Pedestal Sink Installation & Cost Guide
Our Pedestal Sink Installation & Cost Guide includes all the relevant information in regards to buying and installing a pedestal sink, both DIY or by hiring a contractor.
Let’s just imagine that you are in your bathroom. Like every morning, you are a bit bleary eyed owing to the lack of sleep lately. You reach to the shelf above the sink and clumsily knock a bottle from the ledge. It falls, as if in slow motion, until it lands on the porcelain bowl beneath. Nothing happens, you breathe a sigh of relief, and then you notice that a slight chip has been knocked out of the smooth white ceramic surface. During the following week you notice that each time you pour hot water into the bowl, a crack appears and starts to lengthen. It is barely visible, showing white against white.
A few weeks later you notice that the crack has grown to encompass the whole of the basin from one side to the other, and it is distinctly darker than the surrounding surface.
You have a cracked sink! And before too long you will have to replace it or else one day it will just break and you will have water all over the bathroom floor.
OK. We now realise we have a problem. This website is not only read by people in North America but also by English speaking races throughout the world. So we have the problem of naming parts. Before we go any further, let us get this problem sorted out.
In the USA a sink is anything fitted in the house for the purpose of holding water. This includes a sink in the kitchen, laundry room, utility room or bathroom. Get the idea?
In the UK and Australia, the sink is usually reserved for washing things, and is situated in the kitchen, laundry room and utility room, whereas the bathroom sink is usually called a wash basin and is reserved for washing the hands, face and other parts of the body.
Obviously this is a generalisation and in practice any sink anywhere can be used for washing anything!
In this article when I mention the pedestal sink, I am talking about the bathroom washing basin supported by its own pedestal. You know the type I mean, it’s what your grandmother had in her bathroom when you were a child. They were usually made from glazed ceramic earthenware, vitreous china or heavy duty porcelain.
- In our discussion of the pedestal sink we will also come up against the words ‘tap’ and ‘faucet’.
- In UK the word ‘tap’ is the valve through which water flows into the sink or basin.
- In USA the ‘faucet ‘ does the same job.
- In Australia they use both words interchangeably and often do, even in the same sentence.
So now that everyone knows what we are all talking about let’s get on with it, shall we?
The pedestal sink
The pedestal sink is made up of two parts;
- The bowl
- The pedestal
The pedestal sink is the name given to the hand wash basin that stands on its own support and is separate from any cupboard housing or worktop. They were very popular in the early 1900s and didn’t really change, except in detail, until the 1970s. Recently however they are gaining popularity again as a retro bathroom fixture which is one of the ‘must haves’.
At a casual glance you could be forgiven to think that the bowl is completely supported by the pedestal stand. You would be wrong. The bowl is actually fitted to the wall by heavy duty screws through purpose made holes at the underside of the bowl. The wall therefore supports most of the weight with the pedestal acting as a back-up and as a disguise for the water pipes and drain pipe going to and from the basin behind the pedestal.
Other types of bathroom sink
Before you go ahead and replace your pedestal sink with one looking exactly the same, why not be daring and consider one of the other styles available.
In the last ten years or so, vessel sinks have become the most popular in North American bathrooms. They are essentially a basin sitting on top of the counter or stand. They need special faucets that come out of the cupboard top and extend to the full height of the basin and reach over the rim. Vessel sinks are typically made from metal, ceramic or glass.
Glass. ($150 to $300). Glass works well as a vessel sink because of the modern style and the versatility of the material in different styles of bathrooms. Most of the glass sinks are rounded although rectangular and square ones are almost as popular. Designs can be made using clear glass as well as tinted or in different colours.
Metal. ($100 to $400). Metal sinks are very popular because of the more traditional and artisan feel to the available designs. They are usually made from copper although pewter is also available. The sinks have a protective coating which prevents any chemical reaction between the metal and water.
Ceramic. ($80 to $120). Ceramic will always remain the most popular material for bathroom fixtures. Ceramic has a few advantages over glass and metal, namely:
- Good day to day usage
- Available in a wide range of designs and colours
- Relatively cheap
It is important that consumers consider all the pros and cons of vessel sinks over other types before deciding to buy one. Vessel sinks come in many different designs and can fit in with many different style of bathroom. Because the counter or vanity unit is not cut to fit the basin, many people like the fact that they can change the basin at any time for a different size or design. Unfortunately many people find that vessel sinks are not as long lasting as more traditional sinks. They are not protected by the countertop or by being held within the vanity unit. Exposed edges and rims can be easily chipped or cracked. The lack of support also means that the basins are not as stable as other sinks and can easily be knocked over or moved out of position if treated roughly.
