Kitchen faucets are a key component to a functional cooking space, and sometimes they need to be replaced. Sometimes they develop a leak, or have gone out of style, or you have decided that you need new features. Regardless of why, if you are about to swap in a new kitchen faucet, you are in the right place.
In this article, we are going to walk you through choosing the right replacement, preparing for the swap, and finally, give you an overview of the process. We’ll make sure that your DIY project doesn’t become a water-logged disaster.
Getting the Correct Replacement
The first step in replacing a faucet is making sure your replacement will fit. The second step is to make sure it will do everything you want it to do, so take a look at this section to make sure you’re getting what you need.
Major Considerations When Buying a Replacement
There are a handful of different ways to mount a faucet, and it can sometimes be confusing because sinks are often manufactured to fit multiple faucet styles.
You may need to use a flashlight and look up at the bottom of the sink to find out for sure or begin the removal process. The downside to removing the faucet first is that you may have to turn off the water to your house, so that can leave your household without water for as long as it takes to go get a new faucet.
Most faucets simply mount to the sink itself. There will be holes drilled into the sink flange, and the faucet mounting hardware along with the supply lines slip through those holes.
However, there are other styles of kitchen faucet. Wall-mounted fixtures attach directly to the water pipes coming out of your wall and are held in place by wall bolts or the supply pipes themselves.
When you buy a new faucet, you have to make sure it’s the correct style because there’s no way to force a wall-mounted faucet to mount to a sink.
If your faucet is sink mounted, then your sink will have between one and six holes along the back. Kitchen faucets usually take up either one hole or three holes. The other holes in the sink are for things like soap dispensers, air gaps, and shower wands, so you may want to consider moving to a different style of faucet if you want to, say, add a soap dispenser.
Usually, the mounting configurations will be printed as a graphic on the box of any new faucet. Sometimes, a faucet will have multiple configurations. Many single-hole faucets will come with an escutcheon that can cover up two unused holes on either side, for instance.
The biggest thing to keep in mind is that there are ways to cover existing holes. You can add accessories to them, or you can simply add a steel plate to cover them up. You probably do not have the capacity to drill new holes into the sink, so when in doubt, get a single-hole mountable faucet.
Faucets come in a variety of styles. Some are very tall and use a single mixing valve, and some are very short and use two separate valves for hot and cold, and some are more like pieces of art than functional kitchen appliances.
What you need to keep in mind is where the location of the controls will be in relation to the rest of your kitchen. Some sinks are in a corner where a single mixing valve would be awkward to access, and sometimes you’ll have to worry about height. Low cabinets or drying racks can limit your faucet options.
Finally, you’ll simply need to decide what features are important to you. Once you’ve identified which faucets will fit the space, mount to the correct location, and using the correct hardware, there’s still a handful of other considerations like:
- The style
- The finish
- Whether or not you want a pull-out
- Whether you want levers or knobs
There are no wrong answers to these considerations, so just take a moment to stand in your kitchen and imagine the different styles. The faucet is something you will probably interact with daily, so make sure to take a little time to think about what you really want before rushing into a decision.
Preparing for the Swap
First things first, though, there are a handful of tools and supplies you will need at your disposal. Some are necessary, and some are simply there to make your life easier.
You may need additional tools, depending on your circumstances. It’s best to treat the following list as a minimum, especially if you have an older or more unique house. Older pipe fittings and fixtures have a lot more variation than modern fixtures, so it’s hard to know exactly what you will need until you dive into it.
However, these are the tools you’ll most likely need:
- Two adjustable wrenches
- Or open wrenches that fit the supply lines (Usually ½”, ⅝”, or ¾”)
- Large pliers
- Screwdriver Set
- Scraper (painter’s tools work great)
Tools That Make It Easier
If you want to make your life easier, there are a handful of specialized or more expensive tools that you can add to the list. They aren’t strictly necessary, but they might be the difference between an afternoon of bruised foreheads and an hour of easy money.
A Faucet Tool
There are a variety of tools specifically designed for working on plumbing fixtures. One of the most useful and versatile is the faucet tool, which is a long wrench that has room to slip over a supply line. Usually, they have interchangeable parts so that they fit a lot of different styles of valve and retainer nut.
There are two benefits to buying a faucet tool. First, you know you are getting the correct size wrench for the job. That can save some time by itself. Second, they are long and easy to maneuver under a sink, which is worth the price alone.
