes a little copper band called the ferrule. Don’t lose it! This is the part that gets sandwiched between the pipe and the part of the valve that goes over the pipe and gets compressed when you tighten the nut and holds everything together. The nut goes on the pipe first, then the ferrule, then the valve:
I also used some plumbers tape wrapped around the threads of the valve to help seal it against leaks:
Another option is thread sealant which is messier but may provide better results.
I tightened everything up and I was done. Shiny new valves:
Then of course it was time for the test: turning the water back on. Big suggestion: make sure the valves are in the off position before you do this. If they’re not, you’ll probably have water shooting to the ceiling. Thankfully this didn’t happen to us, but I can almost imagine Vanessa’s reaction if it had. That would have been something to see. It also helps to have someone watching for you to scream at you to turn it off if something is wrong. So, Vanessa watched while I went back outside to turn the water on. Success! Mostly. No big leaks, but I did have a little drip. I just had to tighten the nut some more and all was well.
There you have it. A change-out that wasn’t planned but was made necessary by one that was. The next day, the guys were able to install the sink and continue on.
Have you ever had a big water mess from something like a valve being in the wrong position when the water was turned on?