Home Tips & Advice

Replacing Sink, Bath and Shower Faucets

Here are tips and instructions on how to replace sink, bath and shower faucets. Following these and manufacturer instructions can help you save time, money and effort. It can also help you end up with a neater, more satisfactory installation. In this document you will find information about:

  • Purchase the Correct Faucet
  • Use the Correct Tools
  • Converting from Iron Pipe to Copper Tubing
  • Replacing Faucets with Soldered Ends
  • Installing 4" Faucet without Pop-up Drain
  • Installing 4" Faucet with Pop-up Drain
  • Installing Combination Faucet with Pop-up Drain
  • Installing Common Sink Faucets
  • Installing Bath and Shower Faucets
  • Lead Warning


  • There are many sizes, types and styles of faucets. Be sure you purchase the correct faucet when replacing an existing one since many faucets are not interchangeable.
  • Before purchasing a replacement faucet, take an exact measurement of the holes for the faucet, center to center (see image). Also, remove the old faucet and take it along to the store when purchasing the new fixture.
  • There are many different types of mixer faucets. Use care in selecting the correct one-the style is optional, but the size must be correct.
  • Before installing the new faucet, carefully read the manufacturer's instructions for installation. It's important to follow them exactly.


  • It's important to use the proper tools when removing stubborn plumbing fixtures. This image shows the variety of wrenches designed for specific plumbing jobs.
  • You'll usually need two pipe wrenches (Stillson wrenches) on a plumbing job. One is used for holding, the other for turning. Use pipe wrenches only on pipes. The teeth in the jaws of pipe wrenches bite into the metal and can mar chrome-finished nuts and pipe.
  • Open-end wrenches and adjustable wrenches have smooth jaws and can be used for square or hex nuts. These wrenches are ideal for working with the interior parts of faucets and valves.
  • A closet spud wrench is a special thin wrench made to fit into tight places.
  • You can use strap wrenches instead of a pipe wrench when working with chrome-coated pipe if a regular pipe wrench might mar the surface.
  • Vise grip wrenches are ideal for holding and working with pipe of small diameter.
  • Use basin wrenches to remove or tighten nuts and hose couplings under sinks and lavatories. Its alternate positions enable you to reach nuts that would ordinarily be inaccessible to other wrenches.


  • In most cases, you'll want to convert from iron pipe to plastic or copper. Check your local code. Both copper and plastic require no threading.
  • Attach copper pipe to threaded pipe with a transition union (see image). Half of the union is threaded onto the old iron pipe. The other half is soldered to the copper pipe. The two halves are then threaded together. This type of fitting is also available for connecting iron to plastic and copper to plastic using solvent cement or mechanical connections.


  • To replace an ordinary faucet with a soldered end, first remove the old faucet by applying heat or cutting. Clean the end of the pipe thoroughly.
  • Remove the stem of the faucet to protect the seat washer (see image). Apply heat to the pipe with an ordinary propane heat torch. Then, apply solder and reassemble the faucet. Use a solder that has no lead.
  • You can apply an ordinary faucet of the same type to threaded pipe by applying a pipe compound or Teflon™ tape to the pipe threads and then attaching the faucet to the threads.


  • The 4" lavatory faucet without a pop-up drain is relatively simple to install. Place plumber's putty in the groove just underneath the chrome framing to provide a tight seal (see image).
  • Insert the shanks of the lavatory faucet into the holes of the lavatory. Attach the locknuts and the washer to the shank and tighten them firmly into place.
  • Remove any excess putty from the base of the faucet. Connect the shank to the water supply and tighten.


