First, a bit of background. We’ve replaced faucets before. Our downstairs bathroom faucet started acting up about a year ago and we swapped it out for a new one. Our kitchen faucet has a peculiarity where after you swivel it back and forth enough times, a threaded collar inside works its way loose and the only way to tighten it up is to completely remove said faucet and turn it counter clockwise a bunch. We’ve done the ‘remove, tighten, replace’ dance twice now. Always have we finished with working faucets and non-leaky pipes. So, when the drain in our master bath sink stopped sealing, I thought to myself, “Ah! A nice easy project to tackle on a Saturday afternoon!” (Foreshadowing at its finest.)
Most projects, we’d take the time to budget and research options, but in this case we already had a replacement faucet! Around the time our downstairs faucet gave up the ghost, Megan’s parents were in the midst of some renovation work, and actually had a couple of faucets that they were getting rid of. We used one of these as our downstairs replacement, and had tucked the other away at the back of a garage cabinet. Confidence high, I grabbed this shiny new faucet and a few tools (adjustable wrenches, locking pliars, plumber’s putty, basin wrench) and strolled upstairs.
Now, to clarify, there wasn’t anything wrong with the faucet itself – the drain just wasn’t sealing anymore. Normally we’d look for a replacement kit for the drain, but since we already had a brand new faucet on hand, it seemed like a no-brainer to just swap out everything.
To start, I shut off the water at the wall, opening the faucet afterward to make sure that the shut-off valves were working (they were newer quarter-turn valves, so I wasn’t too concerned here, but you always want to double check). Then I loosened the water connections with a couple of adjustable wrenches and removed the metal brackets holding the faucet to the underside of the sink. Last I disconnected the drain plug bar from the drain itself and pulled the faucet assembly off of the top of the sink. Easy enough.
Next, the fun part. To get the drain out, I unscrewed the PVC washers holding the p-trap in place at the wall and drain, and pulled it free. Once removed, this dumped some water under the sink and allowed for a nice sewer-gas odor to waft out of the wall drain.
With the p-trap out of the way, I unscrewed the bottom segment of the threaded drain itself, then pulled this free. This allowed the rest of the drain assembly to be shoved up and out of the sink. This also exposed a huge clump of hair. Was this all ours? Did it come with the house, like a really gross gift-with-purchase? Either way, it was carefully discarded.
At this point, it was pretty much a case of running everything in reverse, but with the new faucet. I popped the new threaded drain in, snugging it into place with a plastic collar / rubber washer combo. I applied a liberal bead of plumber’s putty to the underside of the faucet, pressed it in place over the three holes in the sink, and ran the washers up to hold it in place lightly. Things were clicking along nicely.
And then… the drain handle. Full disclosure – I’ve never liked the drain lever setup on most faucets. They’re just weird multi-part connections that hang awkwardly behind the drain. We were spared having to deal with this unpleasantness in our other faucet swap, as our replacement faucet had an absolutely magical speed-connect drain setup. No levers, just a little cable. Beautiful.
This particular faucet had an apparent issue from the start. The top… bar? stick? We’ll go with stick. The top stick was a chrome rod with a bend or offset in the middle. This snaked down through the middle of the three holes in our countertop. Pulling up on it dragged the bend in the bar against the countertop hole. I’m not sure what they were going for with this bendy stick, but grinding metal against a countertop isn’t really my ideal of a fun time, but whatever. “It’ll probably be fine.”
Looking at the instructions, the bendy stick slides down into this plastic drain plug bar, and then the bar attaches to another lever that opens and shuts the plug. The instructional photo, of course, showed all of these falling in a neat line.
“Well of course the picture’s probably just simplified” I thought, and pressed on. I made all the connections between the sticks as well as I could, then pulled up on the top knob. It ground to a halt with the drain half shut. I twisted, rotated the top bar, and felt the bend of the bar rotate and slip around. This allowed the drain to close, but left the knob coming out the top of the faucet at a weird angle. This didn’t seem right, and took a decent amount of effort to close, what with the pull / twist move.
I tried this a couple more times to see if it got easier. It didn’t. Then the bendy stick slipped out of the tiny spring clamp on the drain plug bar. *sigh* We even called our in-house, toddling expert. He thought the whole thing was dumb and boring.
With a couple of adjustments, we tried again. No dice. And again. Nothing. We loosened the faucet, made sure it was all the way forward, and tried again. Nada. No matter the adjustment, the alignment of the bendy stick and our countertop holes appeared to not be compatible. Every setup required a rubbing, grinding, twisting, straining pull to close the drain.
So. What to do. We took a pause to evaluate – something that usually happens during DIY projects. Anytime the frustration starts to set in, it’s best to step back before making rash decisions.
After some debate we decided that in the interest of having a working sink, it’d be best to just reinstall the original faucet, leaky drain or not. We weren’t really keen on having to buy a new faucet, since that wasn’t really in the plan, and figured we could reassess our options at a later date.
I once more ran through the uninstall / reinstall steps for the faucet, and it was at the point when I dropped the top sticks for the drain lever through that inspiration struck. While the connection mechanism of the old faucet sticks and the new drain’s lever were’t compatible, they lined up well. And if there was a way to connect them together, it might just work…
Scrounging up a rubber band, I wrapped the sticks and lever together. Then, with a small glimmer of hope, I pulled up on the faucet’s knob.
It. Worked. Beautifully.
The drain closed perfectly. The knob operated without binding. The sink held water. It didn’t really feel like a success, though, with the rubber-banded-together drain lever and having to revert to the original faucet. Oh well, at least we had a working drain again! Honestly, can we all just agree that all drains should make the leap to a quick connect system?