Four Home Plumbing Repair Tips

Never give up!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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