photograph by Jamie Elkington
Jean McGhee is no stranger to breaking out a set of tools and dirtying her hands while tackling her own home repairs. This wife and mother of three comes from a family that has been in the welding and tool-related business for years, and she undertook one of her first DIY projects in the ’90s after graduating college in Atlanta, remodeling her bathroom herself with the help of a local hardware store employee.
“So when you walk into the store, you don’t just get somebody who can tell you that what you’re looking for is on aisle eight,” McGhee says. “You can actually bring in a piece of your faucet and say, ‘OK, what do I need to replace this?" – Jean McGhee
Several years and several successful projects later, McGhee decided to open her own hardware store to provide men with the tools they need for projects, and also to help outfit women with their own toolboxes and to empower them to do simple repairs on their own. Located at Summer and Whitten, We Sell Tools is a haven for do-it-yourselfers and professionals alike. As its name implies, the store offers tools and hardware for everything from mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and painting needs to specialty automotive tools and landscaping essentials. What’s more, it also sells beer and has sports constantly streaming on flat-screen TVs throughout the store. A one-stop-shop, if you will.
McGhee employs trade experts: retired plumbers, auto mechanics, and painters. “So when you walk into the store, you don’t just get somebody who can tell you that what you’re looking for is on aisle eight,” McGhee says. “You can actually bring in a piece of your faucet and say, ‘OK, what do I need to replace this?’ Our guys have done it hundreds of times, so they can walk you through it. Even if you’ve done a project before yourself, sometimes you run into a snag, and it’s nice to be able to ask an expert.”
McGhee’s primary goal is to help people do their projects by themselves. And according to her, many times those projects aren’t nearly as difficult as one might think. In the interest of helping us to save a few dollars and revel in the sense of accomplishment after completing a home repair project, she has shared a step-by-step tutorial on a quick and easy upgrade that she recently completed at her own house.
By simply changing out the the faucet and adding new hardware to the cabinets, you can transform a dated or dingy bathroom or kitchen and achieve a fresh, personalized look. It’s a small expense and a small project that makes a big impact.
Replacing a faucet:
First, turn off the water supply. Usually there’s a valve on the main line leading into your home. If you don’t do this, you’ll be sitting in water. Place a bucket below the connections to catch any water that’s still left in the pipes. Then turn the faucet on so all the water drains out of the line.
Unscrew the water supply at the turn-off using two wrenches: one to hold the connector and the other to turn the fitting. Once you’ve used your two wrenches and disconnected your water line, you can use this nifty little tool that saves you from having to completely become a pretzel underneath the sink; it’s called a basin wrench. It’s about 12 inches long and fits easily in place, so that you can unscrew the nuts that hold the faucet onto the sink from the underside. Without a basin wrench, many people have cussed and screamed at their sinks because it’s just hard to do. Thank goodness for the basin wrench.
Once the nuts have been removed with the basin wrench, the faucet, lines and all, should come right out. Before you install your new faucet, take some teflon tape and put it around the male threads of your connectors to ensure you don’t have any leaks.
You can now place your new faucet by fitting it on top, running the lines down, and connecting them. Then go back to your basin wrench and tighten the nuts on your new faucet. Be mindful if your sink is porcelain; you don’t want to over-tighten the nuts because you can crack the porcelain sink, and then you have a whole new project.
Many times the faucet will come with a rubber gasket that fits between the faucet base and the sink to prevent dirt or splashed water from seeping underneath. You can attach the gasket with a little bead of silicone, and it will then adhere to the faucet.
As long as you’ve tightened everything correctly, you shouldn’t have any leaks, and you can reconnect your water lines. Now you’re ready to show off your new, shiny faucet.
Replacing cabinet knobs:
Another small project that can add a little oomph to your kitchen or bathroom is to replace the knobs on your cabinet doors to match or coordinate with your new faucet.
Replacing knobs is simple. First, unscrew and remove your old knobs. If the holes don’t line up for your new knobs, you can drill a hole through the front of the cabinet to the back and mount the new knobs on the cabinet fronts. Never drill from the inside to the outside, as wood splinters will be exposed on the outer side of your cabinets. By putting masking tape on the inside of the cabinet door, you can catch those splinters as you drill.
And voila, with just two small projects that you can easily do on a Saturday, you’ve got a whole new look to your house.