Sunday, September 27, 2009

Minor Plumbing!

After having had all that luck with minor electrical home repair (i.e. removing the damn broken light bulb), I was ready to move into the land of minor plumbing repair.

I needed to replace the mounting gasket on my garbage disposal.

Well, they call it a "mounting gasket." I call it "that little skirt around the opening that keeps bits of food from flying in your face when you run the thing." The previous owners of this place ... well, I don't know exactly what they did to their gasket, but "clean it" wasn't on the list. It was largely shredded, and the bits still in existence were kinda gunky. And that's after I cleaned it. I got pretty sick of holding up a towel for protection every time I ran the disposal, so bought me a new gasket.

There was a single review on Amazon which made it sound pretty easy to replace -- "
fairly easy to replace. But you do have to take the disposal off completely to do this. Mine was pretty simple. Unplug, twist and pull down. Then I removed the old beaten up gasket and replaced it with this."

And when the gasket came, there were three-step instructions on the back. Sure enough: (1) Turn off power and unlock quick-release; (2) pull disposal down and replace gasket; (3) put disposal back up and lock quick-release. I can do this.

Except it actually had an extra step in there before (1). It was "After disconnecting disposal from plumbing..." Eep.

I investigated how to do this on the internet. If you google the problem, you'll get this video which shows you exactly how to do it. And in the video, the guy actually accidentally breaks off the entire PVC plumbing unit with his wrench. Yeah, that's gonna fill me with confidence.

So. Today's the day. Turned off breaker (then discovered the unit was plugged in, so unplugged it, too -- I am so not getting electrocuted, or ground up). Found the place where the PVC attached to the disposal unit. It was attached with a single screw. Directly facing the back of the cabinet. Crawled in there with a short screwdriver, a mirror, and a mini-Maglite in my teeth. Unscrewed screw. Pipe came out. Hooray! I have now disconnected it from the plumbing.

Now, to unscrew the amusingly-named Quick-Release. This dude's website was quite helpful in explaining what I had to twist and where. It's almost like removing a light fixture from your ceiling to change the bulb. See, the mounting part of the disposal (attached to your sink) has three little ramps around it. And, sitting round the neck of the disposal itself is a ring with three little tabs on it. If you're installing it, you want to line it up so that each tab is at the bottom of a ramp, and then turn it so the tabs run up the ramps, thereby holding your disposal onto your sink. (There's hooks next to each tab for grabbing and turning it.) I, of course, had to reverse the process.

And it might twist real easily if you're dealing with a new unit, but mine was old and rust-covered. The helpful website suggests, "If a disposer needs to be removed, simply tapping on the [hook] with a hammer will quite easily loosen the lower mounting ring." Right church, wrong pew. It was more a case of pounding it with the hammer until it swung all the way off and disconnected (little bits of rust flying off with each pound).

Finally, it disconnects!

Nobody warned me about the smell. People, it's gonna smell. Awful. Vile. I don't even want to know what's living in there, but I now know what to do with all those lemons from my tree. Seriously, man, a lemon a week.

So I'm up to "remove old gasket."

OK, I may be all tough tool-using handy-person here, but I actually put my hands in sandwich bags so I wouldn't have to touch this thing, then ran it over the trash saying, "ew ew ew ew ew" (like I do when I've smashed a large bug and am taking it to the bathroom for a burial at sea).

Put on shiny new gasket. Held disposal up and tried to line up the (alleged) quick release mounting thing. Website says, "
This is kinda tricky because it's difficult to get all 3 tabs to catch on the ramps while simultaneously holding the disposer up with one hand. Having a helper makes this easier."

Yeah, somehow the gasket instructions (and the Amazon review) left this out. I hold the disposer up, bang the hook with the hammer and ... one tab caught. Great. I drop it back down, stop, breathe, briefly consider calling a friend for help, but soldier on.

Line it up, bang the hook and ... they all seem to be caught. Check with the mirror and ... yes! They're all there! Hooray!

Pound the damn thing until it's good and tight. Yay! Just reattach to the plumbing, flip the breaker and ...

Reattach to the plumbing. The disposal plumbing opening is a good half-inch away from where it ought to be. I need to rotate the disposal. Didn't the website say something about this? Ah yes, "Before tightening, the disposer may need to be
rotated so the drain opening points toward the drain pipe." Hammer it halfway loose (not all the way -- don't want to unhook the damn thing again), rotate the disposal. Line up pipe. Attach screw.

This, too, has to be done twice, as I figure out exactly where that the little metal connector plate is supposed to be after I tighten it the first time. Hammer the "Quick Release" thing back into place. Plug it in, flip the switch. Disposal works! No water dripping under the sink!

Yes! I am the goddess of minor home repair!!

(Putting back my tools, I hammered in a loose pin on a door hinge. Because I can.)


Elly said...

Awesome! Can I hire you?

Peg said...

You have not written in almost a week. Correct that, please.

Wil said...

Isn't home ownership wonderful? Now you have a glimmer why the electricians and plumbers of the world make the bucks they do.