Replacing a Kitchen Faucet for the Amateur Plumber

Several glasses of liquids in various colours.

You know the feeling.

It’s 10:15 on a Saturday night. The tap drips under the striplight. And you’re sitting in the kitchen sink. And the tap drips, drip drip drip drip drip drip drip drip. . .

If these words sound familiar to you, you’re either a homeowner of more than a few years, or a Cure fan,1 or both.

So what do you do when the kitchen faucet starts to drip? Well, first you try to remove the handles to replace the cartridges to stop the leak. Then you find, of course, that the screws that hold the handles on are rustier than dinosaur bones on the beach. And more brittle than peanut brittle. Basically, it’s beyond repair.

But this is not bad news. Actually, it’s good news. Because now you have a chance to replace that cheap old piece of junk with the spout so low you can barely fit the dishes in the sink. Now you can put in a Real Faucet, the kind you’ve dreamt of on starry nights during the dish-washing hour of romantic candlelight dinners.

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So how do you go about replacing that faucet? Fear not!—I shall tell thee.

First, do some brainstorming. Ask yourself some questions like. . . What should your faucet look like? How should it feel? Of what materials should it be made? How about some fancy etching on the surface? Or some classy finials on the ends of the handles? Don’t throw out any ideas at this point, just get everything down on paper. Draw sketches, make parts lists, put everything in; heck, throw in the kitchen sink.

Now it’s time to whittle down your ideas. Throw out the bad ones. Keep the good ones. Draw the exact faucet you want, down to the last detail. Is it the one with the sleek modern look or the high-Renaissance style fashioned after a Michelangelo sculpture? No doubt you included cast brass valve bodies and a spout like Niagara Falls or Old Faithful (depending on which direction it’s facing).

Once you’ve drawn up the perfect faucet, take your sketchbook to the local plumbing supply or hardware store. Peruse the aisles and aisles of luxury bathroom hardware. Ask a salesman where your faucet is. The one in the picture. The picture you drew. In your sketchbook. No, you didn’t check the website, you just want this faucet. No, you don’t know what brand it is. It’s just that you need a new faucet, and you thought this was a good time to upgrade to the perfect, quality faucet.

At this point, the salesman will tell you he doesn’t think they have any faucets like that, and ask if you’d like to look at a particular brand. So you realise he isn’t going to be helpful, and you tell him what a lot of junk they sell in this so-called plumbing/hardware store. “Hey, I just work here.” Yeah, right.

Now you go back home. Start searching the web. Call a manufacturer and explain to them your problem. You have the exact faucet you want designed on paper, but no one seems to sell it. When you find out the manufacturer doesn’t have it either, ask them about a custom faucet. Haggle with them over the price and schedule. Realise you’re way out of your budget here, and can’t wait a year for it to go through engineering, quality control, marketing, human resources, layoffs, etc.

Go back to the hardware store. Find a faucet similar to the one you had, for less than the price of a plane ticket to China. Calculate time until it will break again, and the cost to replace it again. Figure that you’ll be able to earn that much in that many years at your current salary. Buy faucet. Install in place of Sir Leaky.

  1. Lyrics paraphrased from 10.15 Saturday Night, by The Cure. For entertainment purposes only.

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