How To Replace A Bathroom Vanity Sink Faucet And Drain
Originally contributed by James Ferry
James grew up working on a cattle ranch in Northern Utah, which taught him how to do many ad hoc repairs and to make use of limited materials. Two years of missionary and humanitarian work in the Philippines with Operation Smile instilled a great appreciation for the opportunity to work, to avoid wasting resources, and to help others. Now back in the U.S., James has worked as a programmer/data engineer for several Fortune 100 companies.
Replacing the sink faucet on a bathroom vanity is a great way to elevate any bathroom. Even better, installing your own bathroom faucet is budget-friendly and is a project you can easily undertake on your own. Vanity sink faucets are simple systems that require few tools to remove and install, and upgrading your faucets makes a considerable impact in terms of design and function.
Bathroom vanity faucets, like any faucet in your home, also have a tendency to get dirty and can even leak after years of use. So knowing how to replace your sink faucets will help keep your bathroom sink leak-free and sparkling clean!
To go one step further, we’ll show you how to replace a bathroom vanity faucet with three holes and swap-out the drain pipes underneath — no more clogged drains or leaks. No more rust, mold, mildew or stains that you’re constantly battling. Just beautiful, hygienic sink faucets that match the decor of one of your most-used rooms!
Plumbing DIY projects don’t have to be intimidating if you have the right information at hand! We’ll walk you through the process, step-by-step, so you’re confident from beginning to job well done!
Info: The faucet model we’ll be installing is from Phiestina and features a modern spring-activated drain plug. We’ll also tell you how to install faucets that use a traditional pop-up drain pull rod, as well.
What You'll Need
- Tongue and Groove Pliers or Adjustable Wrench
- Rubber Gloves
- Three-Hole Faucet Kit
- Sealant Tape
- Cleaning Supplies
- J-Trap Kit (optional)
- P-Trap Kit (optional)
- Reducing Washer (when required)
Turn Off Water
The first step to replacing a bathroom faucet is to shut off the water. Makes sense.
Under the sink are two shut off valves - one for hot water and one for cold. Using your hands, turn the valves until the hot and cold water is off.
Test to see if the water is off by turning on the tap before proceeding any further. Although it’d be a nice thing to have, we don’t want to create an indoor swimming pool, population you, in your bathroom. Ensure the water has stopped running via the tap!
Place a bowl under the drainage pipes beneath your bathroom vanity to catch any residual water during their removal.
It’s also a good idea to have some cleaning supplies on hand, as these pipes can have some nasty surprises inside. We suggest rubber gloves to put as much distance between your skin and the hair and dirt that’s potentially lurking in these pipes.
Remove the curved section of the drainpipe (known as the J-trap) by unscrewing the two plastic lock nuts holding it in place on each side. Try to remove them with your hands, but if they’re stuck, use a wrench to remove them, paying particular attention not to damage the plastic.
Info: If a bathroom sink is not draining correctly, it’s likely because there are blockages in the drainage pipes below. When reusing existing drainage pipes with a new faucet, clean out the drain pipes as they are removed.
Detach Water Hoses
Use pliers or a wrench to detach the water hoses. The hoses are attached to the faucet’s anchor bolts with a mounting nut. Loosen the mounting nuts with the pliers or wrench until they can be unscrewed by hand and eventually removed.
Repeat this process until both the hot and cold water hoses are disconnected.
Tip: If the hoses aren’t clearly marked to differentiate which is hot and cold, take a second to label the hoses. Doing so can take out the guesswork later on, should you forget.
You can tell hot from cold based on the markings (red=hot, blue=cold) on your faucet or on the pipes themselves. Generally, if there are no markings, the hose on the left of the faucet is hot, and the hose on the right is cold.
Detach Drain Pull Rod
Many bathroom sink faucets have drain plugs that use a pop-up drain pull rod. This rod is a thin piece of metal with holes in it connected to a metal lever held in place by a spring clip that allows the drain to be opened and closed. The spring-clip is the curved piece of metal, keeping the drain pull rod attached to the metal lever in place.
To remove the lever, pinch the spring clip to release the tension, and pull the drain pull rod away from the lever until they are disconnected.
Remove Ball Socket Lever
Now that the drain pull rod and lever are disconnected, it’s time to remove the lever from the main drainpipe.
Info: Drains that feature this type of plug use what is called a metal ball socket lever. The ball-shaped design allows the rod to pivot and prevents water leakage.
Start by unscrewing the plastic cap that holds the lever in place, found on the back of the main drainpipe (tailpiece), and pull the lever out of the drain. Yes, there could be some gross things attached to the lever, but no, it’s nothing we can’t handle!
The tailpiece is the main drain pipe connected to the bottom of the sink vanity.
There is a rubber gasket at the top of the pipe, against the sink, with a large metal nut that holds the tailpiece in place. Use pliers or a wrench to loosen the metal nut.
Remove the plastic drain pipe (tailpiece) from the sink by unscrewing it with your hands.
Now remove the metal lock nut and rubber gasket so that only the metal drain plug remains.
Remove Drain Plug
Push the metal drain plug up from underneath the bathroom vanity and remove it from the basin of the sink.
There can be quite a bit of build-up around where the drain plug was seated. Take time to thoroughly clean this area of the sink with a clean cloth or paper towel to ensure a leak-free seal when installing the new plug.
Remove Faucet Head
Now go back underneath the bathroom sink because it’s time to remove the three-hole faucet. The faucet is attached to the sink with two plastic locknuts.
Unscrew the two plastic locknuts. Attempt to remove them with your hands, but if they simply won’t budge, use pliers or a wrench.
With these removed, the three-hole faucet is now detached from the sink. Simply lift the faucet up and out of the sink.
