"a practical hands-on
   guide to bathroom


Faucet Installation

General Information:
Faucets should be installed with air arrestors (air dams) to minimize water line noise.  If at all possible, install the faucet on an interior wall to prevent freezing (if your geographic area freezes) and install as much insulation on all exterior walls as possible.  Many people install insulation on all shower walls (not just exterior walls) to reduce the sound of water hitting the walls, especially walls that may be adjacent to rooms with light sleepers.

When installing washerless faucets, be certain to flush the hot and cold water lines to remove any sediment to prevent clogging or dripping.  This should be done with the cartridges removed.

Multiple showerhead faucets and/or multiple mixing valve faucets will
normally require 3/4" water supply lines; although some manufacturers make spa sets that function reasonably well with 1/2" supply lines (which is what most residential properties have).

For best results, always use lead free solder and good quality flux with copper piping. Make
certain that the water lines (both hot and cold) are off and dry before attempting to do any 

Old galvanized pipe will normally require adapters to the typical 1/2" copper pipe.


Water shutoff:  Most homes have water shut-off valves in the basement - typically facing the front of the house where the main lines are normally
located.  This will not be the case in some rural communities or where there is a well located.  Typically, the shut-off valve is by the inlet pipe from the outside; however, the main shut-off valve may be outside the house in a circular cavity with the water meter about 3-4 feet below grade (to prevent freezing).  Some of these shut-off valves require a wrench or "street key" to shut off (usually only a 1/4" turn is required).  Be very careful using a wrench or a street key on old piping, since it may be in poor condition and may break (that's not a good thing) - be gentle in making the turn.  In some cases, the street key may have to be used in the "buffalo box" to shut off the main line (in cases where the water is not metered).  This can be tricky because the valve may break and often digging is required to locate the shut-off valve (this is rare but it does happen).  It is best to use an experienced plumber to shut off water with a street key in the buffalo box to prevent possible extensive damage which may require digging to correct any water line damage done. 

When you have the main water line shut off (or you think you do), you are ready to remove
the old faucet and begin to install the new valve.  Most of the time it's necessary to open the
faucets at the lowest and highest level to allow the water to drain from the pipes (in large houses this may take some time).  After all this is done, frequently there is still a small amount of water in the line which will prevent you from soldering.  If so, a small amount of bread put in the pipe(s) will keep enough of the water out so you can solder - then the bread is flushed out as the valve is opened.  If this fails, go to a plumbing supply shop and get dissolvable pipe plugs - available in 1/2" and 3/4" size.  These are clear "large pill-like" objects made of jelly and shaped like a small football .  Force it/them into the dripping water to be used as a plug - this will give you enough time to do your soldering.  Once done, take your soldering torch and heat the pipe where the plugs were inserted and they will dissolve.

If all of the above fails, you may have to install compression shut-off valves on the lines where you are installing the new faucet valve or you may have to install a "second" shut-off
valve in compression type to get full water shut-off.

When soldering, remember that solder will follow the heat.  Always have all surfaces to be soldered cleaned with an emery cloth or wire brush if
cleaning into female fittings.  Good quality flux is a must - just like good quality lead-free solder is a must.  Any rubber in stops or cartridges must be removed prior to soldering to prevent damage.  Be certain to allow all solder joints to cool to prevent valve damage or leaking joints.

Flush the valve completely before installing showerheads, since this may cause them to get plugged.  For faucets with cartridges, it is important that pipe chips, sand, stones and other solids found in new and renovation plumbing can damage
sealing surfaces (and showerheads).  Sometimes when old showerheads are reused, they require cleaning - commercial cleaners are available; however, soaking in cheap household vinegar overnight and cleaning with a stiff brush can usually solve that problem.  Keep in mind that old showerheads did not have a waterflow restrictor, but the newer heads do.  In some cases, removing the waterflow restrictor will cause the showerhead to be useless.  The normal water flow at the time of this writing is 2.5GPM (gallons per minute).

Water pressure in most houses should be about 40-60 PSI (pounds per square inch).  If the pressure is too low, there isn't enough water pressure in the house.  If the pressure is too high, toilet lines may burst, washer lines may burst, etc.  Frequently, the pressure re
ducing valve in the house may have to be adjusted, cleaned or replaced.  A pressure gauge, available at most hardware stores, can be attached to a laundry hose spigot to check for correct water pressure.

When the faucet is turned on, it's best to install a cap in the shower arm and keep the valve under pressure to check for any possible leaks before the walls are installed.  If possible, it's a good idea to have an access panel on the opposite wall for future service.