How to Replace Your Bathroom or Kitchen Faucet
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How to Replace Your Bathroom or Kitchen Faucet

Replacing a faucet in you home with step by step instructions.

Many older homes, or homes which are in need of renovations, can be improved by simply replacing old, leaky kitchen and bathroom faucets. This will not only improve the appearance of the room, but also add value and save water in the long run.

The first step is to gather information on how your fixture was originally installed so that you purchase the appropriate fixture and accessories to complete the job. Kitchen and bathroom faucets are categorized by the number of holes in the countertop and their spacing. Most bathroom faucets are either a 3-hole type or single-hole type. They are called 4-inch center set, 4 inch minispread, 8-inch widespread, and single hole faucets. Bathroom faucets typically have a stopper handle which needs to run down the center hole of a 3-hole faucet or utilizes the single hole. Kitchen faucets can be a 1, 2, or 3-hole type with an additional hole for a sprayer.

4-inch centerset

4-inch center set

4-inch minspread

8-inch widespread

Single-hole

After the arrangement has been determined, look under the sink to determine how the faucet has been piped. Supply lines on older faucets are typically soft copper tubing. Plumbers use copper tubing, ferrules, and compression nuts because they are more cost-effective than flexible supply lines. These are difficult to reuse, as they were cut to length for the particular faucet that was installed. Replacing this with new tubing can be problematic since it requires purchasing and cutting new tubing and installing new compression fittings. This can be accomplished by a more experienced do-it-yourselfer, but with the availability of flexible supply lines, there is no need. Home improvement centers have various sizes to facilitate all of the more common installations; simply purchase supply lines that are marked for faucets and get a set that are the proper length. Tip: It is better that the lines are 5 or 6 inches longer than the distance from the supply valve to the bottom of the faucet. Also make sure you allow for differences in lengths as the original installation may not be symmetrical or in a straight line. It is best to take the old lines with you if you are not sure what size to buy. A better solution would be to by another pair which are longer and return the two that you didn’t use.

Installing the faucet

Once you have removed the old faucet, clean the surface of the sink or countertop where the new faucet will be installed. For granite tops and porcelain sinks, four “O” steel wool works well with a little water. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions, usually requiring placing a bead of plumber’s putty in a groove on the underside of the faucet. New faucets usually do not require any special tools, but depending on your original counter and sink layout, you may need a basin wrench to reach up and tighten the mounting nuts that hold the faucet to the sink or countertop. A typical faucet will drop into place and need the hot and cold supply lines attached to the bottom of the faucet. Bathroom faucets will need to have the handle for the stopper reattached. This can be a little tricky, but make sure you start by putting the stopper lever from the drain line in the center hole from the handle assembly. You can then slide the spring clip along the lever until you have the proper length. Starting with the lever up (Closed) will ensure that you have enough space to clear the supply lines and that they won’t interfere with its operation.

It is also a good time to check the lines and remove any clogs now that the faucet and water lines are out of the way. To install the matching drain that comes with the new faucet, you will need to remove the old drain and tailpiece. These usually can be removed by holding the drain coming off the bottom of the sink with a pair of pliers or pipe wrench and inserting a long screwdriver on an angle into the drain from the bowl side. Turning counter-clockwise should loosen the drain from the bowl. You will need to remove the stopper prior to doing this. If the tailpiece will not loosen, you will need to hold onto the locking nut on the underside of the sink where the tailpiece goes through the sink base. Inserting a pair of needle-nose pliers into the drain will allow you to grip the drain to keep it from spinning. There are usually only about ¼-inch of threads protruding from the bottom of the sink, so even if the drain assembly is rusted, it shouldn’t take long before it is completely removed. Reattach the trap to the tailpiece and connect the trap to the existing drain in the floor or wall.

Sink drain

Once the new lines are attached, it's time to check for leaks. The flexible supply lines are equipped with a rubber gasket inside the fitting on each end, so as long as they are tight they shouldn’t leak. If they do, you should remove the supply lines and inspect that the rubber seal is free of debris and that the threads are not stripped on the valve. While I’m at it, you might want to check the supply valves and replace them if they are leaking or difficult to operate. Quarter-turn valves are a good option, as they completely shut off the water quickly and smoothly in an emergency. Commonly known as angle or straight stops, these valves come in compression and “sweat” (soldered) types. If your valves are soldered on, you may need to hire a plumber to replace them or you could cut off the old valves with a tubing cutter and install a compression-type angle stop. You need to have at least 3 inches of pipe protruding from the wall or cabinet back to be able to accomplish this.

Angle-stop

Compression fitting, ferrule, and nut

The PVC drain lines seal fairly well as long as the gasket ring is in place and the bevel is in the proper direction and that the pipes are aligned with their fittings. If the pipe is not inserted correctly into the slip-fitting, there will be a higher chance that there will be a leak. Pay close attention to the supply lines to make sure they have not twisted so much that it restricts water flow and causes a failure down the road.

PVC Drain lines

Remove the aerator, the little screen from the business-end of the faucet, and turn on the water to allow any particles to come out without blocking the mesh screen inside. This is usually overlooked by most people and should be the first thing you check if you notice a reduction in flow for your faucet.

Hopefully this will give you the confidence to attempt a faucet replacement yourself. If you do it once, the next time it will go much more smoothly.

Good Luck.

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