There can potentially be mold, dirt, and other unpleasantness on the sink underneath where the faucet head sat. Clean this area to rid it of its grossness and ensure the new sink will seal correctly, preventing future grossness.
Attach New Faucet Head
We’re now ready to install the new three-hole bathroom vanity faucet replacement. Go ahead and grab that brand new faucet you’ve bought! You know, the one that seamlessly matches the bathroom decor, or at least, the one that’s clean and doesn’t leak, unlike the old one! Ugh, good riddance to that outdated thing!
Place the new faucet head in the sink, lining it up with the three holes in the vanity.
Info: If your replacement faucet only needs two holes for installation, this is because it uses a spring activated drain plug, which can make installation easier. If this is the case, it’s okay to have nothing going into the hole in the center of the vanity. Just line up the two pipes instead.
Many sink faucets come with a plastic or rubber gasket that fits onto the bottom of the faucet bracket. It sits between the faucet head and the vanity and acts as a water barrier. It most often merely slides on to the faucet’s bottom bracket, but read the manufacturer’s instructions to guarantee it’s installed correctly. Some faucets come with this piece already attached, but if not, don’t forget this step!
Once the new three-hole faucet has been set in place, go underneath the sink and, using your hands, screw the two plastic lock nuts to the two outside pipes on the replacement faucet. These pipes will connect to the water hoses.
Tip: Don’t tighten the plastic lock nuts fully at first. This gives you a chance to reposition the faucet from above until it is perfectly aligned. Once everything looks good, fully hand-tighten the plastic lock nuts until they are secure.
Connect Water Hoses
Before connecting the water hoses, you need to prep the water pipes on the replacement faucet to keep it leak-free. Use sealing tape and tightly wrap it around the threads of the two pipes on the new faucet.
Sealing tape is used in plumbing whenever there is metal to metal contact that involves threading and acts as a water barrier to prevent leakage.
Attach the water hoses and use pliers or a wrench to tighten them. Make sure that the hot water hose is connected to the hot water side of the faucet and vice versa for the cold side. See, spending that time earlier to label the hoses was worth it!
Install Drain Pipe
Before installing the drain pipe, wrap sealing tape around the threading. Then place the drain pipe into the drain hole in the vanity from the top of the sink.
For spring-activated drain plugs, it doesn’t matter how you orientate the drain pipe. For drain plugs that use a pop-up drain pull rod, ensure that the opening at the side of the drain pipe faces the back of the sink where the lever will connect to the pull rod.
Attach the rubber or plastic gasket/washer by placing the narrower section upwards, so it goes inside the drain hole to create a tight seal.
Now screw on the metal lock nut, which will hold the drain pipe to the sink vanity. Use pliers or a wrench to tighten the metal lock nut until the drain pipe is firmly in place.
For sink faucets that use a pop-up drain pull rod, after the drain pipe is installed, insert the metal ball socket lever into the pipe, screw on the plastic cap by hand tightening, and connect the lever to the pull rod by inserting it into the corresponding hole. Fasten the lever and pull rod together with the spring clip.
Remove Master Drain Piece (P-Trap)
This is an optional step when replacing a three-hole bathroom faucet, but as we’re already under the sink, we figured we’d replace the master drain piece (P-Trap), as well. It’s a good idea to replace this pipe if you notice some blockages inside the pipe that you can’t remove or if the pipe is filthy. Plus, a new P-trap kit only costs about $3.
To remove the master drain piece, unscrew the plastic lock nut holding it to the wall, and pull the PVC pipe out. Clean the pipe opening on the wall with a cloth or paper towels.
Install New P-Trap
Attach the new P-trap to the wall by screwing on the plastic lock nut. Ensure the plastic gasket/washer is installed between the new pipe, the opening on the wall, and the plastic lock nut.
Tip: Don’t fully tighten the P-trap to the wall yet. Leave a little slack to make connecting the other sections of the drain easier.
Install Drain Adapters
If the new drain pipe is smaller than the plastic drain piping it will be connected to, use a drain adapter, also known as a reducing washer. The diameter on our new drain plug was smaller, at 1-¼ inch, and the plastic PVC drain pipe is 1-½ inch in diameter. If this is the case, purchase a reducing washer at your local hardware store as it will allow the smaller pipe to fit into the bigger one
Attach a reducing washer to the drainpipe by sliding it over the end, with the narrower section of the reducing washer facing downwards.
The J-trap is the plastic piping section that connects the sink drain pipe to the master tailpiece (P-trap).
Once the reducing washer is in place, attach the J-trap to the drain pipe and the master tailpiece to connect them. Hand tighten the plastic lock nuts until they are firmly in place. Don’t forget to fully tighten the plastic lock nut that was left slack against the opening on the wall!
Turn On Water
Once everything is secure, turn on the water from underneath the sink by turning the water valves.
Turn On Sink Faucet
Turn on the faucet to make sure everything is working properly. Let the water run for a while to clean out any debris that might be in the new vanity faucet.
Alternate between running hot and cold water and check to see if the hot and cold pipes are set up correctly. If not, the water pipes may have gotten switched up, in which case simply turn off the water from underneath the sink and change the position of the hoses. If this is not possible, many bathroom faucets allow you to swap the hot and cold valve indicators so that they match.
While the water is running, look under the sink and check for any leaks.
Test Drain Plug
Finally, test the drain plug. Close the drain and fill the sink with water. Pay close attention to whether any water is draining when it shouldn’t be. If water is getting through the plug, check to see if everything is tightened and sealed correctly and make adjustments until no water gets past the drain plug.
And just like that, you now know how to replace a three-hole bathroom faucet! We hope you enjoy your new vanity sink faucet. With your new confidence, it’s time to tackle those other plumbing projects around your home! We’ll show you how!