There are many good reasons to pay professionals for some tasks around the house, but many home maintenance projects can be handled by anyone with some basic hand-tool knowledge that’s willing to follow directions.
Where safety is concerned, such as with electrical circuits or gas lines, it’s always wise (and sometimes may be a legal requirement) to let a certified professional accomplish repairs and installations. But for some things, there’s no reason not to save money and gain experience by doing it yourself.
For instance, there’s no need to pay a plumber to replace the sink faucet in your kitchen or bathroom. Here are eight simple steps for a problem-free faucet replacement:
- Get the right replacement – Identify the type of faucet you need. Is it a wall-mount or deck-mount? Is it a center mount faucet, as many single-lever faucets are, or does it have two valves? If there are two valves, measure the center-to-center distance between them (8” is the most common).
Some center mount faucets will still have a base-plate that will cover two valve holes in the sink, which can allow you to install either type as the replacement on that sink. Check to see what holes are available in the sink itself, from beneath, to see what your options are.
(For this guide, we’ll assume you’re dealing with a deck-mount faucet. If you’re looking at a wall-mount, you’ll probably be looking at different plumbing connections, so this guide won’t help you.)
- Prepare yourself – Make certain you have all the tools and materials you’ll need, before starting. Crawling under the sink cabinet isn’t so much fun that you’ll want to make various trips. If the flexible hoses look old or warn, get replacements when you pick up the faucet. If the new faucet doesn’t include a neoprene or plastic base gasket, pick up a small container of plumber’s putty. Take a look under the sink and ensure that you have the right tools to be able to remove/install the fixture nuts and water connections. A basin wrench is a very handy, inexpensive addition to your toolbox that can save you both frustration and bruised knuckles.
- Prepare the area – Clear everything out of the cabinet beneath the sink, rig a drop-light and gather all your tools before you start. It’s suggested you include a small container and a towel, as there will inevitably be a small amount of water spillage. Often, the most expedient method is to lay on your back with your head and shoulders inside the cabinet, so be certain you have enough room to work and will be able to easily reach all your tools. (Safety note: There will be corrosion/rust/grime on the bottom of the sink deck. When working with your face directly beneath the deck, you will undoubtedly dislodge particles which can fall into your eyes. Wear eye protection!)
- Remove the old faucet – Turn off the water supply to the faucet. There should be a small valve where each of the water lines enter the cabinet area (hot is normally on the left, cold on the right). Turn these clockwise to close them. You can now open the control valve(s) on the existing faucet in order to release any pressure.
If you aren’t replacing the water supply hoses, you’ll only need to remove one end of each of them from the old faucet. You can drain the water that is in the hose into that small container that you so thoughtfully brought under the sink with you. Now loosen and remove the tube nuts that fasten each water tube or valve to the deck from below. (This is where you’ll realize what a brilliant investment that basin wrench was.)
When the tube nuts are removed, you can lift the old valve directly up out of the deck holes and discard it.
- Prepare for the new faucet – There will be residue of plumber’s putty and/or grime where the base-plate rested, and this needs to be thoroughly cleaned before installing your new faucet. Any built up mineral deposits can be removed with vinegar or a water deposit cleaner. When the deck area is clean and dry, you can either place the neoprene/plastic base gasket or lay a bead of plumber’s putty around the edge beneath the base-plate. Many people prefer to use both, to ensure water will not get under the base-plate.
- Set the new faucet – Assemble the new faucet, and lower it directly down into the deck holes. It can be helpful, though not imperative, to have a helper maintain the faucet in its aligned position while you tighten the fixture nuts from below. If you’re working alone, though, you can simply snug them well, realign as necessary and finishing tightening. When that’s completed, you can connect the water hoses to the water tubes.
- Testing the connections – Before opening the supply valves, open the control valve(s) on the faucet. Using a towel, carefully dry any moisture around all the connections beneath the sink, as this will make it easier to spot any leaks. Slowly crack each supply valve open slightly until you hear water running out of the faucet. Check carefully for any leaks, running a dry fingertip around all connections.
Repeat this for both the hot and cold supply lines, and tighten any connections that seem to be seeping water. When you’re satisfied there are no leaks, you can close the control valve(s) on the faucet. You’ll need to check for leaks again at this point, as with the control valve(s) closed, the pressure in the faucet and supply hoses will be increased.
When you’re satisfied that your installation has no leaks, you can open the supply valves fully. It’s a good idea to check for leaks beneath the cabinet again after an hour or so, because faucet bodies have been known to crack or leak, which may not be evident immediately.
- Clean up and wrap up – If you used plumber’s putty, you’ll find that it was partially squeezed out when you tightened down the base-plate. This extra residue is easily cleaned up with a finger tip and rubbing alcohol. You can now reclaim the under-sink area for storage and clean up your tools. You’re done!
There are many “tricks of the trade” that professionals develop or discover that make such tasks easier or less problematic, but if you’re willing to follow instructions carefully, you can take advantage of them, too.
For instance, the basin wrench was invented and patented by Arthur Andree, of Oak Park, IL, in 1920. His inventive nature can be credited with helping you complete your kitchen or bathroom faucet replacement like a true professional. Other plumbing tools in common use today are the Stilson pipe wrench (invented by plumber, Daniel Stilson in the 1860s) and channel-lock pliers, which you probably used today. Give a hat-tip to those folks… they made it easy for you to save some money today.