Q: Your recent column, "Fix leaky faucet in 8 easy steps," has inspired me to fix a slow leak in my bathroom sink. But I have a problem in the kitchen that also needs addressing.
Both the cold and hot handles provide a minimal water stream when first opened. I get a normal stream only after leaving one or both handles fully open for at least several minutes. It’s frustrating to have to always wait for a normal stream to produce sufficient amounts of water to wash the dishes. I thought maybe the problem would just go away, but after several weeks there’s been no improvement.
Do you have any idea what’s wrong and what the solution is?
A: Kudos to you for taking on the bathroom sink repair. It’ll cost you pennies and a little time, but save you many dollars you would have spent on a plumber.
The slow stream in the kitchen faucet might be a washer problem, too. But there might be other causes. One thing’s for sure: The lack of water pressure is the result of an obstruction of some kind between the water line entering under the sink and the spout emptying into the sink.
The fix requires a little trial and error.
Based on your question, we presume the kitchen faucet is a stem type, similar to your bath faucet. If not, there are a number of other types of faucets. All have rubber or neoprene washers, but the repair methods differ. Get the Web address of the manufacturer and go online to view a schematic of the parts and pieces and get some information on troubleshooting.
Repair a stem faucet from the top down by following these steps:
1. Remove the aerator from the spout of the faucet and turn on the tap to test the flow. The problem could be as simple as a clogged aerator. That would be great. If not, proceed to the next step.
2. Turn off the water by closing the valves under the sink.
3. Disconnect the spout from the faucet. Inspect the spout and the hole where the faucet was seated. This is a good time to replace the "O-ring" at the base of the spout. Leave the handles in the full off position. Wrap a towel around the base of the faucet. Turn the valves under the sink on and slowly open the cold faucet. Repeat the procedure with the hot faucet.
Hopefully this will dislodge any gunk in the body of the faucet and water will flow freely. If the flow remains restricted, the problem is further upstream. If the flow is unrestricted and there is no gunk, the problem is in the spout itself.
Run a stout wire through the spout to clear any obstructions. A straightened clothes hanger works. Replace the spout and test the flow. If the problem persists, go to the next step.
4. Pull the stems as you did to replace the washer on your bathroom faucet. Test the flow by wrapping a towel around the base of the faucet and slowly turning the under-sink supplies on.
Again, a low flow means the restriction is further upstream. If water flows freely, replace the washers.
The final place where a restriction might be is in the valves under the sink. If the valves are old, replace them.
5. Turn off the main water supply to the house (either at the meter or at the valve located where the water service enters the house.
6. Drain the system by opening all faucets and hose bibs. When the system is drained, remove and replace the valves under the sink. If the piping is threaded galvanized pipe, make sure to use a pipe wrench to stabilize the supply pipe while unscrewing the valve. This prevents possibly breaking the pipe threads in the wall.
If the supply pipe is copper, you may have to cut the valves and compression nut off, although we’ve had success using the existing nut and compression fitting with a new valve. This job rates about a "B" on the skills chart, so unless you’ve had some experience with copper pipe fitting, consider calling a plumber.
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