The most difficult part of replacing a faucet is removing the old one, and that's because the nuts holding it to the countertop or sink deck are invariably stuck, and for good reason. They have been in the moist confines of the sink cabinet for years, and mineral deposits have had all that time to collect in the threads. Most plumbers reach for a basin wrench to remove stuck metal nuts, but plastic ones often have wings that prevent the wrench from gripping. It's still worth a try, but chances are you're going to have to resort to other measures.
Using a Basin Wrench
The basin wrench was invented for faucet removal, says Liberty Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, and it's designed to reach into the tight space behind the sink where an ordinary wrench won't go. It's easy to use one:
- Crawl under the sink (preferably wearing a headlamp) and get in position.
- Open the jaws of the wrench, insert the long pole up behind the sink and hook the jaws onto the faucet nut. Be sure they are facing in the direction you need to turn the nut (counterclockwise) so they will automatically lock onto the nut.
- Grip the wrench handle, which should extend below the sink, with both hands and summon as much muscle as possible to turn the nut.
If the nut is shaped in a way that prevents the wrench from gripping it, or all the force you can muster won't make it turn, you can use one of several tricks plumbers have up their sleeves for times like this.
Tapping With Screwdriver and Hammer
The plastic nibs that prevent the wrench from gripping are there for a reason. They provide a surface against which you can set the head of a flat-head screwdriver, which you can then tap with a hammer to loosen the nut. You can't always get the screwdriver at the optimum angle for tapping, but as long as you can tilt it in any direction other than perpendicular to the washer, you should be able to generate enough force with the hammer to loosen the nut.
Depending on the configuration of the sink, it may make more sense to use a stubby screwdriver rather than a long one. If you can't turn the nut counterclockwise, Kitchen Faucet Reviews suggests tapping it in the opposite direction. If it moves at all, that will break the calcium bonds holding it, and you should then be able to remove it.
Use Heat or Calcium Dissolver
Whether you use a basin wrench or a hammer and screwdriver, the nut is easier to loosen if you heat it with a hairdryer. The heat should soften the plastic and make the nut pliable enough to break free. It also helps to spray some calcium dissolver on the nut and wait several minutes before tapping or twisting. Spraying lubricant, such as WD-40, is a third option, but it's flammable, so don't use it in conjunction with heat.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.