These are one of the most popular sink designs chosen for homes. They are available in a wide range of colours and designs and can match with any classic or modern bathroom design. The difference between these and the more common ‘drop in’ sinks are that these do not have a rim from which the basin hangs, rather they hang from the underside of the counter or washstand. The faucets will protrude through the counter top rather than be fitted to the basin mouldings. The typical price range of undermount sinks are between $80 and $120 for DIY models, through $100 to $150 for contractor grade and up to $580 to $800 for designer grade, excluding faucets which have to be bought separately.
As well as different styles, there are also other materials which provide a different ambience to the bathroom. As well as the common ceramic or vitreous china and glass mentioned earlier there are also:
Stainless steel. Although more common in kitchen and utility rooms, these are also available for bathroom use. They are very durable and provide a less expensive and easier to clean option compared with other sink materials.
Cast iron. Once again this material is more popular in kitchens and utility rooms but is still available for bathrooms. Be aware that cast iron is easily cracked and broken.
Acrylic. This is probably the most affordable type of sink, but is not as durable and can distort under pressure. Baths made from acrylic suffer from distortion when filled with water.
Fireclay. This is probably the most expensive material but is very definitely made to last.
Why would you want to replace your bathroom sink?
As we considered earlier in this article, the most common material the basin and pedestal are made from is vitreous china. This material:
- Does not survive point impacts very well
- As it ages the surface becomes covered in random surface cracks
- Is very brittle
- Does not cope very well with extremely hot water
If you live in an area which has iron bearing rocks or you have old cast iron water pipes, you may have a problem with iron water. This is seen as a reddish brown stain discolouring your bathroom basin, toilet and bath. Iron water can be remedied by using a water softener or by using a special filter which oxidises the iron solution and converts it into solid particles which can be disposed of down the drain. Unfortunately if you have old bathroom fittings that have become cracked through age or impact, the iron compounds settle in the cracks under the protective surface and stain the underlying white china. Although there is no health hazard from the stain, it doesn’t look very pleasant and will require a lot of work to remove them. Most times the staining is there to stay.
Perhaps it is time you changed your pedestal sink for a new one.
Factors involved in replacing your pedestal sink
First of all you must consider the style of the bathroom. If the basin and pedestal are many years old, then you may not be able to buy a replacement that matches the other fixtures in your bathroom. In that case, and presumably all the bathroom fixtures were originally installed at the same time, consider replacing them all and having your bathroom remodelled.
Let’s assume that the basin and pedestal are of a style that is easily replaced and the new model matches the other fixtures almost exactly. That makes the job relatively easy to do.
The next consideration is whether you want to do the job yourself or hire a plumbing contractor to do the job for you.
If you want to do the job as a DIY project then you will need to have special tools and materials designed to work with the fittings found on the sink. You will also need instructions on how to remove the sink. If you do DIY regularly then the chances are that you already have these.
How do you remove the pedestal sink?
The first step is to remove the faucets or taps.
A bathroom sink will have supplies of hot and cold water to the faucet (there may be one faucet which mixes the water to the required temperature before delivery, or there may be two faucets each delivering their own supply). Whatever type of faucet you have, there will be two water pipes underneath the basin one of which supplies hot water while the other supplies cold water. The hot and cold water will typically be delivered through copper pipe (if it is a modern system then the supply pipes may be plastic). You will also see a plastic waste pipe which carries the waste water from the basin to the mains drainage. If your system is an old one then the water pipes will fit directly onto the underside of the faucets. If the system is modern or you have had a plumber work on them before, then you might have isolation valves fitted between the water pipes and the underside of the faucets. Isolation valves are simple compression fittings that allow the user to turn off the water supplying the faucets without having to turn off the water to the whole house. They are therefore used to ‘isolate’ the faucets.
If you intend replacing the bathroom sink then it is always worth replacing the faucets as well. This is because:
- They are probably the same age as the sink and need updating.
