How To Install A Faucet

Part 2: The hardest part... removing the old faucet!

Now that you have looked under your sink, you can see how cramped and difficult it is to work there.  (Is that why plumbers make such good money?)  Amazing how those big guys get under those little cabinets!

Disassembly of the old faucet is usually pretty straightforward.  Most removal problems are associated with shutoffs that don't shutoff and mounting hardware that is hopelessly corroded.  We will deal with these problems further along.

A)  Be prepared... have a bucket and towels handy 'cause you never know! And, of course, face protections

Stuff happens, so always lay an absorbent towel on the floor of the cabinet!  If the pipes from the shutoff come up through the floor, wrap towels or washcloths around the base to keep water from leaking under the cabinet (or down to the room below).

Working under the sink means that anything that falls down (such as dust, pieces of brass, bolts, nuts and even tools) might hit your face or get into you nostrils or hair.  Be careful.  At the minimum, wear eye protection.  Or better yet, a full-face shield.

B)  It is preferable to turn the water off at the shutoffs under the sink... if they work!

Sure, you could turn the water off at the main water shutoff instead of wrestling with those old, tight sink shutoffs, but there is a potential problem... DRAINBACK!!

"Drainback" occurs when someone opens another faucet or flushes a toilet that is physically higher than the shutoffs you are working on.  Once the vacuum within the pipes is broken, water will quickly "drain down" through the open shutoffs giving you a good spraying, emptying the pipes and flooding the kitchen!

Even if you have everyone locked in a closet, including your potty-trained cat, there will still be some leakage from an open shutoff.  If it is slight and you are quick, you might be able to just put a small bucket under the shutoff and continue.

Back to the shutoffs...

Most shutoffs under sinks are only used when the faucet is replaced.  Shutoffs are like your body... lack of use does not mean longer life!  The formation of "scale"... a hard plaque on the metal parts from minerals in the water... causes shutoffs to become tight and sometimes inoperable.

A little persuasion using ViseGrips or pliers for leverage on the handles can turn most balky shutoffs. (Look at the graphic for the best way to use ViseGrips on a typical oblong shutoff handle.)

Even with the best of intentions, sometimes the result is a bent and useless handle!  Before twisting it into a pretzel...

1) Turn the shutoff in the counter-clockwise (on) direction first.  Even a small turn in this direction may free up the shutoff.  Amazingly, I have often seen shutoffs only partially turned on.  In this case turning the shutoff back and forth a few times will loosen it up marvelously!

2) Slightly loosen the packing nut... the nut around the base of the stem where it enters the shutoff body.  A plumber will sometimes tighten... or overtighten... the packing nut as a quick way to stop a slight drip around the stem.  Overtightening can make the shutoff impossible to turn!  You should have the main water turned off for this maneuver.  The shutoff may begin to drip or even spray water if you loosen the packing nut too much!! (If it's Saturday night, just get the soap!)

You will need two wrenches... one on the packing nut and one on the faucet body so that you don't put too much pressure on the pipes.

IMPORTANT:  Be sure to retighten the packing nut before turning the main water back on!

Tighten the packing nut about a quarter of a turn tighter than necessary to stop dripping around the stem.

You can also repair or replace the shutoff...

Repair consists of disassembling the shutoff, lubricating all parts, replacing the packing and the washer, and then reassembling it.  If you take the stem assembly to a plumbing store, you might be able to get a spanking-new shutoff and swap the stem, which will have new packing and a washer!

Worst case, you may have to remove the old shutoffs and replace them.

However, if there is a slight drip from the faucet when the shutoffs are fully closed and you don't feel like repairing it right now, turn off the main water.  That should stop the drip enough for you to continue your installation.

C) Remove the old sink sprayer the easy way!

Don't bother to unscrew any connections on your old sprayer... it's going in the trash anyway!  Instead, get a pair of shears or a sharp utility knife and cut the hose under the sink at its lowest point.  If the faucet is shut off, you will only get a few drips from the hose.  Then, holding each end over a nice red bucket (color optional), open the faucet (hot and cold) and activate the old sprayer.  All the water within the hose will drain down.  Cool.

D)  Disconnect the faucet from the plumbing

I always recommend replacing the faucet inlet tubes with a new faucet, even if they appear to be the right length and in good shape.  Maybe I'm superstitious...

Since it can be difficult to remove an all-copper supply, just cut it.  Make sure the faucet is turned off (and, of course, the water is off!).  Use a small pipe cutter to cut the supply tubes close to the shutoffs.  You will get a few drips but nothing serious.  Then bend the now-cut supply tube over a pan or bucket and open the faucet to break the vacuum.  The water in the faucet will drain into the bucket.  Do the same for the other supply tube.  A small amount of water will remain in the "stub", which will drain out when the compression nut is removed.

E)  Unbolt the faucet from the sink... keep your fingers crossed!

Here is the reason I titled this section "The hardest part...".  Many modern sinks use rust-proof plastic fasteners, stainless steel or quality zinc-plated fasteners which may never corrode.  However, your old faucet's fasteners might have corrosion that prevents easy removal.  Also, if you had a slow, long-term leak either at one of the connections or water leakage around the faucet mounting gasket, the connections could be covered with rock-hard mineral deposits that may defy all attempts at removal with a wrench.

Desperate times require desperate measures.  Get that protective eyewear on, get out your electric drill and carefully drill a few holes into the obstinate nut. Make sure you are using a sharp drill bit so you will need less pressure (which equals greater control).  Start with a fairly small pilot  hole... 1/8" is okay... and then use a large-enough bit to break the nut.  You will probably have to drill into the nut in a few locations to free it.  Prying the nut into pieces with a screwdriver might also be necessary.

Once the mounting nut(s) are history, pull off any additional washers or other fasteners and lift the faucet from the sink.  You might have to straighten the supply tubes (if applicable) to get them out through the hole.  Or you could just cut them off before you pull the faucet out... your call!

Continue to Part 3:   Clean up the sink... yuck!

Back to Part 1:  Looking at your old faucet... surprise!

Part 4: Hallelujah... Time to install the new faucet!