The toughest part of replacing a kitchen faucet is removing the old one. Unexpected problems always pop up—corroded pipes, difficult-to-reach nuts and poor access to fittings. Otherwise, installing a new kitchen faucet isn’t tough at all. Actually, the directions that come with your new faucet are probably all you’ll need to do that part of the job. Barring unforeseen problems, you could be washing up under the faucet in an hour or so. In this article walk you through a basic replacement process and tell you how to get through those tough parts.
Disconnect the drain lines and P-traps if they block your access to the faucet and water supply pipes. (Place a bucket or coffee can under the P-trap to dump residual water after you pull it free.)
- Shutoff valves: Before you shop for your new faucet (see “Selecting a Faucet” at the end of this article), take a look under the sink and make sure that there are shutoff valves feeding the faucet. If you don’t have shutoff valves, add them. If you have them, confirm that they’re in working order by turning on the hot and cold water at the faucet and shutting off the valves. If the faucet still drips, install new ones. Most likely you have 1/2-in. copper supply pipes. If so, add easy-to-install solderless “compression fitting” valves to your shopping list. But if not, buy whichever valve type is compatible with your pipes.
- Supply tubes: Next, measure the existing supply tubes and buy new stainless steel–sleeved supply tubes. They’re designed to give rupture-free service for years and can be routed around obstacles without kinking.
- Basin wrench: Also buy a basin wrench. This weird little wrench is made specifically for removing and installing those hard-to-reach fasteners that clamp older faucet assemblies to the sink. (Newer faucets have plastic Wing-Nuts that can usually be loosened and tightened by hand.) A basin wrench’s spring-loaded jaws pivot so you can either loosen or tighten nuts in tight spaces.
If you need to remove drain lines to access the faucet, get a pipe wrench or slip-joint pliers. For cutting copper tubes, buy a conventional tubing cutter. But if your copper supply lines are within a few inches of the back of the cabinet, buy a special mini tube cutter. You’ll also need a set of open-end wrenches for disconnecting and hooking up the water lines.
Before disconnecting the drain lines, take a Polaroid snapshot or make a sketch of the layout to help you put it all back together.
Plan on replacing your faucet during store hours. Chances are better than 50/50 you’ll need at least one more part.
Prop up a scrap of plywood on some 1-qt. paint cans in front of the cabinet. You’ll be much more comfortable lying under the sink. Otherwise, the edge of the cabinet would be digging into your back
The first step in removing the old faucet is to disconnect the water supply lines. If there are no shutoff valves and the water pipes are hooked up directly to the faucet supply lines, or if you’re replacing defective valves, turn off the main water supply valve to the house and cut off the pipes below the connections with a hacksaw or tube cutter.
Make sure new valves are closed before turning the water back on to the house. Once the water lines are disconnected, use the basin wrench to loosen the old faucet and remove it.
Sometimes, in spite of all your best efforts, it’s simply impossible to loosen the old faucet nuts. Try soaking the threads with penetrating oil and try again. If that doesn’t do it, it’s time to pull out all the stops and pull the sink so you can get at the nuts. It’s not that tough to do. Loosen the screws on the bottom of the sink rim for a clamp-down sink, or cut the caulk between a drop-in sink and countertop with a utility knife and lift out the sink. Then you’ll be able to go after those nuts with a locking pliers or a pipe wrench to free the old faucet.
If you’re replacing the kitchen sink along with a new faucet, install the faucet before setting the sink into the countertop.
Follow any manufacturer’s preassembly instructions and place the optional flange over the faucet opening. Finger-tighten the flange nuts underneath the sink and check the alignment of the flange, faucet and sink hole from above.
With most faucets, only three of the four holes are covered, so you’ll either need to get a blank insert or use the extra hole for a liquid soap or instant hot water dispenser. Plan to do the installation while you’re under the sink with everything torn apart.
Selecting a faucet
When you’re buying a faucet (as with most other things), you get what you pay for. Faucets that cost less than $100 may be made of chrome-plated plastic arts with seals and valves that wear. They’re okay for light-duty use but won’t stand up long in a frequently used kitchen sink. Faucets that cost more than $100 generally have solid brass bodies with durable plating and washerless controls that’ll give leak-free service for many, many years. Some even come with a lifetime warranty. Quality continues to improve up to about $200. Spend more than $200 and you’re mostly paying for style and finish. Stick with brand name projects so replacement parts will be easier to find—in the unlikely event you’ll ever need them.
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Adjustable wrench
- Pipe wrench
- Slip joint pliers
- Tube cutter
- Wrench set