How to Fix a Leaking Faucet!


njminerals.org is mostly about mineral collecting, but I decided to throw a few articles about home improvement up here.  (These are the kinds of projects that keep a person from going out and collecting on those nice sunny weekends...)

Anyway, here we go....

0.  Introduction
1.  Removing the Old Faucet
2.  Buying a New Faucet (And Stuff)
3.  Installing the New Faucet


Some weekends you just can't get out and do fun stuff like mineral collecting.  Instead you wake up in the morning and find the kitchen faucet leaking all over the place.  Umm, yeah, there goes that day.  The water has bowed the floor of the cabinet, and now you've got a huge mess to clean up! 

I'd have more fun looking at driveway stones or finding zinc pennies in the front yard.  For real.  But, when that water starts leaking, what else can you do but fix it?

Right now I'm going to tell you that if you're thinking of repairing a leaky faucet instead of buying a new one, there might be a few reasons that could make it impractical:

- Your faucet was a cheaper one with non-standard or hard-to-replace parts
- The faucet is leaking in several places, so it might not be worth all the parts / effort
- Only one store carries the right part, and they're closed right now or too far away.
- The faucet is in a cramped space, and by the time you remove it to clean everything, you might as well install a new one.
- The thing is just such a corroded mess that you don't feel like dealing with it
 
This is pretty much what happened to me (combination of the above reasons).  And so, my "faucet repair" project ended up becoming a "faucet replacement" project.  With lots of cussing.  If you have a higher-end faucet by Moen, Delta, etc, then by all means repair the faucet if you can.  For the rest of us, replacement often ends up being the more sensible option.

I'm going to show you how to replace a typical kitchen faucet, the kind that has one of those sprayer thingies in addition to the faucet.  This kind is mounted on a "four hole sink".  The sprayer takes up one hole, while the faucet assembly takes up the other three.  Just know that you don't absolutely have to buy a sprayer faucet, even if you have a 4-hole sink.  I'll talk more about that later.

For now:  Good morning, here's your work for the day...



Underside of your faucet look something like this?  Right, then.  Don't make any plans for the next 2 days.
Ha...  you think that's an exaggeration, I bet.

Most of the time is taken up fighting with stuck fixtures that
never should have been installed in such a cramped space. 
What you don't see here is the set of double traps for the dual-drain sink. 
Lift your head up two inches and you about knock yourself cold.



I.  Removing The Old Faucet

Before you do anything, turn off the water.  I actually had to use pliers to turn the valves, because they had become stuck in the open position from hard water scale. 

I'm going to say it one more time:  turn off the water lines before you start trying to remove the old faucet.  You should find a valve on the hot water line and a valve on the cold water line.  

I just want to caution you:  removing your old faucet is the most strenuous, frustrating, time-consuming part of this whole ordeal.  A job that should take twenty minutes could easily turn into an all-day proposition.  Why?  Simple.  If you waited until the faucet was leaking in a couple of places (which is what most people do), then chances are that everything is so corroded or caked with hard-water scale that you're going to have a really tough time removing the supply hoses and everything else.  A reallly tough time.  I actually had to make a special tool to remove the flanged plastic collars that held the faucet in place



If you cut the slots just right in the PVC pipe, you should be able to use it as a spanner wrench to remove those caked-on plastic collars.  If your faucet replacement goes anything like this one, expect an ordeal.  Jumbo pair of locking pliers could barely move the thing 1/8 of a turn each time. 

I made this out of a piece of PVC pipe and measured the spacing precisely.  The cuts have to be wide enough for the flanges, and they must be exactly 90 degrees apart.   I didn't make these quite deep enough on the one shown here, but it still worked.  Now that I know it works, I might make a better one, in an attempt to save a bit of frustration next time.

Even with the homemade spanner tool, the plastic screw-on collars were so difficult to remove that I had to use jumbo locking pliers to turn it.  About 1/8 of a turn each time... grueling. 


II.  Buying a New Faucet
(and stuff)


I would have put this as the first section, but I didn't want to tell you to buy the new faucet if you couldn't get the old one out.  Some leaky faucet situations get so gnarly that you're probably better off calling a plumber (and actually, I was really close to doing just that.)  Since you're reading this far, though, I can only assume you're in it for the long haul.

Here's a piece of advice learned the hard way:  don't go to your local home-improvement store and buy the cheapest faucet they sell.  Just don't.  Cheap faucets often have one or more threaded parts made of plastic when they should be metal.  Anything that connects to a water line, even a sprayer, should be made of metal, preferably heavy brass.  The $25 to $40 faucets are going to skimp in this critical area.   Chances are they will leak soon after installation.  Plastic threads are just stupid on a faucet, because overtightening them will cause warping or breakage.  And who's not going to crank them really tight to try to avoid water leaks?

The $50-$60 price range (discounted prices) can actually have usable faucets, but even here there's going to be some skimping.  Expect to pay at least $75 to $100 for a faucet that will last even a couple years without headache  ($125 to $200 and you're into the more "serious" models that are still affordable.  I'd start here if I were you.) 

By the way, if you can avoid it, I'd really recommend you DON'T get a kitchen faucet with a sprayer.  If you have a 4-hole sink, consider closing off the sprayer hole with a polished chrome or stainless disc (order a nice cover here for about 12 bucks).  In fact, no;  don't just "consider" it.  I implore you to just cover the 4th hole in the sink and do without the sprayer.  The sprayer is always the weak link.  (Same thing with soap dispensers and pull-down faucets, though sprayers are worse).

