repair guide

Kitchen Faucet Repair Guide

You don’t have to be a master plumber to repair today’s beautifully engineered kitchen faucets. Once you’ve got the right parts – which might be the toughest part of the job, if you need a ceramic disk– removing and replacing the old part is a DIY project most homeowners can succeed with.

This kitchen faucet repair guide gives you step-by-step instructions for fixing two-handle faucets and the three common types of faucets with one lever – cartridge, rotary ball and ceramic disk faucets. We start with single-handled faucets since they are far more common; scroll down for two-handle kitchen faucet repair. If you’re need to know how to replace and install a new faucet, see our guide on faucet installation.

kitchen faucet repair

Tools you’ll need:

  • Phillips and flat head screwdrivers
  • Allen wrench set
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Adjustable / slip-joint pliers
  • Adjustable crescent wrench
  • Digital (phone) camera

How to Repair a Single-handle Faucet

Let’s start with some introductory tips that apply to all types of faucets.

General faucet repair tips:

If you’re not sure where water is leaking from, take a closer look. Water dripping out of the spout and water leaking out of the base of the spout require different repair methods

  • Turn off the water by turning the handles on the shut-off valves to the right.
  • If there are no shut-off valves, you’ll need to shut your home’s main water valve. If your home has a well and pump, turning off the pump will stop the flow of water too.
  • Once the water is off, turn on both handles (two-handle faucets) or position the single handle in the middle to relieve any existing water pressure.
  • Cover the drain or drains using the strainer baskets, small plates or a rag to keep any small parts you might drop from being lost.
  • Have white vinegar handy. Once the faucet is apart, you might find that some of the internal parts have mineral deposits on them. Soak the parts in white vinegar to remove the deposits.
  • Keep a digital/phone camera handy to take pictures as you disassemble the faucet. The pictures will be your guide to putting the faucet back together.
  • It might also help to lay the parts out on the countertop in the order they were removed, so you’ll know which one goes back next.
  • Know what brand of faucet you have, and know the model name and number too, if possible, because they’ll make getting new parts easier.
  • Take all parts you plan to replace to the store, so they can be exactly matched.
  • Note: You’ll find universal rotary ball faucet repair kits that work for Delta and most other brands. Some universal cartridge repair kits for Moen and other brands are also available. Rotary ball faucet repair kits and cartridge faucet repair kits for non-disk faucets cost $7 to $24. The right ceramic disk faucet parts are harder to find, and you might need to order them.
  • Once you know the part you need, look online, if you can’t find it locally.
  • When all else fails, call the faucet manufacturer for replacement parts or repair advice.

How to Repair a Cartridge-style Faucet

If your faucet is dripping out of the spout or if the hot/cold mixing is off, the cartridge need to be replaced. Here is how to do it.

  1. Pry the decorative cap off of the top of the handle using a flathead screwdriver or knife
  2. Remove the Allen screw with the wrench by turning it left/counterclockwise, and lift off the handle
  3. Take off the dome assembly by unscrewing it
  4. Remove the screw holding the handle adapter (it should be metal), and take the adapter off
  5. Take off the plastic pivot stop under the adapter
  6. Use the slip-joint pliers to remove the retainer nut by turning it to the left

Tip: Remember to take pictures or at least lay the pieces on the countertop in the order you remove them to make it easier for you to reassemble the faucet

  1. Remove the brass clip holding the cartridge by prying it loose with a flat screwdriver and pulling it out with your fingers or a pair of pliers
  2. In the new cartridge package, you’ll find a plastic spanner cap which you should place over the existing cartridge and move right and left with pliers

Note: The spanner cap is a tool; it is not a replacement part.

  1. Once the cartridge is loose, remove it with pliers, and replace it

Tip for removing the old cartridge: The cartridge might be tough to get out. Expect to have to use significant muscle to twist and/or pull it out.

Tip for installing the new cartridge: Use the spanner cap to rotate the cartridge into the correct position for the cartridge retainer clip

  1. Once the new cartridge is installed, reassemble the faucet by following these instructions starting with #7 and finishing with #1

How to Repair a Rotary Ball Faucet

Look for a repair kit for your rotary ball faucet. It will contain a new ball made of plastic, brass or stainless steel. The repair kit you choose should have seats and springs in addition to the ball. If you know what part is damaged, you have the option of replacing just that part. Otherwise, it makes sense to replace all the parts since you’ll have the faucet apart and the parts at hand.

