Kitchen plumbing fills many homeowners' hearts with dread. Imagining kitchens flooded with two feet of water, they surrender before the battle starts. Hiring a plumber has got to be the only way to go, right?
Not necessarily. Many people who once believed that calling in a plumber was the only way to move a kitchen sink, install a faucet, or connect to copper pipe have discovered that it doesn't always have to be hard. With the introduction of materials like plastic PEX pipes and snap-in SharkBite-style fittings, cost-saving do-it-yourself plumbing is within your grasp.
The following numbers indicate the difficulty of the project, from easiest (1) to hardest (4).
1 = Quickly accomplished (under one hour) with simple tools.
2 = About a two-hour job, requiring simple tools and a couple of specialty plumbing tools.
3 = Plan on half a day for this job. You will need to buy plumbing tools for this type of job.
4 = Projects that encompass at least one or two days. Build in time, too, in order to learn some of the procedures.
Move Your Kitchen Sink
- Level of difficulty (1-4): 2-4
- Why this is easy: As long as you remain within the radius of the supply and drain lines, this is a simple job. Outside of that radius, it becomes more difficult.
- Doing it: Under your kitchen sink are two lines coming in (hot and cold, both called supply lines) and one line going out (the drain). There may be other connections, such as garbage disposal cord or double sink drain lines. Those lines tend to have some free play, a certain amount of slack that allows you to shift the sink around a bit--but only a bit. On the supply side, you can increase slack by purchasing longer water supply lines; this may give you another six inches or even a foot. Drain lines are not flexible, but they can be extended with an additional pipe. To extend the radius more than a foot or two usually means re-plumbing the actual supply pipes rather than merely attaching new flexible lines, as described earlier.
Install or Replace a Kitchen Faucet
- Level of difficulty (1-4): 1
- Why this is easy: The hardest part is crawling under the sink base cabinet.
- Doing it: When you buy a kitchen faucet, all needed parts are supplied. Make sure that you read the instructions because all faucets have their individual quirks. Keep track of the order that the gaskets and washers stack onto the bottom of the faucet, below the sink.
Replace a Garbage Disposal
- Level of difficulty (1-4): 2
- Why this is easy: Garbage disposals were meant to be DIY jobs. While you can hire a plumber to do this job, you will be surprised at just how easy it is to do yourself. In fact, the hardest part is raising the disposal.
- Doing it: One simple trick for raising the disposal is to fold up a dish towel and place it on a scissors car jack. Place the disposal on the towel and jack the disposal into position.
Install a Dishwasher
- Level of difficulty (1-4): 2
- Why this is easy: Less of a plumbing project than an exercise in fitting hoses and a wire into a narrow space, one-for-one dishwasher installation is absolutely a do-it-yourself project.
- Doing it: Dishwasher installation has three hook-ups: a 20-amp electrical receptacle, a hot water supply, and drainage. For that reason, it is best to install the dishwasher next to the kitchen sink. Improper dishwasher installation can result in flooding―a problem if you happen to be out of the house at the time.
Connect to Existing Copper Pipe
- Level of difficulty (1-4): 3
- Why this is easy: Special snap-fit connectors called SharkBites allow you to connect copper pipe to PEX (or more copper) literally in a snap, no soldering necessary.
- Doing it: Buy SharkBite brand or any brand of push-fit brass plumbing pipe connectors. After you remove burrs from the cut copper pipe with a special de-burring tool, SharkBite connectors push straight on. Copper and PEX are attached with ease. If you want to continue with the copper, these pieces will connect copper to copper, as well.
Run Pipe Through Your Wall
- Level of difficulty (1-4): 4
- Why this is easy: Not as hard as it sounds, this project uses PEX pipes that cut, connect, and bend easily.
- Doing it: If you already have a wall open, remove your corroded copper pipe as far back as possible without taking down additional walls. Cut the copper with a cheap rotational type of copper pipe cutter or with a multi-tool. Use the same holes in the studs to run cheap, easy-to-connect PEX pipe.
Are Permits Needed?
Most likely. Installation of new kitchen plumbing will almost surely mean that you need a permit from your local authorities--even if you are doing it yourself. Two exceptions: replacement of the kitchen faucet and dishwasher installation. Check with your municipality to see if you need permits for those and other DIY plumbing projects.