How to Do Faucet Repairs

By: Fix-It Club

Faucets are a key part of your home for an obvious reason: They dispense water. Therefore, keeping your faucets in working condition is of great importance. A number of things can go wrong with your faucets, from leaks to noise. Sometimes you'll need to replace a faucet altogether to solve the problem. In this article, we'll show you how to make a number of basic repairs to your home's faucet system, including to spray hoses. We'll start by addressing leaky faucets.

Repairing a Leaky Faucet

A dripping faucet is the most common plumbing problem as well as one of the easiest to repair. Yet many people ignore it and leave the dripping faucet unrepaired. That costs money. A steady drip can waste $20 or more in water in a short time. Multiply that figure by the number of faucet drips in your home, and you can calculate how much of your money is literally going down the drain. The waste from a dripping hot water faucet is even more because you're also paying to heat the water before it goes down the drain.


What's the solution? A drip is caused by seepage from the water supply. Remember the water supply enters your home under pressure, so there must be a watertight seal holding back the incoming water when the faucet handle is in the OFF position. That seal is usually created by a washer pressed tightly against the faucet seat. Obviously, when the washer or the seat is not functioning properly, a little water can seep through and drip out of the faucet spout. To stop the drip, all you usually have to do is replace the washer or repair the seat.

The first thing to do when fixing a faucet drip is to turn off the water supply. You should be able to turn off the supply at a nearby shutoff, but, if your house is not equipped with shutoffs for individual fixtures, you'll have to go to the main shutoff and turn off the entire water supply to your home. What follows are ways to address the various causes of faucets drips.

Compression-type faucets: No matter what a compression-type faucet looks like, whether it has separate handles for hot and cold water or just one that operates both hot and cold, it operates according to certain basic principles.

Here's how to disassemble a compression-type faucet and stop a drip:

Step 1:

Shut off water supply, and remove faucet handle held to main body of faucet by unscrewing tiny screw on top or at back of handle. Some screws are hidden by metal or plastic button or disc that snaps out or is threaded. Once you get button out, you'll see top-mounted handle screw. If necessary, use penetrating oil, such as WD-40, to help loosen it.

Step 2:

Remove handle, and look at faucet assembly. Remove packing nut with large pair of slip-joint pliers or adjustable wrench, being careful not to scar metal. Twist out stem or spindle by turning it in the same direction you would to turn on faucet.

Step 3:

Remove screw that holds washer. Use penetrating oil, if necessary, to loosen screw. Examine screw and stem, replacing if damaged.


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How to Silence a Noisy Faucet

Faucets can scream, whistle, or chatter when you turn them on or off. There are several possible causes for these ear-shattering phenomena. If your house is newly built, you may have pipes that are too small to allow the water to pass through them properly. Similarly, pipes in older homes can become restricted by the formation of scale, indicated by a noisy faucet. In either case, you must replace the pipes to get rid of the noise, which is not really a quick fix.

Most likely, however, your noisy faucet is caused by a washer that is either the wrong size or is not held securely to the stem. Turn off the water supply before starting on this or any other faucet repair job. Replacing the washer or tightening it should eliminate the noise. If the faucet still makes noise, check the washer seat. The seat can become partially closed with residue, and the restricted water flow can cause whistling or chattering. If this is the case, clean the seat.


A squealing noise heard when you turn the faucet handle means the metal threads of the stem are binding against the faucet's threads. Remove the stem, and coat both sets of threads with petroleum jelly. The lubrication should stop the noise and make the handle easier to turn. Of course, if the stem threads or faucet body threads have become worn, the resulting play between them causes vibration and noise in the faucet. In this case, you'll need more than just lubrication to quiet the faucet.

Install a new stem, and see if the noise stops. If not, the faucet body threads are worn, and the only solution is a completely new faucet. Fortunately, the stem usually wears first. But even if you must replace the entire faucet, the job is fairly easy. It's examined in detail in the next section.


How to Replace a Faucet

©Publications International, Ltd.The faucet is secured to the sink by a nut under the basin. The water supply line is usually connected to the faucet with a threaded compression fitting.

Replacing a faucet requires some work and patience. Fortunately, new faucet units are made for do-it-yourself installation with easy-to-follow instructions included. A new faucet can work wonders for the appearance of your fixtures and will also eliminate all the leaks, drips, and other problems you may have had with your old faucet.

Make sure whatever faucet unit you choose will completely cover the old faucet's mounting holes. If you have an unusual sink in your home, look for an adjustable faucet unit that is designed to fit many types of sinks. Once you select the faucet model you want, follow these steps to install it properly:Step 3: Remove old faucet assembly from sink, then clean sink around faucet mounting area.


Step 5: If new faucet has spray hose, attach hose. Run spray hose down through its opening in faucet assembly, through its opening in sink, and up through sink's center opening. Then attach hose to supply stub on faucet.

Step 6: Install new faucet assembly into mounting holes in sink. With new faucet assembly in position, place washers and nuts on assembly's mounting studs under sink and hand-tighten them, making sure assembly is in proper position and any gaskets are correctly aligned. Then further tighten nuts with basin wrench.

© Publications International, Ltd. Because there is very little room under the sink, you will probably need a basin wrench to tighten the coupling nuts.

