bathroom faucet

Weekend How To: Select and Install a Bathroom Faucet

Is your current faucet a lovely gold-plated relic circa 1980? Do your in-laws use the word “interesting” to describe the mint green vanity situation in the powder room? Or did your faucet just break and you need another one? Whatever the reason, don’t pay an arm and a leg for a plumber.

You just need a little help in the handy man department. Not a problem. Just follow our step-by-step directions and you’ll have your new faucet installed before the weekend is up.


What You’ll Need (Depending on the Faucet):

  • Channel Lock Pliers
  • Wrench
  • Silicone Caulk or Plumber’s Putty
  • Wrench (sometimes a small one is included with new faucets)
  • Bucket
  • Mineral Spirits

Choosing a New Faucet

buying faucet

Before you go all gaga over that sleek faucet you saw online or in the store, take a look at your sink and write down the answers to these questions:

  • Does it have one, two or three holes?
  • Are the holes centered in the middle or spread apart?

You can also just take the old faucet to the store. That’s a sure-fire way to get the right kind. Sometimes you can buy a plate that will cover all three holes so you can install a faucet with just one lever.

If you’re ordering online, make sure you read the specs to see if it will fit.

Taking Out Your Old Faucet

old faucet

Got that new, fancy, carefully selected faucet? Good. You’ll need that later. First, you need to say sayonara to the old one. If it’s the aforementioned gold-plated gem, you might be able to fetch a handsome sum on eBay. The 80’s are making a comeback. Either way, here’s the deal on getting rid of that old faucet:

Step 1: Shut Off the Water Supply

Unless you want to spend all day mopping up a flooded bathroom, the first thing you want to do is turn off the water supply.

  • Look under the sink. See those things that look like little knobs? If you answered yes, turn them all the way until no water comes out of the faucet when you turn it on. If you answered no, you’ll have to turn off the water at the main valve. If you live in a colder climate, the main shut-off valves are located inside, usually in a basement. In warmer areas, the shut-off valves are usually attached to an exterior wall or in an underground box with a removable lid.
  • After you shut off the water, turn on the faucet to get rid of any water pressure left in the lines.

Step 2: Disconnect the Supply Lines

The supply lines are the little pipes that connect the faucet to the water pipes. You can find them under the sink.

  • Disconnect the supply lines from the faucet. You can usually do this by simply unscrewing the nuts at the top of the valve.
  • If you can’t quite reach the connections with your hands, use a basin wrench.

Step 3: Disconnect the Lift Rod

Here’s your chance to impress your friends with your DIY terminology. A lift rod is the lever behind the faucet that you pull to stop the water from going down the drain. Not all sinks have this, so if yours doesn’t, skip this step.

  • Disconnecting the lift rod varies with the type of sink you have. Sometimes you just unscrew a little nut that holds the horizontal (pivot) arm that’s attached to the lever of the stopper (the part that comes down from the lift rod).
  • The pivot nut comes out with the horizontal arm, so remove that too.

Step 4: Remove the Drain

Okay, we’re going to throw some pretty technical-sounding words out here, but don’t worry. We’ll put it into non-plumber lingo. Those of you who are more versed in the art of pipes and all things plumbing, please disregard the translations.

  • Pop out or screw out the stopper in the sink, if there is one.
  • Go under the sink and unscrew the slip nut (the nut that holds the u-shaped pipe together) on the P-trap (the u-shaped pipe) and put a bucket underneath to catch water.
  • Disconnect the drain flange from the tailpiece. (The drain flange is the little piece of pipe that comes down from the drain and connects it to the pipes underneath the sink. The tailpiece is the pipe that connects directly to the drain flange.) Ideally, the drain flange will unscrew, but you may need a wrench to pry it off.
  • Pop out the drain, using a small tool if necessary.
  • Clean around the old drain and faucet holes. To remove old sealant, use some mineral spirits.

Installing the New Faucet

installing faucet

Step 1: Read the Instructions to Start

See that piece of paper with the pictures on it? The one that came with your faucet? Do not—we repeat—do not throw it away. Every faucet is different, so you should follow the manufacturer’s directions that came with your new faucet.

  • Most faucets will have you install the gasket on the bottom of the faucet first with either sealant or plumber’s putty, depending on the type of faucet. (This should be on the instructions.)
  • Then, you will probably be instructed to put the faucet through the mounting holes in the sink
  • Next, tighten the mounting nuts by hand.

Step 2: Attach the Handles

Some faucets come preassembled and some don’t. Depending on the model, you might have to attach the handles. No worries. It’s cake.

  • Slip the guide ring onto the bottom of the handle and position it on the faucet base.
  • Secure the handles with the setscrew (the itty-bitty screw on the underside of the handle) using a hex wrench (the little wrench was probably included with your faucet).

Step 3: Install the Drain

Now to the drain. This is where you’ll need either then silicone or plumber’s putty, depending on what your manufacturer recommends.

  • Screw the nut all the way down on the drain body (the pipe part that goes underneath the sink) and push the gasket over it. (The gasket is the rubber ring that stops the pipe from leaking.) A lot of gaskets are threaded and simply screw into place—but again, read your manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Apply just a little bit of silicone or plumber’s putty under the drain flange.
  • Hold the drain body in place under the sink—with the pivot hole facing the back—and screw the drain flange on from the top of the sink. This is much easier to do if you have one person holding the drain flange on the top and another person holding the drain body underneath the sink.
  • From under the sink, tighten the nut and gasket on the drain body.
  • After the drain is in place, use mineral spirits to clean up any excess silicone from the lip of the drain inside the sink.
  • Next, unscrew the pivot nut (the nut that holds the pivot arm with the rotating ball) on the drain body.
  • Insert the horizontal rod through the hole in the stopper and put the nut back on.
  • Push the horizontal rod down and secure the lift rod to the strap with the screw.
  • Finally, test the lift rod to make sure it works.

Step 4: Reconnect the Lines

Remember, the supply lines are the small lines under the sink that connect the faucet to the water supply.

  • Reconnect the supply lines to the faucet, replacing any parts that are rusted or worn.
  • If your sink is already in place, use a basin wrench to reach the faucet shanks.

Step 5: Test It

Drum roll, please. You’re almost there! The final step is to check for any debris in the faucet and test your handiwork.

  • Locate the aerator, which is a fancy name for the tiny filter in the spout of the faucet where the water comes out. It helps regulate water pressure and catch debris.
  • Remove the aerator to get rid of any debris or sediment that may have gotten into the faucet during assembly or shipping. The aerator usually screws off pretty easily. Your faucet may even come with a little tool to unscrew it.
  • Turn on the hot and cold water for about a minute, checking all connections for leaks and retightening any areas if necessary.
  • Screw the aerator back on and—tada!— you’re done!