- They will have been sealed to the basin using a waterproof sealant. This is not always easy to remove from the faucets.
- The new basin may be designed to have specific faucets such as mixers or modern ceramic washer faucets. Check with the retailer when you buy the sink.
- You may feel like a change.
Let us go through the sequence of actions required.
- Make sure you have all the tools and materials to hand and you have the replacement faucets, pedestal and basin.
- Make sure you have a couple of hours free to do the work.
- Turn off the mains water at the stop valve (stop cock) or if you have isolation valves, then close those to prevent water reaching the faucets.
- Turn the faucets on and off to check that the water has actually been turned off.
- Reaching underneath the basin you will notice that the faucets have various screws and connections.
- Loosen the compression nuts holding the water feed pipes to the underside of the faucets. When loose enough, continue removing the nuts using your fingers.
- If the faucet is a mixer then there may be screws holding the unit to the basin (actually they are bolts, not screws, but you don’t know that yet). The bolts will go through readymade holes in the basin and when tightened will clamp the faucet to the basin body.
- If the faucets are of a different type, the threaded tail part of the faucet will have a lock nut which when tightened clamps the faucet to the basin.
- All the fixings are difficult to get to and awkward to unscrew but keep at it.
- Remove the fixing bolts or lock nut depending on the type of faucets present.
- Lift the faucets away from the basin and place them safely out of the way to be disposed of later.
- Look at the place where the waste pipe joins the basin. There will be a plastic compression nut screwed onto a metal thread that is fitted through the drain hole in the basin.
- Unscrew the nut and pull away from the basin.
- Look underneath the basin where it touches the wall. There should be two large screw heads holding the basin to the wall with the help of rubber and metal washers.
- You will need a large bladed screwdriver with a short shaft and handle to get up inside there.
- Fit the screwdriver blade into the slot on one of the screws (yes, this time they are screws) and turn counter clockwise to unscrew the fitting.
- Continue to turn the screw until it turns easily. Use your fingers to finish off the loosening and remove the screw.
- Repeat the operation on the remaining screw and remove that one as well.
- The weight of the basin will now be completely supported by the pedestal. Be careful not to knock it over as it is balanced precariously.
- Look at the screws you have just removed from the wall. They will have a large metal washer nearest the screw head and a flexible washer furthest away from the screw head. The metal washer does the job of supporting the basin while the flexible washer provides padding so the basin isn’t cracked by the tightening screw.
- If you look carefully behind the basin and pedestal you may see two clamping bolts designed to hold the basin to the pedestal. Loosen and remove these and put on one side until later.
- Now we have to remove the basin from the pedestal. Have a look at the join and you will see something between the two surfaces. Depending on the age of the unit, the material filling the joint and providing adhesion will either be silicone sealant (caulk) or plumber’s putty. It doesn’t really matter what is used here, the purpose of the filling is to provide padding and a gap filler between the two surfaces so that two hard, rigid surfaces do not rub each other and break.
- Take a sharp knife and run the blade between the basin and the pedestal to break apart the seal holding both surfaces together.
- Lift the basin from the pedestal and put to one side safely out of the way.
- Look where the pedestal touches the floor and you will see two screws fixing the pedestal to the floor; you will also see that the pedestal is sitting in a bed of silicone sealant or plumber’s putty to take up any variations in the floor surface.
- Using the screwdriver, rotate one of the screws counter clockwise until it has lifted out of the floor. Put the screw safely out of the way until later.
- Repeat the operation with the remaining screw. Place the screw safely out of the way.
- Cut the joint between the pedestal and the floor with a sharp knife.
- Lift the pedestal away and carefully store it until later.
- Now we have to clean up the area.
- Inspect the floor where the pedestal stood and remove any remaining sealant using a putty knife or paint scraper.
- Inspect where the basin supporting screws entered the wall and check to see if the wall fixings are still strong enough to support the new basin. If you are lucky the fixing holes in the new basin should be in the approximate location of the original holes. If not you will have to drill some holes to take the new support screws.
- While the drain is exposed it would be sensible to clean it out while you have easy access.
- Place a plastic bowl or bucket under the water trap (that is the curly piece in the drain pipe. Depending on whether the drain exits the room through the floor or the wall will depend on which type of bend you have. The wall exit requires a ‘P- trap’ while the floor exit requires an ‘S-trap’. Look at the shape of the trap and you will see why they are named like letters of the alphabet.
