How do I fix a loose faucet?
March 31, 2020 5:51 PM   Subscribe

My kitchen faucet is loose. Is this something I should fix immediately, and can I do it myself?

For the past few weeks, the faucet on my kitchen sink has been kind of moving back and forth a little whenever we turn the water on. I kept meaning to have the super come look at it, but never got around to it. Now, of course, I’m very anxious that it’s going to spring a leak or something and we'll be stuck without water in the kitchen. Obviously, this won’t be an optimal time for that to happen.

I’m perfectly comfortable doing simple DIY stuff around the house, but I’m always very hesitant to mess with plumbing at all. I’m thinking this is probably just a screw that needs tightening, but things are complicated a bit by the fact that we have what’s basically a giant drawer under the sink and I’d have to remove all the stuff in the drawer and then take the drawer out to actually get under the sink. (This is basically what we have — I’m not positive that it because the previous owners were the ones who installed it, but ours is definitely IKEA.)

Assuming that I can remove the drawer and get under the sink, is this something I can do myself? Or should I just beg the super to come in and give him a massive tip? Or should I just leave it alone until things are back to quasi-normal?
posted by holborne to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is water actually leaking somewhere? Or is this just, I have some time on my hands now and I'm looking around thinking about all the things I should do/change/fix ...?

If it's the latter, I would be inclined to leave it alone, be gentle with it, and try to get through the next couple of months letting it be loose.

Calling the super now means breaking your isolation. If you start trying to fix it, you might break it and then it would be a real problem and you'd have to call the super or a plumber, which would mean breaking your isolation. Both of those are worse than having a loose faucet.
posted by mccxxiii at 6:04 PM on March 31, 2020

I *think* you mean the whole body of the faucet is moving on the sink. If this is it, typically there is a nut waaay up behind the bowl of the sink that holds it down. It is difficult to get at unless you have a basin wrench. They come in various sizes depending on the size of the nut.

I've muddled through a couple times with an odd assortment of pliers and a bit of foul language, but definitely easier with a basin wrench.

But yeah, I agree, if it isn't leaking or about to fall off, I wouldn't worry with it right now. Grab the base of the faucet and the handle at the same time when you operate it.
posted by rudd135 at 6:08 PM on March 31, 2020 [6 favorites]

Late last year I thought I could fix my Grandma's tap like this, just by tightening it up. It turns out it was an extremely slow leak that had totally rusted one of the fittings. In looking, I made it worse and she had a very wonky tap for a while. We bought her a new tap and replaced it completely.

With the advice recently for over 70s to isolate, mrfeet looked at me and said "good thing we fixed Grandma's tap!"

The tap in question is one where you lift a lever for flow and turn to adjust temperature (a mixer? )

So my advice would be to be very very careful if you investigate.
posted by freethefeet at 6:25 PM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have absolutely no skills in plumbing or home improvement, and my sink was doing the same thing up until recently. My friend, who does have skills in those areas, was visiting and noticed it. He just reached up there under the faucet and tightened a bolt a little bit with his hand. It worked really well - the faucet is quite stable now.
posted by kms at 6:36 PM on March 31, 2020

Response by poster: Yes, this is a mixer. There’s no water leaking at all; it’s just that of course I’m generally anxious right now so I’m imagining the worst-case scenario.
posted by holborne at 6:51 PM on March 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Generally speaking, when you install a faucet you physically secure it before you hook up the plumbing. They are separate "systems" in that the mounting stuff is Independent of the water flow. It sounds like yours is newer, which should rule it a slow decay like freethefeet's. So I would conclude that while yours is loose, it's unlikely to be catastrophic in the next few months.

It's likely just a nut that needs tightened, but that nut is ... remote. I'd say you're okay leaving this alone for a while until professional backup is available, just treat it carefully.
posted by Dashy at 6:51 PM on March 31, 2020

Is it the entire faucet body, the entire assembly above the surface of the sink, that is wobbling? If so see rudd135's comment above. It won't spring a leak. You might be able to reach the nut by hand from below (remove eeeeverything from under the sink and lay on your back) and tighten it -- turn clockwise. But it can also be impossible to get your fingers on it, which is why you need rudd135's basin wrench. Which isn't cheap and maybe you should just wait for the social distancing to pass and then ask the super.

