How to Install or Replace Your Kitchen Faucet: A Step-by-Step Guide

by Team HomeServe
Photo of a man holding a basin wrench next to a kitchen sink

When it's time for a new kitchen faucet, your first instinct might be to call a plumber. However, the reality is that faucet installation is quite simple. For the average do-it-yourselfer, it’s a task that takes a little know-how and an hour or two of work. Once you've done it, you may be surprised at how easy the whole thing is.

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Our step-by-step guide will tell you everything you need to know about installing a new faucet in your kitchen.

Tools and Materials Needed

Of course, the most important thing you need before starting any kitchen faucet installation is the new faucet. You can pick out a kitchen faucet online or in any home improvement store. The entire process will be easier if you choose one with the same number and same-size holes as your old model, but it's not technically necessary.

Next, take a look at your new faucet and your existing sink to see if you have the proper materials for hooking everything up. Some faucets have already-attached tubing on the faucet end already while others will just hook up to standard tubing lines. If you can choose your tubing, most experts recommend braided steel supply lines, which are sturdy and flexible, and have leak-proof connectors already attached. Most sinks just need tubes measuring 12 inches in length and three-eighths of an inch to a half-inch in diameter. Check your faucet and sink to make sure standard sizes will work.

In addition to basic materials, be sure you have these tools:

  • An adjustable wrench
  • A pipe wrench
  • A standard screwdriver set
  • A bucket
  • Old rags or towels
  • Caulk (optional)
  • Teflon tape (optional)
  • A flashlight (optional but it makes things a lot easier)
  • A basin wrench (may not be needed)
  • A hammer (may not be needed)
  • A pipe and tube cutter (may not be needed)
  • A handsaw (may not be needed)

Tips for Installing a Kitchen Faucet

Here are six tips to keep in mind as you start your faucet replacement.

1. Pay Attention!

The most important tip for installing a kitchen faucet is simply to pay attention as you work. This type of installation doesn’t require any special skills or technical knowledge. However, there are a lot of small parts that must be assembled in the correct order to prevent leaks or other mishaps. Before you start, read over all the installation instructions that came with your faucet. If you're new to working with faucets, watch some online instructional videos from a source you trust.

2. Prepare for Tight Squeezes

Once you get started, you’ll quickly find that the tricky part is just being able to reach into tight places and turn various nuts and bolts. If possible, invest in a basin wrench to make this job easier.

3. Cut It Out

Another tip for saving on time is cutting out your old faucet. If you aren't planning on using your leaky faucet again, you can just cut through assembly parts to pop it right off your sink.

4. Get the Picture?

If you’re worried about being able to reattach everything properly, consider taking a photo before you start. This can help you remember the original plumbing configuration.

5. Mind the Gaps

To prevent leaks, use caulk under the faucet plate and Teflon tape around the supply-line connectors.

6. Save the Instructions

Once you’re all done, be sure to save all the parts and instructions. Collect them in a freezer bag and hang them under your sink. This way, you'll be able to easily refer to the instructions or get extra parts in case anything goes wrong.

Safety First!

In most cases, a faucet installation is fairly straightforward. However, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely risk-free. There are a few potential issues you can run into. To protect yourself and your home, make sure you follow our safety advice:

  • Every faucet is different, so when in doubt, refer to the manufacturer's instructions for installation.
  • Expect some dripping during the process; have a bucket and rags handy to catch any leaks.
  • If you have a garbage disposal, be sure to turn off the power before working on your faucet. Double-check that the power is off by flipping your disposal switch once you've powered it down.
  • Turn off the water to your sink to avoid any unpleasant leaks.
  • Wear safety goggles to keep any old sink water or random debris from dripping into your eyes while you work underneath the sink.

Step 1: Turn Off Water and Power

Now that you know a bit about how the whole process works, let's get started. We already mentioned it in the safety tips section, but it bears repeating: The very first thing you need to do is turn off the water and power down your garbage disposal.

For most sinks, turning off the water is as simple as twisting the water-shutoff valves underneath your sink. They can stick a little, so give them a small wiggle if necessary. However, if your kitchen doesn’t have individual shutoff valves, you may need to turn off the water to your whole house while you install the kitchen faucet. You can do this by going outside to the water main and turning the lever or twisting the large knob.

Once your water is off, turn on the faucet and let it run until water no longer comes out. That ensures your supply lines are mostly empty.

Step 2: Disconnect Your Supply Lines

Now, it's time to remove the old connections if you haven’t done so already. Start by detaching the supply lines from the hot- and cold-water valves, which is simple enough: Just use your adjustable wrench to turn the nuts counterclockwise. While doing so, hold firmly onto the pipe itself. Don’t yank on it too hard, as that can cause leaks in your plumbing connections. Expect some light dripping when you remove the supply line connections. (Right now would be a great time to have a towel or rag handy.)

If your old faucet was a style with pre-attached tubing, you've completed step two. However, if the supply lines also hook up manually to the faucet, you may need to remove those, as well. Just like at the base of the supply line, disconnecting it simply involves twisting the mounting nut counterclockwise. Because these nuts are positioned in a tight space behind the sink, you may want to use a basin wrench to get a firmer grip.

