Even though faucets are similar in function and makeup, the guts that go into them are not all the same. Each manufacturer uses stems of differing lengths with multiple splines atop the stem -- also called a cartridge -- that fit specific faucet handles. You have several ways of identifying the faucet brand you have so that you can repair it. The methods of identification include:

  • logo identification
  • model number
  • broach or spline shape and number of teeth
  • and stem or cartridge length

Find the Logo

The most obvious and quickest solution is to look for a logo -- the manufacturer's symbol -- that identifies its faucets. Each manufacturer has a distinctive logo that sometimes appears on the escutcheon -- the plate beneath the faucet -- the body of the faucet, the spout itself or somewhere on the handle.

Locate the Model Number

Some faucet manufacturers -- Moen -- for example, include the model number on the back of the spout, on its underside, on the escutcheon or on the back of the decorative ring found on the bottom of the spout. If you still have the installation guide that came with your faucet, check that for a model number.

Count the Splines

If you can't find an identifying model number or manufacturer's name on the faucet itself, you can identify the manufacturer if you remove the handle and the faucet stem and count the number of splines on its broach and measure the length of the stem. Chicago faucets for example, use a square broach without teeth. Each spline is slightly different, some of different diameter, shape or amount of teeth.

For example, a four-point square broach is associated with some American Standard and Price Pfister faucets -- two common faucet manufacturers. The broach is atop the faucet stem, sometimes resembles the shape of a small-toothed gear. The gear's splines fit inside the female end of a faucet handle.

Broach Gauge

If you repair a lot of faucets, use the tool a professional plumber does to identify faucet stems and handles for easy replacement: a faucet stem and handle broach gauge. This tool includes 18 different cylindrical tubes, each of which have a male end that inserts into the faucet handle and a female end in which you insert the stem.

Each one of the 18 cylinders attached to the tool's chain have a pattern identification number associated with it. For example, the broach gauge with ID no. 1-4 fits some American Standard faucet stems and handles. ID No. 1-7 fits stems and handles for some Kohler faucets. The gauge with pattern ID No. 1-6 identifies stems and handles for the Kohler-Trend faucets, Eljer, some Milwaukee faucet models, Burlington and some American Standard models.

Replacement Parts

Many companies make replacement parts for stems and handles, but at minimum, you need to know the manufacturer, the stem length and the spline shape, and number of teeth. When you shop for replacement parts at hardware, plumbing supply or home improvement stores, take the old stem with you to verify you get the right O-rings, gaskets or replacements stems for your faucet so you don't have to make a repeat trip.