Fix It, Don’t Ditch It!

Here’s something many people don’t realize—kitchen and bathroom faucets are a repairable item. While you certainly want to replace a faucet or fixture that is corroded or has become impractical, a leaking, dripping, or otherwise malfunctioning faucet usually can be repaired. Here’s the tricky part—you will need some patience and a fair amount of attention to detail. The reward is saving a few dollars and having the pride of fixing something few people realize is fixable. Oh, and you will also keep some metal out of the scrap heap or landfill.

Cool Springs Press’ HomeSkills Plumbing has the skinny on how to disassemble various types of bathroom and kitchen faucets and how to repair and reassemble them.

Slow Flow

The most common complaint about bathroom faucets is a gradual reduction in water flow over time. The most likely reason for this is that sediment has clogged the aerator. The aerator is a flow restriction device that screws onto or into the end of a faucet. Simply unscrew the tip of the faucet and clean the aerator screen by flushing water through it in the opposite direction. You will probably see numerous small grains of sediment in the aerator. Over time these build up and impede the flow. If flushing doesn’t help, you may need to buy a replacement aerator. The best method for matching is simply to take off the aerator assembly and take it with you to the store.

Remember, it’s righty-tighty, lefty-loosey—but the aerator is upside down, so it appears that you are turning it clockwise to loosen. If you can’t loosen it by hand, use a pliers, but take care not to crush or scratch the casing.

faucet aerator

HomeSkills Plumbing

Identifying Your Faucet and the Parts You Need

If you don’t know the make and model of your faucet, the hardest part of fixing a leak may be identifying it and finding the right parts. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that any similar-looking parts will do the job; you’ve got to get exact replacements.

There are so many faucet types that even experts have trouble classifying them into neat categories. Two-handle faucets are either compression (stem) or washerless two-handle. Single-handle faucets are classified as mixing cartridge; ball; disc; or disc/cartridge. A single-handle faucet with a rounded, domeshaped cap is often a ball type. If a single-handle faucet has a flat top, it is likely a cartridge or a ceramic disc type.

faucet repair kit

HomeSkills Plumbing

Most faucets have repair kits, which include all the parts you need, and sometimes a small tool as well. Even if some of the parts in your faucet look fine, it’s a good idea to install the parts provided by the kit, to ensure against future wear.

An older two-handle faucet is likely of the compression type; newer two-handle models use washerless cartridges. Shut off the water, and test to verify that the water is off. Dismantle the faucet carefully. Look for a brand name: it may be clearly visible on the baseplate, or may be printed on an inner part, or it may not be printed anywhere. Put all the parts into a reliable plastic bag and take them to your home center or plumbing supply store. A knowledgeable salesperson can help you identify the parts you need.

If you cannot find what you are looking for at a local store, check online faucet sites or the manufacturers’ sites; they often have step‑by‑step instructions for identifying what you need. Note that manufacturers’ terminology may not match the terms we use here. For example, the word “cartridge” may refer to a ceramic‑disc unit.