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When to Replace a Faucet

By Jerry L'Ecuyer and Frank Alvarez

Dear Maintenance Men

Dear Maintenance Men: I have owned and operated my apartment building since the early ’70s and have always performed my own repairs, and general maintenance on my properties. Lately, I have been struggling with kitchen and bathroom faucet repair. I am handy, so I am not referring to the actual physical aspect of repair, but the decision to repair or replace a faucet. Over the many years of ownership, I have replaced my older stem and rubber washer (compression) type to the newer washerless and single-handle types. The problem is, I now have a difficult time finding parts or the cost of repair is awfully close to buying a new fixture. Am I alone in this struggle? I used to hate having to replace the seats and washers but now I miss it.


Dear Bill: You are not alone in this struggle. Today, a typical repair of any medium-quality faucet can cost 30% more than replacing the same faucet. The difference and deciding factor will be the quality of the faucet you are repairing. For instance, the cost of repairing extremely “cheap” or off-brand fixtures is not worth the time or effort, as they will continue to fail in a short amount of time. Most brand-name fixtures will last you 10 years or so, depending on the following factors: use and abuse, maintenance, installation, finish, water quality and model of fixture.

The number-one reason you should consider replacing your old faucet is to conserve water. Older faucets can waste 3 to 5 gallons per minute. Newer faucets use less than 2.5 gallons per minute.

When it comes to purchasing faucets and all other plumbing fixtures for your investment property, it is best to be value-driven and not cost-driven in your decision-making process. Consider a consistent brand, style and type of fixture you will use. There are many “better” quality fixtures at affordable prices you can choose from with a look for any style of bathroom, or kitchen. For longer-lasting, commercial-quality fixtures, which will have replacement parts far into the future, look to purchase from a plumbing supply store instead of the big box stores.

Why? Most fixtures are made specifically for each big box store and are for residential use. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to find replacement parts if the store you originally purchased a part from does not stock the replacement part you need. That said, most fixtures come with a “Lifetime Warranty” (for residential use), but waiting the considerable amount of time it takes to receive your replacement part may not be practical when you have to fix it right there and then.

The benefits of installing new fixtures are that the many new technologies help to extend the actual lifespan of the fixtures and reduce the water consumption. Looks do matter! Nothing dates your apartments like old, worn and style-challenged fixtures.

There are four major types of fixtures that are prevalent in our industry: compression, ball, disk and cartridge faucets. Only the compression faucets use the stem, seat washer and valve seat technology we were all accustomed to, and probably still have collecting dust in our storage rooms. The good news is ball, disk and cartridge faucets use O-rings and seals as the primary technology for faucet function.

To reduce the expense of repairing or replacing your faucets, consider purchasing a kit with a variety of faucet specific O-rings and seals. There are many universal kits on the market that can help you reduce the need to purchase the actual cartridge (most times, it is not necessary to replace the cartridge.)