How to Fix (or Replace) a Leaky Faucet Yourself

An old tap in a vintage kitchen

Photo: Manuela Durson (Shutterstock)

Whether you have a slow leak or just want to redecorate your kitchen, updating your old faucet can help save water and make your kitchen more efficient. While it may seem intimidating to do the job yourself, it is absolutely doable, and it will pay off in the form of lower monthly bills and avoiding a potentially expensive repair down the road. Here’s how to get started.

Gather your tools

As always, before you start, make sure you have everything you need to get the job done – stretching this solution out over two days because you forgot a crucial tool is going to be a headache.

First, the wrenches – you’ll need both a crescent wrench and a tap wrench. And while not always necessary, a faucet or wrench makes it much easier to reach the nuts holding your faucet together, and one usually costs about $10, so worth considering. Plumbing tape (also called thread sealant) is another good item to have on hand; This allows you to make the connections to your plumbing watertight. You’ll also need a flashlight, as the space under your sink is bound to be dark and cramped. If you can see, you will avoid a damp surprise.

Check for leaks

Start by checking for leaks. Turn the existing faucet on to a low flow and look under the sink to see if any moisture is coming from the pipes down there. If so, try tightening the hardware that holds the hoses together. Place a wrench on one side of the connection point and on the other. Turn the wrench to the right. If this fixes the leak at all connections under the sink, you can move on.

Find your valves

If you encounter a more persistent leak (or if you want to replace your faucet instead of repairing it), turn off the water before taking the next step. The valves are usually located under the sink and are often oval in shape. There should be two – one for hot water and one for cold water – and they will most likely be under the sink, against the wall. Turn the handles clockwise to stop the water flow.

Inspect your hardware

Once the water has been shut off, continue checking for leaks by disconnecting the faucet hose connections and shut-off valves. There should be some thread sealing tape on these connections; if there isn’t, you can add some to it. Remove the old tape and look for corroded or cracked washers. Inspect the hoses to determine if they are in good condition. If you need to replace rings or hoses, get new available at the the plumbing department of any hardware store. If you are not sure which type you need, take your old parts with you to compare.

Choose a tap

If your leak is coming from the top of the sink, or you just want newer hardware, you’ll need a new faucet. Most faucets are available in standard sizes, so fitting it largely depends on how many water pipes you need. If there’s a place for a separate spray head or other accessory, you need a faucet with three water pipes. For other types of sinks, you can only use two. It’s a good idea to take a good look at your old faucet before you buy a new one to make sure you buy one that matches your sink. (Maybe bring a photo – it can be surprisingly hard to remember details when faced with dozens of shiny new options.)

Install your new parts

If you simply replace rings and hoses, reinstall your new parts by use about three wraps of plumber’s tape at each joint and tighten the nuts.

If you also replace the faucet, you should: remove the old one. On many sinks this is where a wrench comes in handy, because the nuts that hold the existing faucet to the sink are behind the sink, under the countertop between the sink and the wall, and good luck getting to them. Once those nuts are loosened and the hoses disconnected, the existing faucet just needs to be lifted out. Then make sure to use thread sealing tape wherever there is a connection between hoses, you can attach the hoses to the new faucet and put them through the holes in your sink. This step will help you avoid tightening these connections in the tight spaces behind the basin.

Next one, use the hardware that came with your new faucet and your sink wrench to attach the new faucet to the sink. Connect the new hoses to the water pipes coming out of the wall, using your plumber’s tape where two hoses are connected. Make sure all your hardware is tight and then turn the water back on by turning the shut off valve buttons counterclockwise.

Double check your hardware

Once the water is on, check again for leaks. When everything is dry, test your faucets and check again. If you have a small amount of leakage, turn off the water tap and retighten all hose connections. You can also add some thread sealant if the connection is a little loose. On new hardware this should be enough. Do a final check to make sure everything is standing still dry. Congratulations! ANDYou just repaired your own sink.

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