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How to Repair a Kitchen Faucet

You can fix almost any drippy single-lever kitchen faucet in about an hour. We'll show you how. The repair is a lot easier than you might think, even for a plumbing novice. So stop putting up with the annoying drip and let's fix that thing.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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    Just pay attention to how the pieces come out of the faucet so you can reinstall them in the same order.

How to Repair a Kitchen Faucet

You can fix almost any drippy single-lever kitchen faucet in about an hour. We'll show you how. The repair is a lot easier than you might think, even for a plumbing novice. So stop putting up with the annoying drip and let's fix that thing.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

DIY faucet repair

Doing your own faucet repair may seem daunting, but once you learn the basics, modern faucets are pretty easy to fix. In fact, the hardest step is usually finding the right replacement parts. In this article, we’ll tell you how to find replacement parts and show you how to stop spout drips on the three main types of single-lever faucets: rotary ball, cartridge and ceramic disc. We’re showing kitchen faucets, but you can fix most single-lever bath faucets using the same procedures. We'll also show you how to stop leaks around the base of the spout.

The tools you'll need vary a little depending on the faucet you’re repairing. You’ll probably need an Allen wrench to remove the handle. Buy a set of small Allen wrenches, and you’ll be prepared for any faucet. Most repairs also require screwdrivers and a large slip-joint pliers.

Follow These Basics For All Faucet Repairs

Before you start, examine the faucet closely to determine where the water is coming from. Leaks around the base of the spout require a different repair than a drip from the end of the spout.

Then turn off the water supply to the faucet. You'll probably find shutoff valves under the sink. If those valves don’t work or if you don’t have any, you'll have to close the main water valve to your entire home. After you turn off the water, open the faucet in the center position to relieve water pressure and make sure the water is shut off. Finally, cover the sink drain holes with strainer baskets or rags to avoid losing small parts down the drain.

Pay close attention to the order and orientation of parts as you remove them. A digital camera or video camera is handy for recording each step in case you forget. For easier reassembly, set the parts aside in the order they were removed. When all the parts are out, inspect the interior of the valve for bits of deteriorated gaskets or mineral deposits. Use a cloth or fine nylon abrasive pad to clean the surface. Loosen mineral deposits by soaking them in vinegar.

Slow water flow can be caused by plugged holes in the faucet body. Use a small screwdriver or penknife to clean them out. Before you replace worn parts and reassemble the faucet, hold a rag over the faucet and open the water shutoff valve slightly to flush out debris that may have been loosened during the cleaning and inspection.

After the faucet is reassembled, open the faucet to the middle position and gradually open the shutoff valves to turn on the water. Leave the faucet open until water flows freely and all the air is out of the pipes. If the water flow through the faucet is slow, the aerator (Figure A) may be plugged. Unscrew the aerator and clean it out.

Take the Old Parts to the Store to Find Replacements

You'll often find the brand name stamped on the faucet. And this information will help when it comes time to find repair parts. But in most cases, the safest bet is to take the worn parts to the store with you.

If you have a Delta or other rotary ball faucet (Figure A), you’re in luck because you’ll find repair kits in most hardware stores and home centers. Cartridges and repair kits for Moen “cartridge type” (Figure B) faucets are also readily available. But if you have another brand or a disc-type faucet, you may have to order parts, since there are too many variations for most stores to keep in stock. It helps to know the faucet's model name or number when searching for a replacement cartridge. Otherwise, take the cartridge with you to the store so you can match it to a photo in the parts catalog.

Plumbing supply specialists are also a good source of repair parts. If you’re having trouble finding parts, call the manufacturer of your faucet for help.

Rotary ball faucets

Water flow and temperature in a rotary ball faucet are controlled by a hollow ball that rotates in a socket (Figure A). Delta and Peerless are two of the major brands. Your faucet may have a brass or plastic ball. Both work well, although the long-lasting stainless steel ball comes with most repair kits. We recommend that you buy a repair kit that includes the ball, springs, seats and O-rings for the spout, as well as a small repair tool. With this kit, you'll be prepared for almost any repair.

If water is leaking out around the base of the handle, you may be able to fix the leak by removing the handle (Photo 1) and simply tightening the adjusting ring slightly (Figure A; a large version is available in the Addendum at the end of this article). Turn it clockwise with the spanner tool included in the repair kit. If the faucet drips from the end of the spout, replace the seats and springs (Photo 4).

