How to Replace a Bathroom Faucet
Change your leaky fixture in just a few hours
The leaking faucet handle in the master bathroom once read “cold” but now just cries “old.” This vestige of the 1980s, in all its cut-plastic glory, is not quite the period detail you had in mind when you bought the place. What you need is a serious faucet, made of brass and steel and finished in gleaming chrome, elegant nickel, or strapping dark iron. Turn its weighty handles and the tap shuts with such finality you feel like you're sealing off the hatch of a ship.
The good news is that you're only a few wrench cranks away from the spigot of your dreams. Most new faucets come as an ensemble with all the components you need, including matching spout, handles, drain collar, and sink stopper. So, as This Old House technical editor Mark Powers demonstrates here, your faucet-assembly time will be held to a couple of hours. Then all you'll be able to think when you look at your upgraded sink will be: “Wow, that's hot!”
Bath Faucet Overview
Before you can install a bathroom faucet, you need to know what type to buy. The majority of faucets for bath sinks have three parts: a center spout and two valves (on which the handles fit). Water passes through separate hot and cold supply lines controlled by the valves, then mixes in a tee and comes out the spout. Most standard sinks have three holes to accommodate these parts. However, the distance between the holes determines what type of faucet you can fit onto the sink.
After you remove the old faucet, measure from center to center on the two outer holes. If that distance is 6 inches or more, you will be able to install a wide-spread faucet (like the one in this project), which requires manually connecting the two valves to the mixing tee. But if there are only 4 inches between the holes, you need to get a center-spread or a mini-wide-spread faucet, a single unit encompassing the valves, the spout, and the connection between. A center-spread faucet has an escutcheon plate linking the pieces on top of the sink, while a mini-wide-spread looks like three independent pieces when viewed from above.
Faucets usually come from the manufacturer with everything except the lines to connect the water supplies to the valves (some handles are sold separately). For these you can use braided lines, which are very easy to install but should only be used where hidden; or rigid lines, which work better when the area under the sink is exposed.
Putting the faucet on is just a matter of piecing everything together in the right order. But TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey says that novices can get tripped up in making connections, either by overtightening fittings (which can crack the sink or cause leaks) or by not holding lines steady as they turn the wrench. "If you're not careful, you can twist the line and impede water flow," he says. You should also be careful not to twist yourself as you work beneath the sink.