Step 7: Align and connect original water supply lines with flexible supply tubes coming from new faucet. Make sure hot water and cold water lines are connected to proper supply tubes on faucet assembly. When you attach lines, be sure to use two wrenches. One holds fitting while the other turns nut on water supply line.

Step 8: Turn on hot and cold water supplies to fixture. Run both hot and cold water full force to clear supply lines and to check fixture for leaks. If there's any evidence of leakage, go back over procedure to check for loose or improper connections.

Although bathroom faucets are similar to the ones we've just described, they can present their own distinct challenges. In the next section, we'll show you how to install various bathroom faucets.

Replacing Bathroom Faucets

Replacing a bathroom sink faucet can be done using the same procedures that were described in the previous section. One difference may be the presence of a pop-up drain plug that's connected by a linkage to a knob or plunger on the old faucet assembly. There should be one or two places in the linkage where it can be easily disconnected from the faucet before removing the original unit from the basin. Instructions provided with the new faucet will tell you exactly how to connect the new drain assembly. Be sure to reconnect the drain linkage when installing the new faucet.

© Publications International, Ltd. Replacing a tub faucet can be complicated because the connections are behind a wall. However, there may be an access panel that allows you to reach those connections.

Replacing a shower or tub faucet is not usually a quick fix because the connections are made behind a wall. However, there may be an access panel so you can get at the pipes without ripping the wall apart. If you have to cut into the wall and want to tackle this project, be sure to add an access panel for future pipe and faucet repairs.

Once you get to the tub faucet connections behind the wall, the job is no harder than working on your kitchen sink. Shut off the water supply, remove the faucet handle on the tub side, then disconnect the old faucet unit from the back. If there's an old showerhead pipe, unscrew it from its pipe inside the wall; do the same thing with the tub spout. Now you're ready to install all the new parts. Follow the directions that are included with the new assembly.

In the final section, we'll return to the kitchen, where many faucets are equipped with spray hoses. We'll tell you what to do if a spray hose breaks down.


How to Repair a Spray Hose

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. A spray hose is attached under the sink at the base of the spout assembly. The entire spray assembly can be removed from the top of the sink by unscrewing it and pulling it out through the hose guide.

Many modern sink faucets are fitted with spray hose units, and these units occasionally leak or malfunction. The assembly has a diverter valve within the spout body, a flexible hose connected to the spout under the sink, and a spray head with an activating lever and an aerator assembly. The spray head body and lever are part of a sealed unit; if it malfunctions, the unit must be replaced with an identical unit. Other parts of the spray system, however, can be repaired. In this section, we'll provide detailed instructions on how to service the various parts of a spray hose.

Step 4: Reassemble aerator, making sure you get all parts positioned in proper order and direction.


Repairing the Flexible Hose

Water dripping off the flexible hose beneath the sink indicates a leak at the hose-to-spout connection, the hose-to-spray-head connection, or somewhere in the hose itself. To repair the hose:

Step 1: Dry hose thoroughly, and check head connection. If leak is at this point, tighten connection, disassemble and make repairs, or replace head and hose assembly.


Step 2: Check spout connection under sink. Tightening may stop leak here.

Step 3. If leak continues, disconnect hose, apply plumbers' joint compound or wrap plumbers' joint tape around threads, and reconnect hose. The easiest way to spot leak in hose is to inspect it inch by inch under strong light while water is running through it. Look particularly for tiny cracks, chafes, or indications of some mechanical damage. Temporary repairs can be made by wrapping slightly damaged section of hose with vinyl electrical tape, but replacement of the hose will probably be necessary eventually.


Checking the Diverter Valve

Uneven water flow, low pressure when the pressure at other faucets seems all right, or troublesome switching back and forth from spray head to sink spout can be caused by a malfunctioning diverter valve or by a restricted hose. To check the diverter valve:

Step 1: Remove spray head at coupling, and disconnect coupling from hose by prying off snap-ring retainer.


Step 2: Turn on water and let strong stream of water flow into hose. If strong stream of water flows out of open end of hose, then you know diverter valve is the source of the trouble. A weak stream flowing from open end of hose may indicate blockage in hose itself. Briefly running water full force may clear hose.

Step 3: If above steps don't locate problem, remove hose from spout attachment, stretch it out straight, and look through it while aiming it toward strong light source. If hose appears to be clear, problem lies in diverter valve. If hose is blocked, clear it with wire coat hanger or length of wire.

Step 4: As needed, replace hose. If you can't get exact replacement, adapters are available for connecting other types and sizes.


Servicing the Diverter Valve

Step 1: Remove sink spout by loosening screw on top, unscrewing threaded spout ring or nut, and lifting spout out of its socket to expose valve. Some valves are just set in place and can be lifted straight out by gripping them with pliers; others are secured by screw. If there is a screw, turn it enough to free valve. If possible, disassemble valve.

Step 2: Flush all parts with water, and clean all surfaces and apertures with toothpicks. Don't use metal tools, as they could damage the unit.


Step 3: Reassemble and reinstall valve, then test unit. If it still operates poorly, you will probably have to replace valve. Replacement must be exact, so take faucet manufacturer's name and unit model number or old valve with you when you buy new valve.

Whether it's a spray hose or a spout, your home's faucet system will need periodic repairs. But if you follow the steps we've outlined in this article, you'll be able to get these jobs done with minimal trouble.

©Publications International, Ltd.