- Whatever kind of trap you have, unscrew each compression nut holding the sections of the shape together.
- Now you will see why you are working over a plastic bucket! As you unscrew each piece you will have dirty water emptying into the bowl. You didn’t want that on your floor did you?
- As you remove each section of drain pipe note whereabouts in the sequence it came from and place it into the bucket to drain.
- You will now have all the removable sections of the drain trap in the plastic bucket and an immovable section of plastic pipe sticking out of either the wall or the floor.
- Clean all surfaces (inside and outside) of the drain trap and remove any solids caught inside. Empty the dirty water and solids into the toilet and flush.
Reassemble the cleaned water trap back into place and tighten the compression locking nuts. Make sure that all the correct washers are returned to their corresponding compression joints.
- Now we replace the pedestal and basin with new ones.
- The new basin will have a new metal drain plug hole that needs to be fitted. Read the fitting instructions that came with it because there are a few different types of washer supplied and the correct one needs to be in the correct position otherwise you will not have a watertight seal. Some plug hole fittings need to have a silicone sealant or plumber’s putty gasket to help keep the joint watertight, others do not. Be guided by the manufacturer’s instructions.
- When the drain hole fittings are in place, tighten the locknut by turning clockwise. Do not tighten too much or you may deform the washers and ruin the watertight seal.
- Before we put sealant between surfaces, let us have a dry run to check if everything fits in the correct location.
- Insert the faucets into their correct location and tighten the fixing screws or lock nuts. Don’t forget to use the flexible washers between the faucets and the basin.
- Place the pedestal on the floor in the approximate position.
- Place the basin on top of the pedestal.
- Adjust the location of both components until the water pipes, drain pipe and fixing holes appear in approximately the correct positions.
- Mark the fixing holes for the pedestal.
- Mark the fixing holes for the basin.
- If you are lucky the existing holes will be in the correct place. If not then you will have to make new ones of the correct size to take the fixing screws.
- Lift the basin from the pedestal and lift the pedestal from the floor.
- Put a bed of waterproof silicone sealant on the pedestal surface that is in contact with the floor.
- Screw the pedestal to the floor using its fixing screws. Do not fix tightly just yet.
- Place a layer of sealant where the pedestal touches the basin.
- Lay the basin onto its pedestal, ensuring the basin is level. Use a spirit level.
- Insert and tighten the screws holding the basin to the wall. Don’t tighten fully just yet.
- Join the pedestal and basin together using the clamps or screws provided.
- Tighten all screws as much as possible without overtightening them. The components need to be firmly held together without deforming the flexible washers.
- Check the basin is level from side to side and from front to back. Adjust if necessary.
- Reconnect the faucets to the water supply pipes. Make sure the hot and cold supplies line up with the correct faucet.
- Re-connect the waste pipe to the basin.
- Turn the water back on. Check for leaks in the water supply pipes and their joints. If there are leaks, disconnect and wrap some plumber’s PTFE tape around the threads.
- Run some water into the basin until full. Check for leaks. If there are leaks they will be where the plug hole liner joins the basin. Try tightening the fixings a bit more without deforming the flexible washers.
- Let the water run away to drain. Check for leaks. If there are then the leaks will be in the plastic waste pipe or its compression connectors. Check the connecting nuts are fitted tightly and all the necessary washers are in place.
- Clean up. Note that the old metal faucets can be recycled for their metal components. The old china basin and pedestal will need to be disposed of carefully and thoughtfully. You may even find a new home for it in the garden as a quirky planter.
Tips for making the job go smoothly
When turning off the water, check that the water HAS been turned off completely before uncoupling the water pipes. Sometimes the valves can be difficult to turn giving the impression that they have been turned off when in fact they are only partially turned off.
While you are drilling new holes in the wall or cleaning up the existing plumber’s putty, cover the open ends of the water supply pipes with a piece of adhesive tape to stop any grit falling into the open pipe. Any grit which finds its way into the pipe will eventually end up in the faucet and may stop the internal mechanism from working correctly. The only way out of this will be to either thoroughly clean the inside mechanism or buy new faucets.
