How to change your bathroom sink (© Alex Wilson/Getty Images)

© Alex Wilson/Getty Images

Q: We have two bathrooms in our house, and I want to fix up the smaller one. We use it infrequently, but I still want it to look nice. I think the first thing that needs to be changed is the wall sink, which is original to the house and almost 30 years old. The tub is also original, but we changed the toilet about 10 years ago. Can you do an article on how to swap a wall sink, or at least provide us some tips? (Bing: Must-know DIY home repairs)

A: The wall sink or vanity sets the stage in a small bathroom. It's the first thing you see as you step through the door and, because the room is small, the sink assumes outsize importance in the room's function and aesthetics. It also can take quite a beating, so it's not unusual to see the sink chipped, stained or scratched. I think you're making the right move. Swapping it will transform the room.

In terms of difficulty, I'd rate the swap at about a five on a scale of one to 10, if the new sink and old sink are similar, if they take a nearly identical mounting bracket or hanger, and if the surrounding surface is drywall. That five can easily increase to a six or seven if the new sink is larger or shaped differently than the original or if it requires an unusual mounting bracket.

Worst case, the seven increases to an eight or nine if the wall is tiled and you learn that the old sink was barely hanging on the wall, in which case you could be looking at tile removal and the installation of a new piece of lumber in the wall on which to affix the hanger. At that point, you might seriously consider an all-out bathroom remodel.

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Regardless, the first step is finding a sink that you like and, if possible, downloading its installation instructions from the manufacturer's website. If you can't find instructions for the model that you like, contact the manufacturer's customer-service department and ask someone there to email you a PDF of the directions. With these in hand, you can make an educated decision about the job's difficulty.

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In the "five" version of the job, you install a new mounting bracket, following the manufacturer's instructions. On the sink, you mount the faucet and supply lines, tailpiece and pop-up assembly. Then hang the sink on the bracket. Down below, you connect the sink's tailpiece to the trap and connect the trap to the trap arm that comes out of the wall. Connect the supply lines to the faucet at the shutoff valves. The "seven" or "eight" version of the job calls for all this plus tile removal, wall cutting, carpentry, careful measuring, trial mounting — a lot of mess and fuss. It's not mechanically difficult, but it is time-consuming. Expect two to three full days of work to get the job done right.