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How to Fix a Leaky Sink Strainer in 4 Easy Steps

I have lots of experience with DIY plumbing and am here to share my tips and step-by-step pictorial guides with you.

Home Plumbing Made Easy

Home Plumbing Made Easy

That Leaky Sink Strainer

"What's all of this water doing under my sink?!"

Few things are more frustrating than finding a puddle of water under the kitchen sink, which usually occurs just as you're heading off to bed. Just the thought of having to call a plumber out to fix the pipes makes the cash-pouch on "the old wallet" clinch even tighter. The results of a leaky sink strainer are a pain, but fixing them is pretty simple. No need to worry about an expensive service call when for a couple of bucks and a little of your time, you can repair a leaky sink strainer in 4 easy steps.

You will find this picture-by-picture sink-strainer repair lesson to be so simple that you will gladly admit that even the most novice of home repair advocates can complete the repair painlessly. As for those super-skilled home repair wizards, they may just consider this to be a fun little plumbing project to complete between all of the heavy home maintenance they do.

Sink-Strainer Assembly: Labeling

The sink-strainer assembly connects the sink to the drain line (the pipe that carries water away from your home). Leaks may occur where the strainer body seals against the lip-edge of the drain opening.

Sink Strainer Assembly - Part labeling

Sink Strainer Assembly - Part labeling

A Quick Under-the-Sink Inspection

You will only need a few basic tools and minimal materials to get that leaky sink fixed. But first, how can you be sure it's the sink strainer that is actually causing the leak? It's pretty common for the sink strainer to be improperly sealed to the sink drain opening during aftermarket sink repairs. Because of this, you can bet that a good portion of leaks found under your sink are caused by this problem. To determine if this is the cause of your leaky under-sink puddle, follow these simple ABC's for practical sink strainer troubleshooting:

A. Close the drain stopper and fill the sink pretty full with water.

B. Add a few drops of food coloring to tint the water in the sink. This allows you to see where the leak is coming from more easily.

C. From underneath the sink, inspect the strainer assembly for any colorful leaks.

This all you need to fix a "Leaky Sink Strainer"

This all you need to fix a "Leaky Sink Strainer"

Leaky Sink Repair Supplies

Tools

  • Channel-style Pliers
  • Spud Wrench
  • Hammer
  • Putty Knife

Materials

  • Plumber's Putty
  • Replacement Parts (where needed)
  • Whole new assembly (if desired)

If you find your leak is coming from the sink strainer, remove the strainer body, clean it, and replace the gaskets and plumber's putty. Or, replace the strainer with a new assembly, available in the plumbing section at just about every home center store in your neighborhood. (It is recommended that you take the old assembly with you so you are sure to find the proper replacement size and style.)

Step 1: Remove Tailpiece

Unscrew the slip nuts from both ends of the tailpiece. You will need to use the channel-style pliers for this. Disconnect the tailpiece from the sink strainer body and trap bend. Remove the tailpiece. (See diagram #1.)

Repair step #1 - Leaky Sink Strainer, remove slip nuts.

Repair step #1 - Leaky Sink Strainer, remove slip nuts.

Step 2: Remove Strainer Assembly

Now it is time to remove the locknut; this requires you to use the spud wrench. You may need to use the hammer as well here, as tapping stubborn lugs with the hammer can help to release them. Unscrew the locknut completely, and remove the strainer assembly—in some very stubborn cases it may be necessary to cut the locknut. (See diagram #2.)

Repair step #2 - Leaky Sink Strainer, remove locknut.

Repair step #2 - Leaky Sink Strainer, remove locknut.

Step 3: Remove Old Plumber's Putty

In this step, the plumber's putty gets your attention. Remove all of the old plumber's putty from the drain opening, this is where the putty knife is used. Be careful not to scratch the sink finish with the pointed edge of the knife. If you are reusing the old strainer body, be sure to thoroughly clean off the old putty from under the flange. For the best results, the old washers and gaskets should be replaced. (See diagram #3.)

Repair step #3 - Leaky Sink Strainer, remove the old plumber's putty.

Repair step #3 - Leaky Sink Strainer, remove the old plumber's putty.

