Conquering a Kitchen Sink Leak and Other Beasts

Running Water from a sink–not an actual leak–just a picture to represent “water” from a faucet.  Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

A humid, sticky, crud-ridden land of dinginess lurks beneath my kitchen sink, so conditions are ripe for angry creatures to form in the space between the trashcan and the dish soap. For this reason, I’m not going under the sink alone to fix an urgent leak. I’m taking Nate and Alex with me. It seems that the glue that holds our valve has come undone in sneaky and terrible ways, which means the plumber we’ve schedule to install our newly-purchased dishwasher won’t put it in until the leak is fixed. That “glue,” which burst apart at the seams, was plumber’s putty. An actual licensed plumber, who was contracted to do his or her part when our house where we now live was first built, slapped some putty into the threading or grooves of the pipes and called it a day. Apparently, in the plumbing field, using only putty to seal a valve is a definite “no, no.” I now know this thanks to PlumbingInfo, a site written by professional plumbers for other plumbers and consumers in Iowa. (I’m assuming that plumbers and consumers outside of the state of Iowa can safely use this site as well, though certain laws might vary.) Also, Bob Sessa, a licensed plumber in New York for over 30 years and author of, has some useful information as well. Apparently, plumber’s tape or Teflon is the thing to use in this situation. Not putty. Sessa sums up the differences between the two by stating that Teflon is “а good option fоr pipes thаt receive heavy pressure. Bесаuѕе plumber’s putty remains pliable, іt іѕ nоt а good choice fоr pipes thаt receive heavy pressure.” So, here’s what I’ve learned: With anything involving the word “pressure,” “putty” might not work. Even the name “putty” sounds weak in this instance. “Teflon,” on the other hand sounds stronger and is, according to science. (You can read all about the science of Teflon and perhaps enjoy an experiment with Teflon here, on this link here.)

Normally, I’d be pretty upset if I walked through the door of the house and my husband said, “Well, the good news is: the dishwasher has arrived and we’ve scheduled the plumber for Monday. The bad news is: there’s a leak and we have to fix it before the plumber will install the dishwasher.”

Instead, my reaction was: “Ooh! A leak? And it’s easy to fix? Great! I had no idea what I’d write about for my blog. This topic will be perfect. Can I help fix it?”

Of course I could! So, when the time came to fix the leak, I reminded Nate.

Me: Okay, so you know I want to help fix the leak today.

Nate: Yep.

Me: So, I have to go upstairs and finish some work. Let me know when you’re ready to start.

Nate: Okay.

(Five minutes later, while I’m working upstairs, I hear):

Nate: Alex, hold the flashlight steady. I need to get in there.

Alex: Okay, Dad.

Nate: Now, you see that valve? We have to take it off. We have to turn to the left.

Me: Wait! Are you fixing things without me?

Nate: Yeah.

Me: Ugghh!! Wait for me!

Nate (whispering): Alex, put it back—quick, before Mom gets down here.

I arrive in the nick of time to learn the “birds and bees” of pipes and valves. There are male and female parts. The male end sticks out and into the female end, which is basically a large gaping hole. Really. I’m not kidding. That’s what these parts have been called since perhaps the dawn of mechanical engineering times. New, more politically correct terms do exist though, including “outside” and “inside,” according to this link here by Julius Ballanco, P. E.

In any case, a leak has sprung in the land of crud under the sink and it’s my job to crawl around in the muck and risk grave danger. Okay, so I really only spend about five minutes under there cleaning the putty off the grooves of the “female” pipe before sending Alex and Nate back under. I’ve decided that there are even more important jobs that must be done: 1) take notes and 2) snap pictures for posterity. I also provide light from a flashlight because I can multi task.

Once the plastic white pipe that protrudes from the wall is clean of the last plumber’s putty, I can wrap some Teflon tape around the grooves of the new valve that Nate and Alex bought earlier at the hardware store. Nate suggests we put putty around the tape so that it seals tighter and slides in to the connector pipe that protrudes from the wall.

Then, all that’s left to be done is:

–Wrap Teflon tape around the grooves of the plastic pipe protruding from the wall. It’s not easy. Alex tries. I try. Nate finally moves in and does it himself.