Reassembly is straightforward. Drop the springs in the recesses and press the rubber seats over the top with your fingertip. Then align the groove in the ball with the pin in the socket and drop the ball in. Align the lug on the plastic cam with the notch in the valve body and set it over the ball. Thread on the cap with the adjusting ring and tighten it with the slip-joint pliers. Now you can turn on the water to check for leaks. If water leaks from around the ball stem, use the spanner tool to tighten the adjusting ring until the leak stops. Replace the handle and you're done.

Cartridge-style faucets

Many faucet brands use a cartridge of some type (Figure B, a large version is available in the Addendum at the end of this article). We show how to replace a Moen cartridge, but the process is similar for other brands. To stop drips at the spout or correct problems with hot and cold mixing, remove the cartridge and either replace the O-rings on the cartridge if they're worn or replace the entire cartridge. Take the cartridge to the home center or hardware store to find a replacement.

Photos 1 – 6 show how to remove the cartridge. Replacement cartridges for Moen faucets include a plastic spanner cap that allows you to twist and loosen the cartridge to make it easier to pull out (Photo 5). Don't be surprised if the cartridge seems stuck. It may take considerable force to pull it out. Really stubborn cartridges may require the use of a special cartridge-pulling tool.

Reassemble the faucet in the reverse order. Pull the stem up before inserting the cartridge. You may have to twist the cartridge slightly to line it up for the brass retainer clip. Use the plastic spanner cap or the tips of needle-nose pliers to rotate the cartridge. Slide the brass clip into the slots in the valve body to hold the cartridge in place.

Look for the small notch on top of the stem and rotate the stem until the notch faces you (Photo 4). Install the remaining parts and reattach the handle. The directions that come with the stem will help orient you here. Then test the faucet. If the hot and cold water are reversed, simply remove the handle, dome assembly and handle adapter and rotate the stem 180 degrees.

Ceramic disc faucets

Ceramic disc valves are simply another type of cartridge. Discs inside the cartridge control the water flow. This type of valve is sturdy and reliable and rarely needs fixing. In fact, many manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee on the cartridge. If yours is damaged, check with the manufacturer to see if it's covered by a warranty.

Leaks can result from faulty rubber seals or a cracked disc inside the cartridge. Since it's difficult to spot a cracked disc, and disc cartridge replacements are very expensive, it's best to start by replacing the seals and reassembling the faucet. Then if the faucet still leaks, remove the disc cartridge and take it to the store to order a replacement.

Early versions of ceramic disc faucets may be more fragile and can crack if subjected to a blast of pressurized air. That’s why it's important to leave the faucet open as you turn the water back on. This allows air trapped in the lines to escape. When the water runs smoothly, it's safe to turn the faucet off. Manufacturers have improved the strength of ceramic discs on newer faucets to withstand air blasts, as well as abrasive debris that may get dislodged from the inside of pipes.

To see how a ceramic disc is assembled, see Figure C (a large version is available in the Addendum at the end of this article).

Spout leaks

Leaks around the base of the spout are caused by worn O-rings located under the spout. All that's usually required to access these O-rings for replacement is to wiggle and pull up on the spout to remove it (Photo 1).

Depending on the faucet, you'll also have to remove the handle and other parts to access the spout. Be persistent. The spout may be a little stubborn. Spout O-ring kits are available for many faucets, or you can take the old O-rings to the hardware store or plumbing supply store and match them up with new ones. Remember to pick up a small toothpaste-type tube of plumber's grease while you're there.

In Photo 1, you can see the diverter valve, which controls water to the sprayer. Their appearance varies considerably among brands, but you'll usually find them under the spout. If your sprayer isn't working properly, first clean it in vinegar or simply replace it. If this doesn't work, the diverter valve may be clogged. If it doesn't simply pull out, contact the manufacturer or ask a knowledgeable salesperson for help with cleaning it.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Allen wrench
    • Pliers
    • Slip joint pliers

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • O-ring seals
    • Faucet repair kit

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 13 of 13 comments
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Hmm

July 27, 2:31 AM [GMT -5]

Pretty good article. Unfortunately, it didn't go far enough.

In our situation, the base of the spout (single handle faucet) is terribly loose. There are no leaks of any sort. I've tried tightening the screws underneath the counter and they're tight.

