“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” is a phrase that should resonate with anyone that lives in an older house and starts taking a closer look at their utility lines. In our case, I was looking at the plumbing under our kitchen sink while installing our dishwasher. Remember when the A-Team would start grabbing random parts like a lawn chair, trash bags, duct tape and hair dryers to make a hot air balloon to escape prison? That was ingenuity by necessity, grabbing every random component to patch together your plumbing under the sink is not okay. EVER.
So What’s The Problem?
Remember the leaking bathtub repair gone wrong? I should have known then that my plumbing nightmares were just beginning when a previous homeowner had the tub spout soldered on. So what’s wrong with Frankenstein’s monster pictured at the top of the page? Well first off, there are way too many different components and way too many different types of connections. The braided faucet connector (*affiliate link) coming in from the top is perfect (because I installed it!) and is a cheap upgrade that you should be upgrading on ALL of your sinks and toilets at a minimum (pictured below).
(Need to shine a light on your plumbing nightmare like the Milwaukee M18 Radius LED Compact Site Light pictured above? Pick one up at Home Depot *affiliate link)
Should we head to the south? That tiny sliver of gray piping is a major problem. It’s a type of plastic called polybutylene that was once deemed “the pipe of the future” and was used on waterlines for about 20 years up until the mid 90’s. Unfortunately, it also corrodes over time with exposure to some of the oxidants in our water supply. At some point, someone took out the original line and saved that tiny little memento for nostalgia sake (or laziness). Worse yet, the piping is friction fitted… more on that in a moment… That white water line (from the east!) to the dishwasher is forgivable though because as I learned… dishwashers are not easy installs.
Disassembling The Monster
First things first… make sure you turn your water off. Test it out by turning on your sink and and making sure you don’t cause more problems by removing a connection and scalding yourself with hot water to the face. Plumbing nightmares and medical emergencies aren’t a great combo. Then it’s time to grab some wrenches and start loosening connections. What’s important here is that you don’t cause any additional damage to the existing lines by over torquing or pulling on something you shouldn’t. So in the already ridiculously cramped space, don’t Hulk-Out when things don’t budge. Grab some WD-40 and let it soak for a minute before you apply elbow grease.
After easily unhooking the braided line from the faucet up top and snipping the dishwasher waterline (I had a new braided one ready to be hooked up) it was time to tackle the gray piping. I mentioned before that it was friction fitted, which means about 4″ of it was shoved down the lead in pipe…corroding over the last few decades… After about 45 minutes of work pulling with pliers (having it crumble into pieces) and then working it up the tiniest bit with a straight slot screwdriver… I finally got the last piece out.
With the abomination dispatched, it’s time to queue The Six Million Dollar Man music where we say “we can rebuild him, we have the technology…” And by technology, what should have been used was a Brass Compression T-Fitting (*affiliate link). This isn’t a new product either, so there’s no excuse for not spending $6 on one. Before you attach any connections, make sure you wrap the threading with white sealant tape (costs under a dollar) and it keeps any air from leaking through (and saves you future heartache).
With the T-Fitting attached, I attached the braided lines from my faucet and dishwasher and then crossed my fingers. The moment of truth with any plumbing adventure is when you turn the water back on and wait for disaster to strike. With these updated fittings and properly tightened connections I’m happy to say that I’ve experiences zero leaks since the update.
This was a disaster just waiting to happen. I’m actually shocked it hadn’t already gone south given how quickly the pieces degraded during disassembly. So do yourself a favor… check under your sinks and make sure Frankenstein isn’t hiding in your plumbing. If he is… you now know how to easily fix him.