–Attach the wire hose onto the valve. Alex does not even try. I don’t either. Instead, we simultaneously hold flashlights, take notes, and snap pictures while Nate uses several wrenches to screw the hose back into place. It takes a long, long time. It looks painful too. Yet Nate, without even the aid of daily yoga practice, contorts himself into unnatural positions and gets that valve connected in perhaps ten minutes or less.

–We turn the water back on and . . . no leaks! Looks like there’s no excuse for the plumber to not install our dishwasher, unless the angry creatures I suspect are under the sink, would prevent it. To ensure that there are no problems, I unleash a fury of cleaning agents onto the surface below the trashcans and garbage disposal.

“Die!, Die! Die!” I say to the nasty slime beasts I imagine are melting beneath my wrath. Brown stains on extra absorbent paper towels are my proof, which I present to Nate and Alex.

“It’s okay, guys,” I tell them. “I think I won. We’re all safe now.”

Your Turn:  What’s the last home repair project that you’ve completed with or without the help of a professional or other family members? Discuss!




27 thoughts on “Conquering a Kitchen Sink Leak and Other Beasts

  1. I have learned that it is much easier to cause a leak than to stop one. My successes with fixing plumbing problems were eventual. After multiple trips back and forth to and from the hardware store plus advice from everyone I ever knew, the man at the hardware store and the internet, the problem was eventually fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was a breathtaking story indeed!
    No, I do not have an experience similar to you yet. But I can imagine what it would be if same thing happened in my kitchen.
    Here is my story for you:

    It was a leak at the worst possible place under the kitchen sink, where none of the human beings residing in my house ( Me and my wife, to be exact ) could reach physically or even psychologically.
    I tried to gather ample amount of self confidence and declared that it was nothing compared to my plumbing skills. I took it as an opportunity for me to impress my wife at least for once.
    I examined the approximate location of leakage. It was more remote than the mountain leopards of Mongolia. I sighed. My wife observed me with suspicious eyes….. it could be an excuse to avoid the responsibility, she thought.
    I acted perfectly normal as if to let her know that it was easier than buying vegetable in the market..
    I inserted my hand to feel the source of leakage and smiled reassuringly. My wife didn’t look like she was convinced though. I took out my hand and decided to explain the theory behind my idea of repair first. I wanted to draw a diagram also to clarify male and female pipe ends graphically. But my wife seemed totally indifferent to my drawing analogy to human anatomy at this point of time.
    The only comment she made was regarding the wrapping of the Teflon tape. She thought it was highly biased approach to wrap the thing over male part only. She declared that I was behaving like a male chauvinist . I tried to explain that the female part does not require this wrapping and it was not feasible too. But she was unconvinced as usual.
    I inserted my hand again . I could feel something around the wet area of leakage. I tried to tweak it, turn it and lift it. Suddenly the leakage increased manifold. Water gushed out from behind the pipe.
    Now the kitchen floor was almost covered with water.
    My wife glared. I held my breath anticipating impending calamity. My plumbing sense told me to adopt a more layman approach to hold the pipe tightly to arrest the outflow. This was, eventually , successful, albeit partially.
    The look on my wife’s face told me that she was now finally convinced that the problem was beyond my plumbing capability. She assumed a serene face like Tibetan monk, went for her mobile phone and dialed a number.
    Probably the plumber was on his way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t really know much about it until now. I was surprised to find out it wasn’t “sticky.” However, it’s kind of hard to wrap around tight spots, but it did the trick. We got our dishwasher-yay!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Added another layer of insulation to the loft – possibly the worst job ever? Balancing on rafters already half-covered with horrible itchy glass-wool, crouching under low eaves trying to unravel rolls that are bigger than the space they’re unrolling in.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I dropped a toothpaste lid down the drain and couldn’t get it out. So I opened the syphon below, and using a wooden spoon, stabbed it though the opening. The result was that the syphon now had a leak. I decided to exchange the whole pipery (is that a word) all at once to make sure I wouldn’t run into any problems. I had seeping leaks for two weeks while I tried various washers, replacement parts and the like. Utterly frustrated (I have a job that involves manual labor, and I’m good at it), I gave up and stuck a pail under the sink.
    After about two weeks, the leak sealed itself. I guess all the impurities (toothpaste, soap, et al) sealed whatever microcrevasses there were.
    But I hate not knowing what and why exactly!

    Liked by 1 person

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