I am not sure what is going on. There is no info on the internet about this specific issue either which makes it terribly frustrating.

February 23, 8:48 PM [GMT -5]

Thank you! I fixed a spout leak on a Moen 1225 cartridge-style faucet following these great instructions. I ended up having to take a trip to buy a hex screwdriver before I could even get inside to see what type of replacement cartridge but aside from that it went smoothly.

January 07, 12:53 PM [GMT -5]

How about two handle kitchen sink faucet repair. Drips from the faucet.

November 08, 4:47 PM [GMT -5]

Bought the parts for $4.32 (that included parts for a future repair if needed). Spent less than 20 minutes total! Read the entire article once through. Looked at all the pics one time before getting parts and reviewed pics as I went through the repair. Per "frustrated" (May 24) the "cap" didn't magically slide out but it did come out rather easy with the help of a flat head screw driver! Roto-Rooter had come to repair the same drip a few months ago and swore to me that it could only be warrantied for 10 days because delta products "don't last like they used to". So when the drip came back in just a few weeks we just lived with it. But after checking out your article and talking to the local contractor plumbing supply company I feel confident in my repair and just really want to thank you for an excellent DIY article!

March 09, 10:36 AM [GMT -5]

As grodney stated, most faucet fixture companies offer lifetime warrantees on their products. Check your paperwork, call the 800 number and they will help you diagnose what parts you need and mail them to you under their warrantee!
Double savings ... DIY and you don't need to buy repair parts! Nicely done article!

March 03, 1:22 AM [GMT -5]

These instructions are great! The photos are especially helpful.

I replaced my faucet's cartridge, but now the water comes out slowly. Did I do something wrong?

January 15, 3:38 PM [GMT -5]

Great instructions, very detailed. A few notes:

1. Pay close attention to the placement of the ball, specifically the "key" on the side of the ball (the verticle line). Ensure this is lined up against the stem inside of the assembly.

2. The Plastic Cam (white thing) has a small stem on one side, ensure this goes into the groove on the assembly.

3. The ring adjuster on the Cap Assembly is used to tighten/loosen how the faucet handle levers. Thus if you install it and the handle is extremely tight, simply loosen the adjuster on the Cap Assembly.

January 10, 8:07 AM [GMT -5]

Never done a bit of plumbing in my life and I EASILY fixed my leaky faucet in just a few minutes thanks to this article. Love the step by step pics. Helped a lot. Thanks for the great advice and saving me money. I'll be back for future repair needs :-)

December 09, 4:28 PM [GMT -5]

My 5 year old Moen lav faucet was dripping. Using these instructions I very easily stripped the faucet down to a point where I felt the cartridge should slip out. The instructions said to be prepared to pull hard or user a "puller". I pulled what I thought was "hard", but couldn't get it out. I took the whole faucet off and went to the supply house. I asked the sales guy if he had or sold "pullers". He said, "don't need one". He then grasped the brass end of the cartridge with some channel locks and jerked it out. A replacement was $24 with tax. He then told me that the part should be under a lifetime waranty and that I could probably get a new one from Moen by just calling them and asking. In the end, the hot and cold were reversed, but he explained that I could just pull out the cartridge again and insert with a180 degrees turn. I think I will just live with it or reverse the supply lines. He also told me that I could buy a puller for $40 or rent for $8 "next time". This has been my most pleasant plumbing repair experience to date. I can hardly wait for the chance to demonstrate this on a frined's faucet in front of him and his wife. :-)

August 08, 4:25 PM [GMT -5]

The instructions were perfect. I had to replace the cartridge on a MOEN faucet and this site explained everything perfectly. Great job and thanks!

May 24, 4:37 PM [GMT -5]

ball faucet leaking badly around base

still trying. The diagram gave me the illusion I could do the job. got to remove cap, and after buying a larger wrench, revealed a round plastic thingy which I have to remove to remove the ball. all you say is " remove the cap. then remove the ball." there is SOMETHING IN THE WAY which is in there very tight. no apparent screwlike thing to manipulate.

I will keep trying for a few more days, and if the wasted time gets too much will spring for a plumber for $100+t & m.

So far I have not much to thank you for. As the rolling stones put it, "useless information."

April 30, 3:25 AM [GMT -5]

I will give it rating 5 !!

April 30, 3:24 AM [GMT -5]

Nice project !!

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