  • Installing the 4" lavatory faucet with pop-up drain is more challenging.
  • Start by carefully reading the instructions that came with the faucet.
  • First, remove the old faucet and pop-up drain (see image).
  • Insert the new faucet into position. Add putty in the groove around the base of the faucet.
  • Slip the washer over the shank and thread the locknut up the shank, placing the faucet loosely in position.
  • Insert the drain plunger into the center hole and affix the adjustment bar to the drain plunger.
  • Place the pop-up drain body in position and attach it to the adjustment bar. Tighten all nuts and attach the faucet to the water system. Attach the pop-up drain body to the drain system.
  • Place the stopper in the drain body and work the drain plunger. Make any adjustments by moving the lever assembly up or down in the holes provided.


  • Installing the combination lavatory faucet with pop-up drain is much the same as the 4" lavatory faucet. (see image)
  • Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully for the step-by-step installation.
  • The main difference in this installation is that most models require the faucet handles, flanges and faucets to be removed. The assembly is then inserted from underneath the lavatory frame.


  • Most sink faucets are of the mixer variety, where the hot and cold water are mixed and brought into the sink through one swing spout.
  • The typical mixer-type faucet also comes equipped with a spray hose (see image).
  • Mixer faucets for kitchen sinks are usually 8", although they are also available in 6" and 4" sizes. There are two basic types-the exposed deck, shown in the image, and the concealed deck. The exposed deck has a chrome housing above the sink, while the concealed deck has only a flange exposed just below the faucet handles.
  • All faucets come with manufacturers' installation instructions. Read these instructions carefully and follow each step for a good installation.
  • If instructions are unavailable, you can follow the same basic instructions given for installing a lavatory faucet.


  • The first challenge in installing bath and shower faucets is getting the faucet assemblies behind the wall.
  • Most home builders provide a rear access panel. By removing this panel, you can connect fittings without defacing the bathroom wall. These panels are usually located in closets in back of the tub.
  • The two-valve faucet assembly is the most common assembly for bathtubs. If instructions are unavailable, study the image to help you make sure an installation without too much trouble.
  • The two-valve shower assembly is the basic faucet arrangement used only for shower assemblies.
  • This arrangement is used when the faucets are installed separately and apart from the taps that supply water to the tub (see image).
  • The three-valve diverter with shower head and spout provides water both to the shower and to the tub.
  • With this assembly, the hot and cold water taps are turned to bring water into the tub. Then, when the proper mix of hot and cold is reached, the diverter valve is turned to bring the water through the shower head (see first image below).
  • There are two basic types of two-valve diverters. One has a twin ell diverter spout (see second image below). The water is first mixed by letting it run into the tub. It is then diverted through the shower head by the twin ell diverter spout.
  • Another type of two-valve diverter has a shower head and ejector tee diverter (see third image below). This works in basically the same way as the twin ell, but the water is diverted by means of a tee rather than by the twin ell.
  • Many older homes have lead pipe water systems. Many newer homes have copper pipe water systems that have been soldered together with solder containing lead.


  • Lead can leach into the drinking water system from the corrosion of materials in plumbing and distribution systems that contain lead. Exposure to lead may cause brain and nervous disorders, anemia, high blood pressure, kidney and reproductive problems, decreased red blood cells, slower reflexes and even death. The lead collects in the kidneys, liver and brain. Unlike many other chemicals, once lead enters a person's system, it cannot be removed. Exposure to even small amounts over a period of years can cause irreversible damage.
  • When working on a plumbing project, always use lead-free solder.
  • In normal use, if it has been six hours since the water system was used, turn on the water and let it run for a few minutes before drawing water to use for drinking or cooking. However, there is no need to waste this water. It may be used for such things as watering plants.
  • Additional information is available from the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water hotline at 1-800-426-4791. It can also provide information about certified laboratories that test for lead in drinking water.
Pipe WrenchBasin Wrench
SolderPropane Torch
Sandpaper or Emery ClothPlumber's Putty
ScrewdriverPenetrating Oil
Hand CleanerAdjustable Smooth Jaw Wrench
Pipe CutterVise
Flaring ToolPipe Compound or Teflon(TM) Tape
Vise-Grip® PliersHammer
Transition UnionsSolvent Cement

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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