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. I find that this always happens at the least convenient time. The thought of having to call a plumber to fix the pipes makes the cash-pouch on the old wallet clench tightly. The results of a leaky sink strainer are a pain, but fixing them yourself is actually pretty simple. There's no need to worry about an expensive service call when you can repair a leaky sink strainer in four easy steps with only a few dollars and a little time.
This picture-by-picture sink-strainer repair lesson is so simple that even the most novice of home repair advocates can complete the project painlessly.
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.
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:
- Close the drain stopper and fill the sink pretty full with water.
- 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.
- From underneath the sink, inspect the strainer assembly for any colorful leaks.
Leaky Sink Repair Supplies
- Channel-style Pliers
- Spud Wrench
- Putty Knife
- 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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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!
- National Kitchen and Bathroom Association (NKBA)
- Plumbing and Drainage Institute
- The Institute of Plumbing
- International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
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
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.
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!
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--
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? ;)
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.
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).
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.