How to Fix a Leaky Sink Strainer in 4 Easy Steps
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.
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.
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.)
How to Repair a Leaky Sink Strainer
A Step-by-Step Guide With Pictures
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!
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