Get yourself a good, basic, reasonably-priced 3-hole faucet like this one and you're less likely to have problems.  No sprayers, no soap dispensers.  A lot of people insist on buying fancy faucets, but they're not the ones who have to replace them when they fail. 

Don't forget to pick up a tube of clear silicone, which you will need when you seat the new faucet onto the sink.  If you're really hard-core about water durability, get this stuff.  It's made to be submersible.  That said, I just use this silicone.  (Don't forget to order a caulk gun.)

If you're really set on installing a sprayer, I'd get a container of plumber's putty.  The ring collar for most sprayers has a lot of hollow space that's well-suited to stuffing with plumber's putty.

When I replaced my faucet, I didn't have anyone to tell me everything I'd need, but I'm telling you so you can save a lot of time.  Now I've had the experience of spending far too much time and fuel driving back and forth to my local home improvement store (three times, no joke), I'd say just order all your stuff online. 

Just as a quick re-cap, here's the parts list:

- The faucet.  Again, if you have a 4-hole sink, I strongly urge you to plug the sprayer hole and just get something like this faucet or maybe this one
- A pair of supply hoses (about $8.50 apiece, here).  You need two, because the faucet has hot and cold water.  The connectors are standard on these.  
- Clear silicone and a caulk gun to apply it.   I use this silicone, and you can pick up an inexpensive caulk gun for it here.
- Plumber's putty - this is optional, unless you are installing a sprayer, then you need it.
- A basin wrench (about $16 here).  This allows you to reach up and tighten / loosen connectors where there is no room to turn an ordinary wrench.  Oh, you can try to turn an ordinary wrench, but this exercise will result in such frustration that you won't be able to find cuss words to express it. 
- A couple pair of Vise Grips.  The 10WR and 7WR are good sizes to have for these kinds of jobs (grab the 2-piece set here.)  I misplaced mine, so all I had was the 6LC (not as often useful, but it worked).  Here's a typical situation where you will need Vise Grips...



See, the plastic collar on the underside of the sprayer was not coming off, because it kept rotating the assembly you see here.  Since you can't be topside holding this part while you're under the sink turning the collar, the pair of Vise Grips does the holding for you.  The wall then stops it from rotating all the way around.

Notice the crumbs of old, dried-out plumber's putty.


III.  Installing the New Faucet!

This is usually not as frustrating as removing the old one, but let's don't get complacent just yet.  If you bought a good faucet, this part will actually go more smoothly and have a better chance of avoiding a costly do-over.

Here's some advice:

- Don't make a mess with the silicone.

When you seat the faucet base plate onto the sink, the silicone WILL squeeze out and get on your nice chrome faucet base.  Clean it off with rubbing alcohol before it dries.  Use paper towels, not toilet paper, which disintegrates when wet.


By the way, this was one of Pfister's cheaper faucets. Not their absolute cheapest, but I could do without the proprietary sprayer hose connector (at least the stem is brass... the Project Source ones were plastic...). When the sprayer goes bad, you have to buy a new sprayer assembly that will cost you about 2/3 as much as the faucet.  For the third time:  just plug the 4th hole on your kitchen sink and get a 3-hole faucet instead.

- Be VERY careful that you don't cross-thread the supply hose fittings when you're putting them onto the brass inlets. 

Brass gets cross-threaded pretty easily, and if that happens, you will be up the creek in a chicken-wire boat.  Don't be hasty.  To avoid cross-threading you will probably have to fight with the supply hose fittings for a good twenty minutes (apiece).  Maybe ten minutes, anyway.  This is a matter of seating the threads perfectly straight-on so that the fitting turns easily. 


- Don't put plumber's putty or pipe dope on the threads or the fittings

Some people use PTFE plumber's tape, but I don't think this is a good idea, because when you have to replace the faucet someday, it will actually just add friction and make the job harder.  It could also get down into the area where the rubber seal meets the inlet, causing a leak.   Supply-line hoses are supposed to seal by compression against the rubber fittings inside.  The only thing I'd put on the pipe threads is a small amount of 100% silicone grease (the kind that never hardens).
 

- Make sure the fittings are tight before you turn on the water valves.

If you can use a regular wrench or an adjustable to tighten them, this will work much better than a basin wrench.  Often, though, there isn't room to turn a wrench (I almost wrote "there isn't wroom to turn a wrench".)


- Dry out the whole cabinet under the pipes before you turn on the water again.

That way, if there's a leak from your new faucet, you'll be able to spot it more easily.


When everything is together, turn the water valves on and you should have a working faucet.   Watch the supply lines for leaks;  if you see any, turn off the water valves and check everything again.   If you were careful at every step, you should be able to have a working faucet the first time.

Well, that concludes my little "how-to" on replacing your kitchen faucet.

I really hope this article helped you save money, as well as avoid some frustration.  You can help me out by buying any of your stuff through the links on here. 

Thanks for visiting my website!

-CHRIS








Site Map / Articles Index


If you surfed in here from somewhere else and wonder where you are, this site is mainly about collecting Rocks and Minerals

Back to Chris's Mineral Collecting Page