Step 3: Remove the Old Faucet

If you still have the instructions for your outgoing kitchen faucet, check them for tips on how to remove it. However, you needn’t worry if you don't have these instructions. The steps to remove a kitchen faucet are essentially the same regardless of what faucet you have.

Kitchen faucets typically have posts that run through the holes in the sink, and then a nut or some other type of mounting fastener will screw into the faucet to hold it in place from the underside. To remove the faucet, all you have to do is take the fasteners off the underside of the sink and then lift away the faucet. These fasteners may be corroded, which can make the task more difficult. Consider using a corrosion cleaner on the faucet, or a rotary saw to cut through the mounting equipment.

Keep in mind that there may be caulk holding down the faucet, or there might be sticky gunk underneath the mounting plate. It’s normal to have to pull slightly to move the faucet. However, if your faucet is still stuck after a light yank, check to see if you’ve missed any fasteners.

Step 4: Slide the New Faucet Into Place

With your sink fully prepared for faucet installation, it's now time to guide your new faucet through the mounting holes. Look carefully at your new faucet to see how it should be installed. With the single-handle faucets that are trendy right now, you typically put an escutcheon plate over the holes on the side and only slide faucet components through the middle mounting hole. However, if you’re using a faucet with separate handles, you may slide the hot-water handle gear through the first hole, the main faucet through the middle hole, and the cold-water handle through the third hole.

Once you’ve threaded any pre-attached lines or mounting hardware through the holes, your faucet should look complete from the top. Make sure everything is exactly how you want it to look before fastening it in place. Keep in mind that this can be a little trickier than replacing a bathroom faucet, simply because kitchen faucets are so big. It might be best to ask someone to help you hold everything in place until you can get it screwed in properly.

Photo taken underneath kitchen cabinet looking up at the bottom of the faucet
Photo taken underneath kitchen counter looking up at the bottom of the Kohler faucet.

Step 5: Secure Your Faucet

Now, follow the manufacturer's instructions to secure the faucet to the underside of the sink. Some faucets may have nuts you have to tighten on to bolts with a wrench. However, most modern faucets use oversized plastic wing nuts. You can typically tighten these with your fingers, making the process a little easier.

When tightening your faucet connections, you need to remember to pay attention to what’s happening on top of the sink, as well. There’s the potential risk of your faucet getting turned to the side or your escutcheon plate twisting at an angle while you tighten the connectors. Therefore, it’s a good idea to apply all your connectors loosely at first. Once everything is held loosely together, hold your faucet in place while you finish tightening it up.

Step 6: Attach Sprayers, Weights, Pull-Down Lines

Another factor that makes this process different from learning how to replace a bathroom faucet is that most kitchen faucets have extra lines connecting sprayer attachments. These attachments help add versatility to a kitchen sink, so almost all faucets will include a sprayer. This step tends to vary a little more, depending on what brand and style you have.

Some faucets may have a hose that clicks into place on a separate sprayer. Others might have a pull-down sprayer that’s part of the main faucet. Often, sprayers have a small weight hung on their line; this donut-shaped weight must be placed on the line before connecting supply lines or it won't work properly. Just follow the manufacturer's instructions and make sure your sprayer is all connected before proceeding with supply line attachments.

Step 7: Hook Up Your Supply Lines

With all your faucet components in place, you can attach your main water supply. If your faucet did not come with supply lines attached, start by attaching your supply lines to the faucet. Adding Teflon tape around the connectors can help reduce the risk of leakage later, so it's a good idea to use it if you have it. Once the top is connected, go ahead and hook up the supply lines to the water supply.

After this stage, you can turn your water supply back on. First, make sure your faucet is in the off position. Then, slowly twist the supply line knob, taking care to support the water pipe with your other hand. Avoid cranking them all the way open rapidly. Instead, just do a half-turn or so before checking for leaks. Look on both ends of the supply lines, around the base of the faucet, and around the sprayer connections.

Step 8: Flush Supply Lines Before Turning On the Faucet

Not all tutorials on how to change a kitchen faucet mention this step — but it’s still essential. When your water supply is shut off for a bit, small pieces of corrosion or debris can flake off. In the first minute or so of your water running again, there may be a little buildup. This debris can end up clogging the tiny holes at the tip of your kitchen faucet. Therefore, it’s a good idea to flush your supply lines before actually using the faucet.

Remove the aerator from the end of your kitchen faucet, if possible. Some faucet replacement kits may have a special tool to do this. Turn the handle to run your water at full speed. Let it run for a minute or two before shutting it off. Then you can replace your aerator and use your kitchen faucet normally.

With the above guidance, you should be able to get your new kitchen faucet up and running in no time at all. However, plumbing issues that you can't handle yourself will almost certainly come up at some point. That’s where coverage from HomeServe can be useful. Our plans help cover the cost of repairs up to the benefit amount, so you don't have to stress over unexpected major expenses. When you call our 24/7 emergency repair hotline, we'll help you schedule an appointment with local plumbers to fix the problem as soon as possible. For peace of mind, check out plumbing plans from HomeServe today.