Our New Old House

1918 Bungalow


My super-fun amazing plumbing adventure!

I gave my post a very upbeat title today because I have a hard time getting excited about plumbing. I want plumbing to work. I’m thrilled with myself when I can get plumbing to work. I absolutely abhor the process of getting plumbing to work. So I’ll do my best to be cheerful as I write today’s entry. However, if I slip into a bit of snarky sarcasm, you’ve been warned: I hate plumbing!

Brandon and I bought a lovely dishwasher a couple of months ago and only this weekend had the time to start installing it. Neither of us has ever attempted anything this advanced, so we both knew it would be a challenge.

Our dishwasher is of the permanent installation variety, meaning we would have to put a splitter onto our hot water line that goes to the kitchen faucet, and hardwire the electrical cord. We’ve both done a bit of plumbing in the past (installing a water softener being Brandon’s experience, and whatever I retained from my high school shop class for mine) so we figured we could probably make this thing work.

However, (there’s always a “however” with these things, isn’t there?) whoever did the plumbing on our house previously did a job under the sink that would make installing our dishwasher really hard. The shutoff valves to the hot and cold lines were way up high near the faucet connection, leaving no room above them to put the split. I figured we’d want the split above the shutoff valve, so we’d have the option of cutting off the water supply to both the faucet and the dishwasher at the same time. Seems logical, right? Well, with the setup we already had down there, that was looking to be impossible unless we completely took out the shutoff valves and moved them down lower on the pipe. Here’s a picture of what we started with under the sink:


Functional for the moment, yes, but not conducive to adding a dishwasher. We decided we needed some seriously professional assistance, so I called American Plumbing Supply. If you’re in the Des Moines area and rehabbing a house, you MUST make friends with Mr. Harland Lekowsky at American Plumbing Supply on Grand Ave. in the East Village. It’s not hard to make friends with Mr. Lekowsky since he’s one of the nicest gentlemen you’ll ever meet. Mr. Lekowsky KNOWS plumbing and he’s personable enough to help newbies like us learn the basics. I called him up at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon.

“American Plumbing.”
“Hello, what time do you close today?”
“3 o’clock.”
“Oh, well are you open tomorrow?”
“Well what do you need?”
“Uh, I’m installing a dishwasher and I need to add a split to my hot water line and maybe a new shutoff valve.”
“How far are you?”
“Not far, southeast of Union Park.”
“How soon can you get here?”
“Probably 10 minutes.”
“I’ll wait for you. Come on in.”

He’ll wait for me? Oh boy! I hustled Brandon into the car and sure enough we made it in about 10 minutes. When we got there, I explained our situation to Mr. Lekowsky, showed him the picture I’d taken of our pipes, and Brandon gave him the measurements he’d taken. Now, Mr. Lekowsky knows his business, so when one of the measurements Brandon gave him didn’t seem quite right, he asked if we were sure we’d measured correctly. Brandon thought he had, but Mr. Lekowsky wanted to be sure. He handed Brandon a two-inch piece of copper pipe and said, “You run home, measure this next to the pipe you have and come back and tell me if it isn’t the same.” Brandon did as he was told and while he was gone I worked out the details of the new shutoff valves.

We decided on the way over that if we’re going to do the hot water line anyway, we might as well do the cold water line at the same time since that valve was slightly corroded anyway. And since we were replacing the hot and cold water lines to the faucet, which we wanted to replace anyway, we decided to go ahead and replace the faucet too. My project was snowballing.

Mr. Lekowsky set me up with two flexible faucet lines, three shutoff valves (one on its own line for the dishwasher), a longer flexible line to attach to the dishwasher, and two compression couplings so I wouldn’t have to do any soldering or sweating to attach the copper pipes. And while we were waiting for Brandon to get back, he also cut and threaded a new piece of pipe to extend my shower to be tall enough for Brandon. (More about that later.)

Brandon came back and reported that Mr. Lekowsky was correct, that we had standard 1/2 inch copper pipes.

Here’s a picture of Mr. Lekowsky, by the way, with all the goodies he assembled for me on the counter in front of him:


Armed with $135 worth of plumbing parts and a lot of encouragement from Mr. Lekowsky, we went straight home and forgot all about it until the next morning.

Armed with a “gigantor” wrench (as he calls it), Brandon set to work taking apart our old faucet and I started preparing the new one.


Old faucet:


We took a break halfway through the day to go see a movie. Well, in the process of getting ready to leave, Brandon somehow bashed his ankle on the edge of our clawfoot bathtub (He did it while putting his pants on. Bonus points if you can explain to me how that happened. He couldn’t. ) So for the rest of the day he was out of commission with an ice pack on his ankle.

I felt pretty confident for some reason, so I continued without him. First I turned off the water to the whole house from this valve:


Next I turned on two faucets in the basement to back-drain the water already in the pipes. I opened the valves under the kitchen sink to let the air flow back through them.

I put the new faucet into its place and loosely hooked up the flexible lines and to those I hooked up the new valves and couplings in a dry run to make sure I had enough room to cut and keep the valves functional once they were installed.



Once I was sure I’d have enough room, I started cutting the pipes.

Here’s my handy-dandy pipe cutter:



A nice clean cut:


I wrapped Teflon tape around all the threads before I screwed them in.


Here’s how a compression coupling looks before you screw it on tight (also before Teflon tape):


Brandon returned long enough to snap a photo of me at an angle nobody should ever have to see me at:


Fast forward to an hour or so later and skip over a bunch of me talking to myself, getting Teflon tape stuck in places it shouldn’t go, and trying to sprout extra arms to hold things in place while I tightened everything, and we come to the finished product:


Brandon hobbled back one more time to watch the pipes as I turned the main water line back on. We huddled around the cabinet under the sink and watched as one little bead of water squeezed out from between one thread. Brandon tightened it a couple of times with the gigantor wrench but the bead of water still appeared, so we’ll have to correct that tomorrow. In the mean time, in all that work under the sink, I only got one leak!

We then tested our new faucet and spray nozzle:



They worked!

We didn’t accomplish our original goal of installing the dishwasher this weekend, but now we at least have a stylish looking faucet and a super functional spray nozzle to wash our dirty dishes by hand this week. And we also have a jump on the hard part of installing the dishwasher when the time comes.

Stay tuned for more details of my plumbing adventures: part 2, the shower! (Naked picture of Brandon in the shower is on its way, I promise!)

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3 Responses to “My super-fun amazing plumbing adventure!”

  1. November 13th, 2007 at 3:47 am

    jm says:

    Oh. My. God. I am SO freaking impressed. I’m scared to death of plumbing.

  2. November 13th, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    ournewoldhouse1 says:

    Wow! Thanks, jm! That’s really kind of you! Yeah, I still hate plumbing, but I’m feeling less scared of it now that I have my gigantor wrench! 😉

  3. November 17th, 2007 at 4:18 am

    Daya says:

    Wow, what a great trip to the hardware store, and your project! Not only are you a good plumber but your writing is fantastic! Congrats 🙂

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