How to Change a Faucet Stem

Change a Faucet Stem
Change a Faucet Stem (Image:

Old stem faucets will inevitably leak after a decade or so because they seal off the water using plastic or rubber rings, which deteriorate over the years. The good news is, they are very easy to fix. Unlike most household projects, you won't be able to buy all your supplies in advance because you need the stem out of the faucet in hand in order to determine exactly what style of replacement you need, so allow an hour or two when the water supply to the faucet will be turned off.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver with flathead and phillips bits
  • Allen wrench set
  • Standard adjustable wrench
  • New stem, packing nut and handle assembly with new packing material (these will be purchased after you have removed the existing stem)

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Turn off the water supply by shutting down the local valve, which should be located under the sink. Turn the valve handle clockwise to shut it off.

Find the screw on the top of the faucet handle, which should be located right in the center of it, facing up. Often there is a cap over it that has to be pried or unscrewed from the handle to get to the screw head. Removing the screw could require a regular flathead or phillips screwdriver or an allen wrench, depending on the model of faucet. Remove the handle by turning the screw counterclockwise until it comes out. Set the handle and screw aside.

With your standard wrench, loosen the large hexagonal nut (called a "packing nut'') that sits just below the handle. Loosen it by turning it counterclockwise. Remove it and set it aside.

The interior stem of the faucet will now be exposed. Clamp the wrench to the stem and gently turn it counterclockwise to remove it.

Take the stem to your local hardware store to find the appropriate replacement. Get new packing as well (this is the rubber string or series of rubber rings wrapped around the stem). Once you have your supplies, carry out the removal process in reverse, taking care not to overtighten the packing nut when you're putting it back on with the wrench. Turn on the water supply.

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