It’s time to replace your old bath faucet. Maybe you’re tired of the constant cycle of leaks and repairs. Maybe you’d like to update the style or appearance of your faucet. Or maybe you want a new water-saving model instead of the fire-hydrant-force fixture you’ve been using for years.
You could call a plumber, but that will cost money. I’m a professional contractor, and the plumber I use when remodeling baths and kitchens charges $300 for a faucet replacement. How about doing the job yourself?
You may be thinking, “Plumbing? Oh, I don’t touch plumbing.” Many clients I work with are DIYers who will attempt difficult projects on their own to save remodeling costs, but they recoil from tackling plumbing tasks. Sure, some plumbing projects are complex and should be referred to a professional. But installing a faucet isn’t that hard. Follow the steps below and you’ll find that you can easily replace a faucet for a fraction of what you’d pay a plumber.
Step 1: Determine the type and size of faucet you’ll need to fit into the existing sink holes. Most bath sinks have 4- or 8-in. centers. This means that the holes for the hot and cold supply are either 4 in. or 8 in. apart, center to center. Determine your faucet size if you buy a one-piece unit. Many less-expensive bath faucets are one-piece units with a 4-in.-center spread.
Step 2: Turn off the water to the faucet (photo 1). This may sound obvious, but I’ve forgotten this step in the past — and gotten wet. Most bath faucets are connected to shut-off valves beneath the sink. If yours isn’t, hire a plumber to install shut-off valves before you proceed.
Step 3: Remove the supply lines from the shut-off valves (photo 2). Use two small wrenches. Most shut-off valve connections are 3/8-in. compression fittings.
Step 4: Remove the retaining nuts attaching the faucet to the sink (photo 3). Use a basin wrench or slip-joint pliers.
Step 5: Detach the existing drain pop-up linkage from the pivot rod (photo 4).
Step 6: Remove the faucet from the sink (photo 5). Lift the faucet straight up from the sink, pulling the supply tubes and drain pop-up linkage through the sink holes.
Step 7: Remove old plumber’s putty or other residue from the sink surface (photo 6). Use a small razor blade or putty knife.
Step 8: Check the new faucet for a gasket seal. Most new faucets come with a gasket that seals the faucet to the sink (photo 7). If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to seal the faucet to the sink with silicone or plumber’s putty (photo 8).
Step 9: Install the new faucet (photo 9). Thread the supply tubes through the existing sink holes, position the faucet and install nuts beneath the sink (photo 10). You may want a friend to help hold the faucet in place while attaching the retaining nuts beneath the sink. Attach retaining nuts to the faucet beneath the sink by hand. You may also tighten the nuts gently with slip-joint pliers or a basin wrench, but be careful not to over-tighten; otherwise the sink may crack.
Step 10: Attach the new drain pop-up linkage to the existing pivot rod (photo 11).
Step 11: Attach supply tubes to the new faucet (photo 12). If supply tubes did not come with the faucet, purchase them at a hardware store. Most bath faucets require a supply tube with a 1/2-in. fitting at the faucet end and a 3/8-in. compression fitting at the water-supply-valve end. Use flexible stainless steel supply hoses; they are virtually leak- and burst-proof. Before purchasing new supply tubes, measure the distance between the faucet and the shut-off valves to ensure that they are long enough.
Step 12: Attach supply tubes to the water-supply shut-off valves (photo 13). Using two small wrenches, attach the supply tubes. Make sure you attach the hot and cold to the correct supply valves. The standard configuration is left-hot, right-cold.
You’re almost finished! Turn on the water at the supply valves. Run the water for about 30 seconds to purge the air from the supply lines and faucet (photo 14). Check for leaks, especially at the faucet and water shut-off-valve connections. If you see water at the connections, give them another quarter- to half-turn; they should stop leaking.
Once the connections are dry, you’re done. Give yourself a pat on the back for saving $300 on the cost of a plumber!
HCOA Member Mike Connor is a professional contractor and owner of Trust Building in Minneapolis, Minnesota.