Pick up key parts at the hardware store before you start
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Photo 1: Remove the drain lines from the faucet
Disconnect the drain lines and P-traps if they block your access to the faucet and water supply pipes. (Place a bucket or coffee can under the P-trap to dump residual water after you pull it free.)
Chances are, you’ll need to make more than one trip to the hardware store for parts, but to give yourself a fighting shot at completing the job with one-stop shopping, consult this list.
- Shutoff valves: Before you shop for your new faucet (see “Selecting a Faucet” at the end of this article), take a look under the sink and make sure that there are shutoff valves feeding the faucet. If you don’t have shutoff valves, add them. If you have them, confirm that they’re in working order by turning on the hot and cold water at the faucet and shutting off the valves. If the faucet still drips, install new ones. Most likely you have 1/2-in. copper supply pipes. If so, add easy-to-install solderless “compression fitting” valves (Photos 9 and 10) to your shopping list. But if not, buy whichever valve type is compatible with your pipes.
- Supply tubes: Next, measure the existing supply tubes and buy new stainless steel–sleeved supply tubes (Photo 9). They’re designed to give rupture-free service for years and can be routed around obstacles without kinking.
- Basin wrench: Also buy a basin wrench ($15; Photo 4). This weird little wrench is made specifically for removing and installing those hard-to-reach fasteners that clamp older faucet assemblies to the sink. (Newer faucets have plastic Wing-Nuts that can usually be loosened and tightened by hand.) A basin wrench’s spring-loaded jaws pivot so you can either loosen or tighten nuts in tight spaces.
If you need to remove drain lines to access the faucet, get a pipe wrench or slip-joint pliers (Photo 1). For cutting copper tubes, buy a conventional tubing cutter. But if your copper supply lines are within a few inches of the back of the cabinet, buy a special mini tube cutter (Photo 3). You’ll also need a set of open-end wrenches for disconnecting and hooking up the water lines.
Before disconnecting the drain lines, take a Polaroid snapshot or make a sketch of the layout to help you put it all back together.
Plan on replacing your faucet during store hours. Chances are better than 50/50 you'll need at least one more part.
Prop up a scrap of plywood on some 1-qt. paint cans in front of the cabinet. You’ll be much more comfortable lying under the sink. Otherwise, the edge of the cabinet would be digging into your back
Gain access and remove the old faucet
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Photo 2: Disconnect the garbage disposer
Unplug the garbage disposer, or shut off the circuit breaker in the main service panel if the disposer is directly wired. Disconnect the dishwasher discharge line and place a 1-gal. paint can under the garbage disposer with some rags on top to cushion the disposer when it drops free. Release the disposer by tapping the retaining ring with a hammer in a counterclockwise direction.
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Close-up of Photo 2
Tap the retaining ring to loosen it.
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Photo 3: Cut the water supply lines, if you're replacing the valves
Shut off the water below the sink if you have valves, or shut off the main water supply valve if your old faucet is plumbed directly without valves. Open the kitchen faucet and another lower faucet to bleed off any pressure and to drain the water. If you’re installing or replacing valves, cut the water lines directly below the fittings with a tube cutter or hacksaw.
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Photo 4: Loosen the tailpiece nuts with a basin wrench
Reach up behind the sink, fit the basin wrench jaws onto the tailpiece nuts and turn counterclockwise to loosen. Then disconnect the spray nozzle hose, remove the faucet and clean the sink area under the old faucet flange.
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Close-up of Photo 4
Fit the basin wrench jaws around the lock nuts.
After you pull out all of the cleansers, buckets and old vases from under the sink, go ahead and lie under there and see if you can easily access the faucet. If so, go right to Photo 3. If not, it’s time to start dismantling the things blocking your path.
Most likely, the main obstacles will be the pipes and P-traps that drain the sinks. Don’t be afraid to pull them out, but more important, don’t be afraid to replace them with new ones. If you have older, chrome-plated drain lines, the pipe walls may be so corroded that they’ll crush in the jaws of a pipe wrench or slip-joint pliers. After you remove them, throw all the parts in a box for matching them exactly at the store later. If you have plastic drain parts, be careful during removal—you’ll probably be able to reuse them.
Sometimes a garbage disposer can be a 20-lb. roadblock. Don’t be discouraged—it’s easier than you think to remove it and then reinstall it after the faucet is in (Photo 2). Unplug it and pull it out of the cabinet to get it out of the way. If it’s hard-wired, shut off the circuit breaker that controls the disposer, disconnect the disposer from the sink and set it aside inside the cabinet with the electrical cable still attached.
The first step in removing the old faucet is to disconnect the water supply lines (Photo 3). If there are no shutoff valves and the water pipes are hooked up directly to the faucet supply lines, or if you’re replacing defective valves, turn off the main water supply valve to the house and cut off the pipes (Photo 3) below the connections with a hacksaw or tube cutter.
Make sure new valves are closed before turning the water back on to the house. Once the water lines are disconnected, use the basin wrench to loosen the old faucet and remove it (Photo 4).
Sometimes, in spite of all your best efforts, it’s simply impossible to loosen the old faucet nuts. Calm down! Try soaking the threads with penetrating oil and try again. If that doesn’t do it, it’s time to pull out all the stops and pull the sink so you can get at the nuts. It’s not that tough to do. Loosen the screws on the bottom of the sink rim for a clamp-down sink, or cut the caulk between a drop-in sink and countertop with a utility knife and lift out the sink. Then you’ll be able to go after those nuts with a locking pliers or a pipe wrench to free the old faucet.
If you're replacing the kitchen sink along with a new faucet, install the faucet before setting the sink into the countertop.