Help me fix my kitchen sink
March 9, 2015 11:34 AM   Subscribe

The pipe that's going to the drain of my kitchen sink has come unattached from the drain. Surely I can fix this myself?

I don't know how to explain it any better than "the pipe going to the drain has come unattached from the drain". I did my research, went to a DIY store, described my problem, they pointed me at this stuff which matched what my research had told me I would need, so I stuck the pipe back onto the drain with it.

That lasted for a while, but now it's come unstuck again. I can, of course, just do what I did the first time, but I'd rather actually fix it permanently so I don't have to go and re-fix it periodically.

What do I buy and what do I do with it? I'm in the UK, if it makes any difference. I'd really rather not call a plumber for something this simple. Surely it's something I can fix myself without having to pay a hefty call fee?
posted by sailoreagle to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Can you post a photo of the broken but? I'm in the UK and ours just screws together - at one point the seal went and we had a leak so we went to B&Q and bought a replacement section, no glue/sealant required. So I can't really visualise which part is broken and why you can't just buy a new bit.
posted by tinkletown at 11:45 AM on March 9, 2015

Most (US) drain fittings are compression-based, with slightly-more-than-by-hand tightness, so if things have slipped apart you will need to slide things back together then tighten the appropriate "nut(s)". Hand tightness is usually sufficient for PVC, but you'll probably need a wrench for metal. However I've never seen plumbler's putty ("this stuff") used in these connections.

The one exception is the stub that is connected to the sink bowl. This typically has one threaded piece that drops in from the top, with a ring of putty (between the top side of the sink and drain piece), and then has a nut that comes up from underneath. I've also seen it where the piece coming down from the top (inside the sink bowl) is short and threads inside a stub (under the sink) that continues on through the rest of the drain plumbing via compression fittings. If that's what is coming apart it could be the threads are no longer engaging and replacements are necessary.

The plumber's putty (malt) is not an adhesive, it only creates a water-proof seal. Don't expect it to keep things together.

A picture might help.
posted by achrise at 11:47 AM on March 9, 2015

What's the nature of the joint that's coming apart? Do you have two pipes that screw together, one that fits into another like a sleeve, or do you see any signs of old glue around the seam? Is it starting to leak around a seam or popping entirely apart? Looking at this image, do you see the connection that's coming apart, or is it at the top of the tail piece where it meets the sink itself?
posted by pocams at 11:52 AM on March 9, 2015

Yes, a picture would help -- you say kitchen sink, what kind ? A two-basin, or a single basin ? Is there a garbage disposal ? A dishwasher ? And where is the pipe coming apart - the U (or P) shaped pipe ("the trap"), or as achrise notes, the funny stem/flange that connects the "hole in the sink" to the "pipes" ? Are all the pipes metal, or are some PVC/"white plastic" ?
posted by k5.user at 11:53 AM on March 9, 2015

FWIW, though I have only a vague idea of what the actual issue is, it doesn't seem to me that the plumber's putty is likely to be the appropriate fix for it.
posted by cmoj at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your best bet is to unscrew the J shaped pipe (if that is what you have) and take it to the DIY store. Get a replacement for this pipe, including the gasket set. Clean off the outside of the pipes under the sink, where the fittings attach. Position the gaskets according to the instructions that come with the set, and tighten them down. Assuming that they are plastic, you should only need to tighten them with your hands, not a wrench.

Good luck, you can do this.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:10 PM on March 9, 2015

Pics here.

The pipe is coming apart literally where it connects to the hole in the sink, yep. Where all the goop is in picture #1.

Came apart in 3 bits, one being the top grate that covers the hole in the sink, one being the actual pipe, one being a gasket (I think it's called a gasket? round plastic thing).

It didn't look like it would screw together in any way (but I might be wrong given what achrise is describing?), and it looked to me like there were remnants of old glue or whatever was keeping it together.
posted by sailoreagle at 12:17 PM on March 9, 2015

The strainer basket on top would screw into the housing on the bottom of the sink, forming a compression fitting around the the sink drain. The plumbers putty would then act as a gasket on the top part (so the actual gasket is a backup). That old glue was probably old putty.

The drain pipe (tailpipe) is then held to the basket housing by a compression nut.

Any of those could have come loose, and in that case, you just need to tighten it back up. Sometimes, they corrode though, and you'll need to replace the entire thing. In any case, it would probably be easier to take the other drain apart so you can inspect it, and get replacements if necessary.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:31 PM on March 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Trying to avoid threadsitting but -- having poked around some more, looks like I need to replace the whole bit and given my sink also has a thing going off to the side connecting to the overflow drain, this would be what I need. Would I be right?
posted by sailoreagle at 1:06 PM on March 9, 2015

That link to the universal kit looks like it is similar to the one already in your sink. You just need to check that the diameter of the metal strainer is the same.

The way that type of adapter works is that the screw through the center clamps the upper and lower parts together with their rubber seals on top and bottom. It appears that the screw is missing from your current drain, which explains why it is leaking. You might just try replacing that screw, but since it threads into a plastic part, it is likely that the hole has stripped and will no longer hold the screw and that is why it is missing.

So replacing it with new fittings as you linked should fix the problem. The rubber seals do the job. No putty needed. Just be careful tightening the screw that you don't strip the threads again.
posted by JackFlash at 1:28 PM on March 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

That indeed was the issue and the fix - and it was startlingly easy considering how much I'd worried myself over it. Thank you all.
posted by sailoreagle at 12:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

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