Faucet Fixing 101 for the Determined DIY-er

Faucet Fixing 101 for the Determined DIY-erWe’ve all seen it on television before: a lovable and enthusiastic person gets underneath a sink with a wrench, determined to “fix the faucet.” He or she makes the situation worse, of course, and the scene ends with water spraying all over the place and general chaos in the house.

Perhaps that explains why even the most determined DIY-ers balk when it comes to fixing or replacing a faucet. The truth is that with just a little planning, fixing or replacing a faucet can be easy.

Here are a few tips on how to fix a leaky faucet and how to replace a faucet entirely.

  • Figure out which kind of faucet you have. If your faucet has two handles, one for hot water and the other for cold, then you most likely have a Compression faucet. Compression faucets work on the same premise as opening and closing the top of a bottle – a cap is screwed down until no water runs out.

If you only have one handle that you manipulate for hot and cold water, then you have a ball, ceramic disc, or cartridge faucet. These are all lumped into the “washerless faucet” category. It is very important that you know what kind of faucet you have, as the steps to replacing the parts that are causing the leak are different. For example, to fix a leaky ball faucet, you’ll need to buy a replacement kit. Yes, that means spending money, but it will still be much cheaper than hiring a plumber.

  • Get the right tools. Fixing a leaky faucet doesn’t require buying drills or expensive equipment from your hardware store, but not having what you need before you begin can mess up your timeline and cause a lot of problems. You can buy a faucet repair kit, which includes the washers and O-rings that you’ll need to replace. Plumber’s grease is essential to protect the O-rings, and the tools you’ll need are straightforward and common. Make sure you have a flat-head and Phillips screwdriver, along with pliers, rags, and a utility knife.
  • Turn off the water supply, open the faucet, and plug the drain. Go underneath the faucet and turn off the water at the base, then open the faucet, clearing out the pressure in the pipes. After the water has drained out, plug the drain with a rag to prevent dropping anything into the drain while you’re working on the faucet.
  • Replace washers and O-rings. If your faucet is leaking, chances are it’s because a washer, rubber seal, or O-ring has worn out or broken. A faucet repair kit should have what you need to replace the washers, seals and O-rings, just make sure that you get the right repair kit. Your faucet is leaking because the washers or seals are allowing water to get through, so an ill-fitting washer or seal won’t solve the problem.

Project Guides are available on HomeDepot.com showing how to repair the different kinds of faucets:

Compression Faucets:
http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/catalog/servlet/ContentView?pn=project_guide_repairing_compression_faucets_HT_PG_PL&storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053.

Ball Type Faucets:
http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/catalog/servlet/ContentView?pn=project_guide_repairing_ball_type_faucets_HT_PG_PL&storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053.

Ceramic Disk Faucets:
http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/catalog/servlet/ContentView?pn=project_guide_repairing_ceramic_disk_faucets_HT_PG_PL&storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053.

Cartridge Faucets:
http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/catalog/servlet/ContentView?pn=project_guide_repairing_cartridge_sink_faucets_HT_PG_PL&storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053.

Replacing your old faucet with a brand new one sounds daunting, but it is actually pretty easy. It is all about planning and getting what you need in advance. WikiHow is great on the nitty-gritty of replacing your faucet, so here are a few pointers when you’re planning on putting in a new faucet, and things you can do help keep your faucet working for a long time.

  • Get the right faucet that fits your sink. It makes no sense to buy a replacement faucet that doesn’t fit into your sink. Faucets come in single hole, and 3″, 4″ and 8″ spread sizes. Also, you want to get a faucet that will last a long time. You don’t have to buy the most expensive faucet on the market, but do your research and select one with longevity.
  • Read the instructions that come with the new faucet. Specifics on installation do vary by faucet design.
  • Inspect the supply lines and tubing. You don’t have to replace the tubing when you replace the faucet, but make sure the tubes aren’t damaged after you take off the old faucet and put on the new one. It doesn’t make any sense to put in a new faucet and connect it to old and faulty tubing. For a few dollars, new supply lines can make your faucet install much easier.
  • Clean your sink before you put in the new faucet. Hard water deposits around where your old faucet was mounted can be quite difficult to remove. Consider vinegar or some kind of mild acid cleaner to get it all off.

Planning and patience are keys to successfully fixing or replacing your faucet.

Have you fixed your faucet or replaced one on your own? What was the most difficult part?

Chris Long, a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago area, is a regular contributor on plumbing and faucet topics for Home Depot’s website. Chris provides DIY tips to homeowners for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements.

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