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Four Home Plumbing Repair Tips

When kitchen or bathroom faucet repairs go bad, they can be a nightmare. Professional plumbers share their solutions for disassembly and repair problems, with tips about when to give up and buy a new faucet.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Cut and replace

If a cap doesn't twist free, and the cap is metal, not plastic, heat the cap with a heat gun and grip it with the bare teeth of a slip-joint pliers.

If heating doesn't work, or your faucet is plastic, cut the cap with a rotary tool and a cutting wheel. Then jam in a flat-blade screwdriver and widen the opening until the cap unscrews. Buy a replacement cap at the home center. Coat the new cap threads with plumber's grease to prevent it from sticking again.

Get aggressive with setscrews

If the hex wrench that comes with your repair kit won't loosen the setscrew on the faucet, don't force it—you'll just ruin the head. Spend a few bucks for a 3/8-in.-drive hex socket kit. Buy a tube of valve grinding compound and apply a dollop to the hex tip to reduce the likelihood of stripping the setscrew. Then use a ratchet to break the screw free. If it still won't budge (and the handle is metal and not plastic), try heating it with a heat gun. As a last resort, drill out the center of the setscrew and use a screw extractor to remove the rest of it. Buy a new setscrew and coat it with anti-seize compound before reinserting it.

Special tools are worth it

Replacement cartridges usually come with a plastic loosening tool. If the cartridge is really stuck, the loosening tool can actually break off the cartridge ears and turn the job into a real nightmare. Even if you get the cartridge to rotate, you may still have to yank hard to get it out. Save yourself a lot of time (and sweat) by forking over a few bucks for a cartridge puller from amazon.com or a home center. Install it and pull the cartridge in minutes.

Know when to throw in the towel

It makes sense that a pivoting kitchen spout will leak if the O-rings are worn. But brass wears too. So if you've replaced the spout O-rings and the leak reappears in a few months (or weeks), check the inside of the spout.

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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.

    • Cordless drill
    • Socket/ratchet set
    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Allen wrench
    • Pliers

You may also need a rotary tool, a hex socket set, a heat gun and a cartridge puller.

Required Materials for this Project

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

    • Replacement cap
    • Valve grinding compound
    • Replacement setscrew
    • Replacement faucet

Comments from DIY Community Members

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1 - 4 of 4 comments
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September 14, 8:13 PM [GMT -5]

One of the most important things your article forgot to mention on Moen cartridges is the small U shaped retaining clip (shown in the third picture off to the right of the faucet) If it is not pulled out, the cartridge can't be removed

September 08, 9:31 PM [GMT -5]

If you have to go to that much trouble, just replace the darn thing!

August 09, 11:58 AM [GMT -5]

Some great tips for fixing a bathroom or kitchen faucet. Especially your point about using the right tool for the job. Thanks!

June 06, 10:46 PM [GMT -5]

Home repairs can are easy to do. www.constructioncoach.com

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Four Home Plumbing Repair Tips

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