Tip: Remember to have the drain strainer in place or a rag stuffed in the drain opening to prevent parts from being lost in the drain.

  1. Loosen the nut on the faucet handle with an Allen wrench by turning it to the left, and lift off the handle
  2. Remove the cap by turning it to the left – it might loosen by hand, and if not, use a slip-joint pliers

Tip: Protect the finish on your faucet cap by covering the teeth of the pliers or the cap with tape.

  1. Lift out the ball assembly that includes the ball, packing and cam
  2. Use a flathead screwdriver or needle nose pliers to remove the rubber seat and the spring beneath it

Tip: The spring is tapered top to bottom, so note the direction of the taper as you remove the spring, and install the new spring in the same direction.

  1. Replace seats, springs and ball, and then put the faucet back together

How to Repair a Ceramic Disk Faucet

Many disk (also disc) faucets come with lifetime guarantees because the disks are durable. If your ceramic disk faucet is leaking, contact the manufacturer about warranty coverage that might pay for professional faucet repair.

  1. Pry off the cap located on the underside of the handle to reveal the Allen screw, which you should remove with an Allen wrench
  2. Remove the handle, and unclip (or unscrew) the cap beneath it to reveal the cartridge
  3. Take out the screws holding the cartridge in place, and remove the cartridge
  4. Replace the rubber seals on the bottom of the cartridge, and replace the O-rings (not all faucets) on the disk

Tip: If you see mineral deposits inside the faucet body, gently scrape them out and/or soak parts in white vinegar for an hour to dissolve the deposits.

  1. If one of the ceramic disks is cracked, take it to the hardware or home improvement store to order a replacement
  2. Reassemble the faucet

Tip: Turn the faucet handle to the “on” position before turning the water back on. This will allow air in the water lines to escape slowly. When the faucet is off, that air can become pressurized and crack a ceramic disk. Once you’ve turned the water back on and it is running without sputtering, it is safe to turn it off.

How to Repair Leaks in the Faucet Spout Base

We’ve covered how to repair drips from the business end of a faucet. If the leak is coming from the spout body, one or more O-rings are bad. The repair is quite easy.

  1. Remove the handle and the faucet cartridge following the directions given for any of the types of faucets above
  2. Pull off the spout to reveal the O-rings

Tip: You might have to twist the spout left and right a few times to loosen it.

  1. Use a knife or flathead screwdriver to remove the old O-rings, and roll the new O-rings down and into place

Tip: Apply plumber’s grease to the O-rings to improve their ability to keep water from bypassing them.

  1. Reassemble the faucet

How to Repair a Two-Handle Faucet

Your dripping faucet needs one or both seat washers replaced. The seat washers sit below the stems inside the faucet handles. As you turn off the water, the stem washer is pushed down against the opening of the water line. When that washer is worn or torn, water slips by it and drips, drips, drips! Two-handle faucet repair kits are available that work for many faucet brands. They cost $8 to $15 for most.

Leaking faucet handles need their O-rings replaced. Both fixes are covered in these step-by-step faucet repair tips.

Tools you’ll need:

  • Phillips and flat head screwdrivers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Adjustable crescent wrench
  • Digital (phone) camera

The order of parts from top to bottom:

  • Cap
  • Handle screw
  • Handle
  • Packing nut
  • Faucet stem
  • O-ring
  • Seat washer
  • Seat washer screw

Of course, you should turn off the water supplies under the sink before beginning your repair, and turn the handles on to relieve water pressure in the lines, if there is any.

  1. Remove the cap with a flat screwdriver
  2. Remove the screw holding on the handle, and pull the handle off the stem

Note:  If you think you might forget what piece goes where from this point on, take a digital picture of the assembly at any step as you’re disassembling it

  1. Use the crescent wrench to remove the packing nut
  2. Unscrew the stem, and remove the screw holding the seat washer, if the faucet is dripping
  3. If the screw is corroded, replace it

Tip: Turning a seat washer over might stop the dripping for a short time

  1. Remove the stem from the packing nut using needle nose pliers and remove the O-ring, if the handle is leaking
  2. Take the worn parts to the hardware store to make sure you get replacements of the same size and thickness

8. Install the new parts, and reassemble your faucet, referring to the list above or to the pictures you’ve taken for guidance

Related Content in this Series

View other guides in this series which you may find useful.