A Reciprocating Saw or Oscillating Multitool
A “sawzall” or other methods of quickly cutting pipe can be a lifesaver if you are working on old, corroded fixtures. Sometimes it’s easier to just cut the lines and bolts than to try and work with old metal that has become brittle with time.
If you are working on the finished side of the sink, be sure to protect the sink itself from the blade. A thick layer of painter’s tape can be your best friend if you are worried about scratches.
A Friend to Help
You can replace a faucet by yourself. However, having a friend that can hand you tools while you are wadded up under a cabinet can make the experience a lot nicer. They can also come in handy for holding the faucet in place as you tighten it down.
Turning Off the Water
The first step in removing an old faucet is turning off the water. This can be one of the easiest steps, or it can be a bit of an involved process.
Modern houses use valves called “angle stops” that are attached to the copper or plastic pipes running throughout your house. Once you turn the stops off, it will stop the flow of water to the faucet and allow you to replace the fixture.
If you have working stops, then all you have to do is turn them off, and you can begin. Keep rags and a bucket handy just because there will still be water in the supply lines.
Replacing an Angle Stop
There are a few reasons you’d have to replace an angle stop. Sometimes they are seized, making it impossible to turn the water off. Sometimes they are so old that no modern supply line can be attached.
Replacing an angle stop is more involved than replacing a faucet, and it will require turning off the water to your house. This DIY guide gives a good overview.
A faucet will be attached directly to the pipe without a stop or valve that can be shut off in some rare cases. In these cases, you will have to shut the water off to your entire house. It’s a good idea to install angle stops to make future work easier.
Inspecting the Sink
While you are underneath the sink replacing the faucet, it’s a good idea to inspect everything. Problems can go on for a long time without being noticed just because most people don’t look underneath the sink very often.
Look for water damage or dripping, and make sure that there isn’t any excessive corrosion. If you are feeling brave, it’s also a good chance to remove the trap on the sink and clean it out. This wikiHow article has a good visual guide; just try not to breathe too deeply. The smell will probably be awful.
Replacing the Faucet
There are two main steps to this task. The first is to remove the old faucet, and the second is to install the new one. Since there are a ton of different styles of faucet, your individual experience will be different, but we will try to give you the right steps to make sure you start in the right direction.
Removing the Old Faucet
These are the standard steps to remove an old faucet.
- Turn off the water.
- Unscrew the supply lines from the angle stops and drain them.
- Disconnect the pull-out if you have one.
- Locate the nuts that hold the faucet in place and see if they are accessible.
- If the supply lines are not attached to the faucet, remove them completely.
- Take the nuts off that hold the faucet down. Sometimes it’s a couple small wing nuts; sometimes, it’s one large nut. If they are corroded, soak them in anti-rust or just cut them off.
- Lift the faucet out. You may have to pry on it gently with a scraper.
- Clean the area. You may need to scrape the old gasket or sealant off the sink. It’s important that the surface be clean before you install the new faucet.
Cutting the Supply Lines
It will sometimes be necessary to just cut the old supply lines. Some fixtures use hard copper lines instead of flexible lines. These lines can be incredibly frustrating to work with, since they will twist and bend instead of coming loose.
You shouldn’t feel bad about cutting them to make your life easy. The replacement will either come with new copper lines, or you will be able to choose your own supply lines to use.
Installing the New Faucet
Installing a new faucet is easier than removing the old one. Here are the steps:
- If necessary, create a gasket out of plumber’s putty. Most new faucets come with a rubber or silicone gasket, making this step unnecessary. You can check the instructions that come with the faucet to find out.
- Feed the hoses or supply hookups through the hole in the sink.
- Center the faucet on the sink, and either use a friend to hold it in place or use tape to keep it in place.
- Thread the retainer nuts onto the mounts. There will be washers that come with the faucet; check the manual to find out how and where to install them.
- Attach the supply lines to the sink if they are not already attached.
- Start the supply lines onto the angle stops. Usually, hot water is on the left, and cold water is on the right. Don’t tighten them down yet.
- Finish tightening down the sink mounts.
- Check the line routing and make sure everything is free to move a bit.
- Tighten down the supply lines.
- Slowly turn the angle stops on one at a time. If you hear water or see any sign of a leak, quickly turn the angle stop off. Make sure everything is tight before turning them on again.
Enjoy a Glass of Job Well Done
A new faucet can complete the look of your kitchen, and replacing a leaking faucet can help you sleep at night. We hope this guide can get you going in the right direction if you are trying to tackle this project.