Or is it just the handle that's wobbly? If so it is indeed just a loose screw. There's likely a small allen / hex screw in the base of the handle that needs to be tightened, but you'll need the right size hex wrench. A hex wrench set costs about $10 and is a reasonably useful investment, moreso than a basin wrench. That also won't spring a leak, so no rush.
posted by intermod at 7:56 PM on March 31, 2020

Once you have a minute to crawl under the sink and look under there, you’ll see that your faucet is held to the sink by a clamp of some kind. All you have to do is tighten it. Easy peasy. If nothing is leaking and the faucet is otherwise performing as expected, then that’s probably it.

Faucets are surprisingly not hard to deal with (except for having to be a contortionist to get at it from underneath). I have zero plumbing expertise, and when my previous faucet broke, I was able to install a new one by myself after basically reading the directions in the box, and watching a couple YouTube videos. You’ll be fine. You can always call the super if it turns out to be more complicated than that.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:12 PM on March 31, 2020

In fact, it wouldn’t hurt for you to just google “Tighten loose faucet” and just watch a few videos to get an idea of what to look for. YouTube is fantastic for this sort of thing. I’d bet $5 it’ll be pretty straightforward.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:15 PM on March 31, 2020

Absolutely do not start voluntarily messing with your plumbing yourself at this point in history.

It probably is something that can be quickly fixed by an experienced person with the right tool. On the other hand, broken plumbing can make your life very inconvenient. At another time I’d say go ahead and roll those dice, but ... not now.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:17 PM on March 31, 2020 [4 favorites]

The faucet assembly will be held down by either 1-2 medium sized nuts, 1-2 quite large nuts or possibly a couple of bolts.

The bolts are the easiest: just put an appropriately sized and typed screwdriver on and tighten them down. It helps to have someone above to hold the faucet in the correct position so it doesn't end up tight and crooked.

Next easiest is the medium nut(s). These are easy if you have the super deep socket used originally (I often tape it to the back of the underside of the sink if the resident doesn't have a dedicated space for such things). If not they can be tightened with a wrench. A six inch crescent wrench I find is my go to.

If the faucet is being held in by large nuts you can still attack it with a wrench but they make a special basin wrench that will save a lot of time and colourful language. It can be used with the medium sized nuts too sometimes.
posted by Mitheral at 11:13 PM on March 31, 2020

We recently had a faucet replaced in our kitchen that came loose almost immediately. It was just a plastic part that was pretty easy to reach in and tighten by hand. So it’s worth getting under there and checking it out before investing in new hardware or even busting out the toolbox.
posted by jimw at 1:00 AM on April 1, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, I really appreciate it. I’m pretty risk averse, so for right now I’m going to leave well enough alone and revisit if it gets looser. (Btw, to belatedly clarify, this is the entire faucet body, that’s wobbling, not just the handle.)
posted by holborne at 1:51 PM on April 1, 2020

Just an extra note. Although the plumbing is not leaking, you may find that occasionally you get a little water dribbling under the sink. This might be because you splash some water from the sink around the base of the faucet and it dribbles under the loose base of the faucet. Not to panic, this isn't a real plumbing leak.
posted by JackFlash at 2:15 PM on April 1, 2020

Question for you: looking under the sink, is it plumbed one with copper pipes all the way up to the tap, or flexible braided hoses that have a bit of slack before they attach to the fixed stuff? If you aren't moving the tap against a completely rigid system I think it will last until you're comfortable getting someone to look at it (and probably a lot longer). If there are rigid pipes that get moved around it's a bit more of a judgement call.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 10:07 PM on April 1, 2020

Response by poster: It’s the flexible braided hose kind.
posted by holborne at 11:12 AM on April 2, 2020

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