Step 4: Reinstall Strainer

Place a bead of plumber's putty on the lip of the drain opening (work the putty into a rope shape) then lay the rope completely around the opening of the drain for a superior watertight seal. Press the strainer body into the drain opening. From under the sink, place the rubber gasket, then metal (or fiber) friction ring, over the strainer. Reinstall the locknut and tighten it down, paying extra attention so you DO NOT tighten the locknut so much that it cracks or breaks. Replace the plumbing tailpiece to sink strainer, and test for leaks (see above section "A Quick Under-the-Sink Inspection" to check for leaks). Wipe off any excess putty that has oozed out from the pressure of the strainer body being put in place, a damp towel works well for this. That's it, you're all done! (See diagram #4.)

Repair step #4 - Leaky Sink Strainer, replace plumber's putty.

Repair step #4 - Leaky Sink Strainer, replace plumber's putty.

A Plumbing Job Well Done!

Now that you have repaired that leaky sink strainer, you may have discovered a renewed level of home repair confidence. Don't let it go to waste! You can save hundreds of dollars by fixing your own home plumbing projects with your own two hands. Just make sure to thoroughly troubleshoot the problem, have the correct tools and materials on hand, and follow whatever directions you have for the job. You might just save enough money to buy one of those fancy designer handcrafted sinks you've been looking at. The question is, will you be managing that sink plumbing project as well? You're thinking about it now, aren't you?

The Best Online Plumbing Resources

If you find yourself in a plumbing bind, you may need more advice than a Home Center associate can offer. Since you're already at home doing your plumbing project anyway, simply hop online. You can go to any of the following professional plumbing sites for information and advice. In some cases, they will even take the time to help you with a plumbing question by talking with you on the phone. Happy plumbing!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2011 India Arnold

Comments

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 29, 2011:

Tina~ Thank you for your kind remarks here. I am so pleased that you found the sink strainer repair directions easy to follow. You know, I also like manuals and when they don't have an assembly diagram that is clearly labeled it always bothers me. So I set out with that as a goal for the hub! I sure appreciate you stopping by.

Cheers~

K9

Christina Lornemark from Sweden on August 29, 2011:

I wish all manuals was like this, great photos and easy to follow steps! I always read the manuals for everything I buy because I like manuals. So, I have read quite a few:)) I especially like the way you show the names of the different parts, it is so helpful! Now I know how to fix a leaky sink! Voted up and useful!

Tina

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 24, 2011:

Chatkath~ So happy to see you today! Thank you for the comments, and it thrills me that you find the plumbing project an easy go, that's the way I like 'em!

Really appreciate the support--

Huge HubHugs!

K9

lundmusik~ I am in the plumbing contest, everyone who publishes a hub in the plumbing topic gets entered! It's that easy! Thanks for the "wow"...I think? ;)

Cheers~

K9

lundmusik from Tucson AZ on August 24, 2011:

wow,, i assume you're in the contest,,,, good luck

Kathy from California on August 24, 2011:

Amazing K9, this is so easy to understand (like all your hubs) that even I can attempt it! Thank you for a very detailed and well done how-to! Up and useful!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 24, 2011:

snakeslane~ Thanks for sharing your comments here! LOL! I was not actually fixing my sink strainer, my dad helped me to set up the stages of repair for most of the plumbing stuff. Creating the assembly was a pain, it's amazing what a little fishing line (and PS)can help you accomplish (just make sure the cat is not in the room)! Glad you find the project manageable! It really is a pretty easy plumbing project.

CHeers~

K9

Simone~ Glad you approve of the picture-by-picture project. As intimidating as plumbing repairs can seem, this one is really very simple and only takes a few minutes (and a really cool dad).

HubHugs~

K9

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 24, 2011:

In my apartment, it's the bathroom sink that does all the leaking, but if my kitchen sink decides to join in on the fun, I'll know exactly what to do! This guide is so helpful- the step-by-step images, list of supplies needed, the quiz... everything is great!

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on August 24, 2011:

Wow, great visuals! I was wondering, did you just happen to be fixing your sink strainer and take all those pics yourself? You make an intimidating DYI plumbing project look so easy. Thanks for the quizz.