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September 15, 2021 6 min read

Understanding the parts of your kitchen faucet

 According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the average American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day, making your faucet be possibly the most used fixture in your kitchen. We use it to rinse our vegetables, clean our dishes, wash our hands, fill our pots, and even just for a glass of water. Whether you’re buying a new one or looking for replacement parts, it’s important to know the ins-and-outs of something that you use so frequently. 

 

A parts breakdown or diagram can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking at. Why are some parts pre-installed while others are not? Why don’t see I see a lot of these parts in the box? Do I need to install everything together?

Where to start?!?

The first thing you’ll need to do is to is determine what type of configuration you can install onto your sink. Or, if you’re buying a brand-new sink, you’ll need to settle on what type of faucet you want so you can determine how many holes you need to configure for.

Most modern kitchen faucets will only need one hole for installation but many sinks typically come with up to three holes. Don’t fret, though, because these can be easily hidden by an escutcheon / baseplate. Some of the more unique sinks and faucet configurations may have anywhere between two to five holes which might be for extra spray heads, handles, dishwasher covers, and more.

Depending on what type of faucet you go with, your parts breakdown diagram may look a little different. We’re going to keep it simple and go over the most common parts to look out for on a single hole kitchen faucet.

 

Aerator

Aerator

If you’ve ever unscrewed the very tip of a faucet spout or felt inside with your finger, then you’ve likely discovered a device with a small metal screen disk. This is the faucet’s aerator.

An aerator is a small, round device that you can screw onto the tip of a faucet to create a more consistent, splash-free stream of water. It’s the aerators job to create a mixture of water and air, which helps to make the stream smoother in additional to limiting the water flow to an acceptable level. In California, the standard GMP (gallons per minute) is 1.8 for kitchen faucets.

The main purpose of your faucet’s aerator is to improve the flow of water, but it can also filter for debris. If you remove the aerator and turn it upside-down to tap it out, you may release a small piece of grit or scale produced by the inside of the pipes.

If you ever need to replace your faucet’s aerator, this can be easily done using pliers and a small towel:

  • Unscrew the aerator from the tip of the faucet. Most can be unscrewed by hand, but if you’re having trouble unscrewing it, wrap your small town around the aerator and use your pliers for extra assistance.
  • Once it’s removed, clean the threads on the inside of the faucet.
  • Double-check that your aerator is fully assembled before installing it (i.e.; make sure the washer is in place to prevent any possible leakage).
  • Hand tighten the aerator to the tip of the faucet until the threads fully catch.
  • Once the aerator feels mostly secured, wrap the towel around the aerator and further tighten with your pliers.
  • Make sure to turn the water back on to test it out.

 

Spout

The spout is generally the first thing that identifies what kind of faucet you have. Its main purpose is to deliver water from the body to the sink. Your spout may even have additional features. For instance, pull-down and pull-out faucets allow for the nozzle head to be extended away from the faucet’s body for additional reach. 

Some of the most common spout types you’ll find are high-arc (typically found on pull-down faucets), gooseneck, and straight spouts. Like their name suggests, high-arc spouts are taller faucets that require a certain amount of clearance space so make sure you measure your installation area before committing to one. Gooseneck spouts can give your space a more elegant look and are great for filling deep pots. Many farmhouse style kitchens use gooseneck spout faucets to add to the room’s aesthetic. Straight spouts are much lower profile and are typically used for smaller spaces. A lot of pull-out faucet designs have straight spouts to you give you a better ergonomic experience. To satisfy the straight spout design, the handle of the nozzle is bigger and longer, making it easier to maneuver.

 

Handle

Faucet handles

The main purpose for the handle is to turn the water off and on while also controlling the water’s temperature. It does this by opening and closing the valve. Most modern faucets only have one handle. It’s usually found on top of the spout, on either side of it, on the front of the body, or even installed beside it if you have additional sink holes. The single handle can be turned in several cylindrical directions to control water temperature, flow, and pressure.

Two handle faucets require additional installation holes, as the name suggests. Water can be turned off and on by either handle, but the water temperature is controlled by one or the other.

 

Cartridge

Cartridge valve

The cartridge is a plastic or metal piece inside of your faucet that controls water flow and temperature. The more modern and higher end cartridges will be made out of ceramic. These types of cartridges rarely leak and are not affected by hard-water deposits. The most common type of leak you’ll see on a faucet is caused by worn out cartridges, so it’s important that your faucet comes with a good one.

If you ever do need to replace one, though, it’s a fairly easy fix.

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine what type of faucet you have so you know where to look. One-handle faucets come in cartridge, ceramic disk, or ball types. Two-handle faucets are cartridge or compression types. If you open up a two-handle faucet and see a faucet stem stickup up, that’s likely a compression faucet, which don’t have cartridges and are often only found in older homes.

Once the type of faucet is determined, you’ll need to gather the following tools to help with the replacement: adjustable wrench, Allen key, Phillips-head screwdriver, slotted screwdriver, and needle nose pliers.

  • Turn the water off by using the shut-off valve underneath the sink.
  • If your faucet has decorative handle covers, pop off the plastic cap from the top of each handle. Use your fingernails or a flat head screwdriver to find the screw where the cap was.
  • Different faucet setups will require separate instructions on how to remove the handles:
    • For two handle faucets with the screws on top, use a screwdriver to remove each screw and then carefully pull straight upwards to remove the handles.
    • For two angled handles, the screw may be in a different spot. If the screw is on the side of the handle, use an Allen key to loosen it and the pull the handle off.
    • Other two handle faucets may need for you to remove a bonnet nut or retaining nut using your adjustable wrench. You’ll see a plastic cylindrical piece with a stem on top. That’s the faucet’s cartridge.
    • For one handle faucets, the screw will be on the front of the handle but it might be covered with a nameplate, water temperature indicator, or a decoration. Use an Allen key to unscrew it and remove the handle. There will usually be a bonnet or dome that will need to be twisted off in order to see the cartridge.
  • Not all faucets are created equally, so if you still don’t see the cartridge, you’ll likely need to remove some additional parts. Depending on how difficult it is to remove the cartridge, you may also need a special tool. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if there are any special notes to be aware of.
  • Once the cartridge is removed, look inside and see if your faucet has an O-ring or spring. If it does, take both pieces out and clean any debris that the faucet may be housing using a small, soft cloth.
  • Reverse the steps to replace the old cartridge with a new one.
    • Tip: Check the faucet’s manufacturer and model number to make sure you get the same cartridge as before.

 

Body

The body is where the hot and cold water is mixed before it gets to the spout. Most one- and two-handle faucet designs combine the hot and cold water in a single casting that also houses the cartridge valves. If you have a widespread body, your faucet will require three holes in order to install. The hot and cold water is mixed together in a separate pipe that’s hidden beneath the counter.

 

Baseplate

Baseplate - Escutcheon

Most new sinks will either come with a pre-installed number of installation holes or you’ll be asked how many holes you would like to be drilled into the sink at the time of purchase. If you don’t have a brand-new sink then you may be stuck with however many holes your old faucet may have already had.

Let’s say your old faucet was a three hole or widespread design but your new faucet is a single hole design. A baseplate, also called an escutcheon, can be used to cover the extra holes for you.

The baseplate would be placed between the bottom of the faucet and the top of the sink. The faucet would be installed in the middle hole of the sink so that the baseplate covers the surrounding holes.


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