How to Install a Kitchen Sink

Has your kitchen lost its luster, but a total remodel out of the question?

A great way to bring some life back into your kitchen is by replacing that tacky old builder grade sink and broken faucet with something more elegant.

It won’t break the bank if you do the work yourself. This is a project that is within the grasp of just about any homeowner and can be checked off the to-do list in just a few hours.

Choosing a sink and faucet combo can be the most challenging part of the whole process given the wide array of designs available.

The easiest sink to install is a single bowl self rimming sink. It has a rim that sits on the edge of the hole cut into the counter top. While many people like a double bowl sink, a single bowl sink is easier to install because it will have only one drain to hook up.

In fact, the days of the two basin sink may have expired. Back in the day one side was for washing dishes and the other side was for rinsing. Now that just about everyone has a dishwasher and it is much nicer, I feel, to have a single large basin to work in. They are roomy enough to fit those large pots and bowls from your big pasta feasts.

Sinks come in a wide variety of styles, colors and materials. Stainless sinks are very popular and come in different thicknesses called gauges. If you go with a stainless sink, get a thick gauge metal, it will be a bit more solid and durable. Traditional porcelain cast-iron sinks are much heavier and even thicker, and are a beautiful option. Sinks made from solid-surface material come in all colors of the rainbow, but remember that your taste may change over time and that avocado green sink may go out of style quickly.

Aside from style, sinks come in different sizes and depths. Measure the length and width of your old sink as well as the depth.

If you are not changing your countertop, or if you’re a first timer, it is important to get a sink that has the same dimensions as the one you already have. It will be easier to install and you will not have to cut the counter top to make it fit. Nor will you have to hire a pro to adjust the height of your drain pipes.

Sinks also come with pre drilled holes for the faucet, sprayer, soap dispenser, or any number of other accessories. Your faucet and accessory selections should guide your sink purchase. If you plan on buying a modern all in one faucet with a faucet that doubles as a pull out sprayer, you may not need as many holes as a faucet with separate sprayer.

Choosing a faucet is like buying jewelry for your home. There are endless choices in style, finish and even function. Choose one that works best for you and your kitchen. You will also need to buy; water supply hoses, a strainer kit and an all-in-one drain kit. Some plumbers will scream that it is better to cut and fit your own drain pieces instead of buying a kit. For a first timer, the kits are a great way to go.

Most sinks and faucets come with a semi-decent installation manual to walk you through the steps using their specific product. As always, I recommend grabbing a “how-to” book on plumbing basics with step-by-step instructions on putting in a new sink and faucet, the small investment is worth its weight in gold.

Here, I offer you a sneak peak into what you can expect when installing a new kitchen sink.

Before the sink is set the faucet should be attached. It’s a lot easier to do now rather than trying to squeeze into the cabinet and reach behind the sink. Basically you slide the faucet through a gasket that seals it to the sink then through the hole or holes in the sink and then mounted to the underside of the sink with mounting nuts and washers. The manufacturer’s instructions will guide you through the placement of all the nuts and washers.

The water supply hoses are also attached to the faucet before the sink is set, again it is easier to do now rather than squeezing into the cabinet later. It is also a good time to attach the sprayer hose, soap dispenser, or the parts of other accessories.

The strainer is also attached to the sink before it is set into the counter. It is sold separately from the sink and comes with everything you need except for the plumbers putty. This stuff is similar to silly putty, but is made specifically for plumbing. A thick piece is rolled out and the ends are brought together to form a circle and its placed under the strainer’s lip and pushed into the sink’s drain hole. This creates a seal between the strainer and the sink. You will see a lot ooze out around the strainer as you push it in and tighten, that’s ok, just remove the excess. Once again, follow the instructions for the correct order of washers and nuts. You will see that as you tighten the strainer’s locknut you’ll need to hold the strainer in place to keep it from spinning.

There is a long straight tube called a tailpiece in the kit that is attached to the strainer and is part of the drain system. If you have a dishwasher, your tail piece should have a little tube on it, called a waste nib, for connecting the dishwasher’s drain hose.

With everything attached it is time to set the sink. A bead of silicone caulk is placed on the underside of the sink’s lip to create a seal between the sink and the counter top. Once the caulk is on the sink, handling can be messy. Regardless of how many pounds you can bench press at the gym, get someone to help you set the sink into the counter. It will be awkward and the second set of hands will make it a lot easier.

Once the sink is set make sure the front of the sink is even with the front of the counter.

Reach under the sink and attach the water supply hoses to the shut off valves.

The toughest part of installing a new sink is connecting the drain. The funny shaped tube is called a trap or p-trap. This trap holds water in it so no sewer gases come up through the drain. The kit you bought has all the pieces and comes with a diagram and instructions on how to put it all together. You may find that you have to cut the tail piece in order for it to fit into the trap at the correct height. The trap swivels side to side and slightly up and down making it a lot easier to hook up. Don’t over tighten the plastic slip nuts because they can crack and create a leak.

After the drain is assembled attach the dishwasher drain hose to the tail piece waste nib.

Remove the faucet’s aerator and run the water to flush the lines and check for leaks. If you have to tighten anything don’t go crazy, turn the nuts 1/8 of a turn until the leak stops. Don’t over tighten.

Once clear of leaks, replace the aerator, and fill the sink with water. The weight of the water will help hold the sink down while the caulk dries. Wipe away any excess caulk that may get squeezed out.

Some sinks are held down with special mounting clips that slide into a lip on the underside of the sink and get tightened against the counter. These can be tricky to tighten because you have to reach up under and around the sink.

If you take your time and follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions carefully you can avoid problems and will not have to call in a pro to fix any mistakes.

To improve the look of your kitchen you don’t have to replace everything but the kitchen sink - just it.