I would always advise that compression isolation valves are fitted to the tails of the water supply pipes. This allows you to turn the water back on as quickly as possible and allows you to easily remove the faucets in the future if you need to.
Don’t forget to fill the visible joint between the basin and the wall with silicone sealant to provide an easily cleaned surface.
Don’t forget to fill the visible gap between the pedestal and the floor to provide an easily cleaned surface.
Any beads of silicone sealant can be smoothed with a moistened finger.
Remove any surplus silicone sealant with a suitable solvent before it has set. Suitable solvents are:
- White spirit in UK
- Mineral spirits in US and Canada
- Mineral turpentine in Australia and New Zealand
All these are different names for essentially the same substance and generically they are used as oil paint thinner.
Tools you will need
You will need to have the required tools on hand. Check you have the correct size wrenches and screwdrivers before you start.
- Flexible tape measure
- New pedestal sink
- New faucets
- Crescent wrench
- Screwdrivers (correct sizes)
- Utility knife
- Silicone sealant (caulk)
- Caulking gun
- Plumber’s putty
- Paper towels
- Plumber’s PTFE tape
- Plastic bowl or bucket
- Two adjustable wrenches
- Basin wrench
- Pipe wrench (Stilson wrench)
- Two compression isolation valves (sizes to fit water pipe diameter)
- Spirit level
Contractor vs DIY
Fitting a bathroom sink is one of the jobs that is well within the skill set of a proficient DIY person. If you have the tools, time and knowledge then there is no reason why you cannot save some money and do the job yourself. On the other hand, using a plumber will ensure that the job is done properly and with the minimum of fuss. You will also have a warranty for your piece of mind in case of problems.
Factors affecting Costs
The main factors involved in the cost of replacing your pedestal sink will be:
The cost of the sink. Many different types of pedestal sink exist, not only different styles but also different materials. When choosing your new bathroom fixture, you should take into account:
- The style of the existing fittings
- What style you would like the bathroom to be
Lack of storage space. Although not strictly a factor affecting cost, this is a factor affecting your choice. Pedestal sinks have wasted space beneath that could be enclosed in a cupboard. Very useful for storage. Before choosing and buying your pedestal, it is worth considering if you would find the extra space useful and choose your style sink accordingly.
Upgrades? It may be worthwhile considering whether it is worth changing all your bathroom fixtures for a new modern look or a period retro look.
Get rid of the old one. Disposing of your old sink isn’t always as easy as you might think. Your old one might be large and unwieldly. If you have a garden then you may be able to incorporate the sink into your planting scheme as a quirky plant trough. Otherwise you may have to pay to get rid of it.
However you dispose of it, always do it responsibly and in accordance with your local and national waste disposal regulations.
DIY or contractor. The correct contractor to fit your new sink would be a licensed plumber. Plumbers are amongst the most expensive contractors so don’t expect a cheap job. On the other hand, the job will be done with the minimum of fuss and the maximum efficiency. Licensed plumbers are always correctly insured so in the unlikely event of any damage actually occurring, you can be assured that insurance cover will be able to take the sting out of it.
Remember that most plumber call-outs are considered to be emergency repairs and are outside normal working hours. Don’t expect to easily find a contractor who will arrive at your home at 3am to replace your sink. Or if you do find one, remember that you will pay a premium rate for that privilege. Also remember that either you or the plumber will have to buy a replacement sink, and this will take at least a day to organise, so if the plumber does turn up in response to an emergency call, there won’t be a lot he can do except turn off the water. And you will still have to pay the call-out charge. It is far better to contact the plumber before the problem becomes an emergency.
Repairing damage. If you are replacing your bathroom sink in response to a leaky basin then you will have to consider the cost of repairing and making good any water damage to the rest of your house. The cracked basin may have been leaking water un-noticed for many weeks in which case the floor under the basin may be soaking wet, not to mention the floor coverings like carpet, vinyl or veneered flooring. You will have to factor in the cost of hiring a carpet fitter together with new carpet or vinyl. Likewise a carpenter may be needed to replace sodden floorboards and possibly the drywall ceiling of the room below. If the water has seeped into the domestic electrical system then an electrician will be required to determine the extent of the damage and decide if the system is safe.
