How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

If you’re tired of hearing a constant “drip, drip, drip” from your kitchen faucet, or if you get sprayed by water when you turn it on, don’t immediately call a plumber. You can repair a leaky faucet yourself or swap it out for a new one on any weekend day. Keep reading to learn how.

Repair Faucet

Step 1. Assess the Leak

First, determine whether the leak is coming from the tap or the handle. If it is leaking from the faucet tap, you’ll need to replace the washer. If it is leaking from the handle, you’ll need to replace the faucet stem or O-ring.

Step 2: Cut Off Water

Before you start any repairs, cut off the water supply to the faucet. Open the cabinets under the kitchen sink and look for the water shutoff valves there. Turn the valve handles for both hot and cold clockwise to shut off the water. Turn the faucet on to let any remaining water drain out.

Helpful Tips

Plug your sink to keep any screws, washers or other parts from falling down the drain.

Keep a towel on hand to soak up water that may be released from the pipes once you remove the faucet and to protect the sink from scratches or chips when you’re working.

Step 3: Repair the Kitchen Faucet

How you disassemble it depends on what kind of faucet you have in your kitchen. Remove the decorative top (or tops, if you have a two-handle faucet) from the faucet handle. Next unscrew the exposed screw, using a screwdriver, and remove the handle. To remove the stem assembly, turn the locknut counterclockwise with a wrench and lift the stem assembly out. If it sticks, try turning it counterclockwise to loosen the stem. At the bottom of the stem assembly is another screw. Remove it and take off the washer underneath. Take the washer to your local True Value hardware store and purchase an exact match to replace it. If the screw looks worn, replace it with an exact match as well. Clean any corrosion off the stem before replacing it. Replace the washer and screw and reinstall the stem. Put the locknut back on and attach the faucet handle. Replace the decorative cap and turn on the water at the shutoff valve. Turn the faucets on, then off and look or listen for any drips.

Replace Faucet

In some cases, the existing faucet may need to be replaced if it is not repairable. When selecting a new faucet, be sure it will work with your existing faucet drillings. Most likely, the drillings for your current faucet are either center set, widespread or single-hole. If your faucet currently has a spout and two handles for hot and cold-water together on a shared base, you have a center-set faucet (note that there will be three holes underneath the faucet). Widespread faucets will have a spout and separate hot and cold-water valves, each with their own base. Single-hole faucets have a single spout and handle in one base.

Step 1: Remove Existing Kitchen Faucet

Before you begin, shut off water to the fixture by turning the water valves clockwise for both hot and cold water located under the sink. Turn on the faucet to drain any remaining water in the lines. Use an adjustable wrench to disconnect the water supply lines. Now spray the faucet tailpiece, mounting nuts and coupling nuts with WD-40® spray lubricant to loosen them if they are hard to turn. Detach the coupling nuts first with a basin wrench or channel-type pliers. Next, unscrew the tailpiece mounting nuts and remove the faucet base from the sink. Clean the now exposed surface underneath with mild detergent, a rag, brush or sponge, depending on how dirty it is. If stubborn plumber’s putty remains, scrape it away with a putty knife or gently with a razor blade.

Helpful Tip

Place a small bucket or pot in the under-sink cabinet to catch any water that might spill while you’re disconnecting water lines

Step 2: Insert New Faucet

Insert the new faucet into the empty opening where the old faucet sat. Caulk the base of the faucet with either silicone caulk or plumber’s putty, applying a bead about 1/4″ thick. Move the faucet into position, being sure that the base is parallel to the back of the sink. Now press the faucet down firmly so that it’s tightly sealed to the sink. Scrape away any excess caulk from the surface of the faucet. Let the putty set.

Step 3: Make Connections

Use your basin wrench or channel-type pliers to connect the metal friction washers to the tailpiece underneath the sink. Then attach the mounting nuts. Attach the supply tubes to the tailpiece, and then use your basin wrench or channel-type pliers to tighten the coupling nuts.

Step 4: Reconnect Water Supply

Now that the supply tubing is attached to the sink, connect it to the water source at the shutoff valves using compression fittings. Tighten the mounting nuts, first by hand and then with an adjustable wrench, turning them 1/4 of a turn to make sure they’re not too tight.

Helpful Tip

When you’re tightening the supply tubing to the valve, hold the valve with another wrench to keep it from turning.

If your new faucet has pre-attached tubing, it is not necessary to connect tubing to the faucet. Connect the pre-attached supply tubes to the shutoff valves with a basin wrench or channel-type pliers. The tubing with a red label connects to the hot water source and the tubing with a blue label connects to the cold-water source.

Step 5: Attach a Kitchen Sink Sprayer (Optional)

If you’re replacing a kitchen faucet and an old sprayer, follow these guidelines. Apply a 1/4″ thick bead of either silicone caulk or plumber’s putty to the bottom edge of the sprayer’s base. Insert the end of the sprayer hose into the sink opening and press the sprayer firmly into place. Scrape away any excess sealant and let the base and sealant set for a few minutes. Place a washer over the tailpiece, then screw in and tighten the mounting with a basin wrench or channel-type pliers. Scrape away any extra putty from the base of the sprayer. Connect the hose to the hose nipple found on the bottom of the faucet. Use your basin wrench or channel-type pliers to tighten the screw a 1/4 of a turn (remember, not too tight).

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.