The total cost of the job will include:
The total cost of labour will either be the plumber’s or your time. As well as the obvious time taken to install the pedestal sink, you will also have to include the time taken to choose and deliver the new sink, the time taken to remove the old sink from the premises and any time needed to clean up afterwards. Plumber’s hourly rates will vary depending on where in the country you live and the time of year. All contractors would prefer to be working inside during the cold and wet months while working outdoors in the warm and dry months. Most contractors save up their indoor and outdoor work for the appropriate months.
The cost of complete basin and matching pedestal, new drain tail pipe, new faucets, new isolation valves (if needed). The prices given in the tables are an indication only. The price you pay will depend on style, size and colour. The price will also vary depending on the type of retailer you buy from. Look out for sale bargains.
Silicone sealant (caulking), fixing screws and wall plugs, plumber’s putty, PTFE plumber’s tape. Any specialist tools. The price you pay will depend on the quality and size of the product. Keep your eyes open for cut-price sale bargains.
|Contractor’s hourly rate|
|Plumber||$50 to $150 per hour|
|Costs to install pedestal sink & new faucets|
|Typical range||$170 to $450|
|Vitreous china ceramic, basin & pedestal. white||$150 to $350||Depending on style and size|
|Faucets||$40 to $500||Depending on style|
|Silicone sealant caulk||$4 to $8||10oz. tube|
|Caulking gun||$9||To fit 10oz. tube|
|Plumber’s putty||$5 to $8||14oz. bucket|
|PTFE thread tape||$10||Per 4 pack|
As mentioned earlier, the best contractor to hire to do this job will be a licensed plumber. Installing a bathroom sink is not easy and you need to have a lot of DIY sense and a few specialist plumbing tools in order to do the work correctly so don’t be ashamed to say that you intend hiring a plumber. Leave it to the professionals; they will do a far more efficient job than you can ever do.
In order to find suitable plumbers there are a few things you need to do.
Licensed. When looking for the correct person, always make sure they are licenced and check the document when you see it. Most states require a plumber to have a license and they will have a phone number you can call to check on its validity and whether there have been any complaints made against the contractor.
Insured. A reputable licensed plumber will have the correct insurance required by the state. Insurance includes:
- A workers’ compensation policy which will cover the plumber and team against any injury while working on your premises.
- Liability insurance to provide cover in case damage occurs to you, family or property.
Training. Although all states issue plumbing contractor’s licenses, only a relative few, twenty four in fact, require plumbers to have passed competency exams. So check that your plumber is a member of a professional association and has qualifications. You will usually find that a reputable plumber will advertise the memberships and qualifications he holds as they are a good advert for his skills.
Speak to the plumber. There is no substitute for talking to someone. Emails and text messages are all very well but nothing can compare with talking to someone in person. You can get a much better idea whether someone is trying to rip you off if you can see their face and hear their voice.
Get the correct plumber for the job. The plumbing trade covers a very wide range of specialities and not all plumbers will do them all. Although replacing bathroom fixtures is not too difficult for someone who knows what they are doing, always check that the plumber of your choice is able to do the work. For all you know he may specialise in installing lead flashing on roofs.
If you decide to install your new pedestal sink yourself then you must keep safe by following a few simple rules.
- Pedestal sinks can be heavy. Get someone to help you lift each component into place.
- Wash your hands. You will be dealing with drains and waste water pipes. These are a source of infection. Do not eat, drink or smoke while working with drains. Wash your hands with soap and water after finishing.
- Fumes. Some types of silicone caulk will give off fumes while setting. Ventilate the room well and avoid breathing in the fumes.Toxic substances.
- Always avoid skin contact with chemicals and solvents.
- Use skin protection. Use barrier cream and protective gloves.
- Drill holes carefully. When drilling into the floor and wall for fixing holes, be aware of the possibility of drilling through electrical cables and water or drain pipes.
Today we talked about removing and replacing a pedestal bathroom sink. First of all, to avoid confusion we talked about the different names commonly used in various English speaking countries. We then moved on to describe pedestal sinks and their components. We compared that style with other styles of bathroom sinks and also talked about the different materials used in their construction. We walked through the steps needed for removal and installation of the pedestal, basin and faucets, and listed the tools we would need for the job. We talked about the costs involved using contractors and when done as a DIY project. We talked about how to go about acquiring a good plumbing contractor and we listed a few of the safety requirements you need to comply with when doing the job yourself.