Is your faucet spitting out low water pressure? When it’s working correctly, you might not even notice. But when it’s not working as it should, something as simple as rinsing a dish can be frustrating. Low water pressure is a common (and annoying) plumbing problem.
The kitchen faucet is a workhorse and one of the most important fixtures in a home.
The good news is that this is a common issue that is easy to fix most of the time. You can do it! Yes, you can, and we can help you fix it. This article will help you identify the problem and get that faucet flowing as it should.
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Is the Water Pressure Low in Just the Kitchen or the Whole House?
The first step is to find out exactly why your water pressure is too low. If you don’t mind rolling up your sleeves and doing a little detective work, you’ll be able to sort out your kitchen sink in far less time than it takes to track down a plumber.
If there is low pressure on one side of the faucet or only in the kitchen—follow the steps below to pinpoint the source. If the problem is happening throughout the entire house or multiple fixtures, skip straight to the next section.
Low Water Pressure in the Kitchen Only
If you are only experiencing low pressure in the kitchen, the problem is with the fixture itself, not the pipes or water line. It’s usually one of three issues:
Blocked aerator – the aerator is a small screen attached to the spout of your sink. Aerators mix the water with a stream of air to reduce water flow.
Faulty Cartridge – leaks can be caused by worn-out o-rings and cartridges, lowering water pressure. If you have a new faucet, sometimes debris can get stuck in the cartridge during installation as well.
Clogged pullout spray head – pull out spray heads can also have issues with the hose or the head itself. People who live in areas with hard water will find that mineral deposits block the spray head.
How to Check a Pull-Out Spray Head (If You Own One)
Follow the steps below to check the pull-out spray head for blockage.
Things you’ll need:
- Your hands
- Warm water
Remove the spray head from the hose and turn the water on. If the pressure is adequate, then the mineral buildup in the spray head is most likely the problem. Clean it with a 1:1 solution of vinegar and water, then test the faucet.
How to Check the Aerator
The aerator is very easy to get to. Before you start, plug the drain to avoid dropping parts down the sink and put a cloth somewhere to place the parts.
Things you’ll need:
- Duct Tape
First, remove the aerator. Wrap duct tape around the pincers of the pliers so it doesn’t damage the finish of your faucet. Next, unscrew the aerator. It should come off quite easily.
Now test the faucet; if the water flows as it should, you’ve found the problem! If the pressure is still too low, go to the next step. If not, disassemble the aerator and clean it. Try using a vinegar solution and a toothbrush to clean the screen.
If it’s really caked on there, you can boil it or let it soak in a strong vinegar solution for 45 minutes and try again. After you are done scrubbing, put the aerator back on.
How Do You Unclog a Faucet Cartridge?
If it’s not the aerator, the cartridge is the next best place to look. But how do I know if my faucet cartridge is bad? It’s easy to spot once you remove it. If the cartridge or seal is broken, it can cause leaks that lower the pressure.
As before, plug the drain to avoid dropping anything down there.
Things you’ll need:
- Flathead Screwdriver
- Allen Wrench
- Box or Adjustable Wrench
First, shut off the hot water and cold water supply lines under the sink. Make sure they are in the off position. Remove the faucet handle with either a flathead screwdriver and/or an Allen wrench. How you take it apart depends on how the faucet is put together.
Then remove the cartridge. It’s a good idea to take a picture of the cartridge before you take it apart. Once it’s out, inspect the cartridge and the washers for damage or buildup. You should be able to tell if it’s blocked by looking at it.
Clean the cartridge thoroughly and reassemble the faucet. Turn the water back on and test the water pressure.
Low Water Pressure in the Entire House
Water pressure in the public water mains is much higher than 80 PSI most of the time, sometimes it’s as much as 140 PSI. This is way too high for efficient use in most homes, and the pressure is prone to fluctuation. While water pressure for the average house ranges from 30 PSI to 80 PSI, it violates the code if it’s over 80 for safety reasons.
If you are experiencing low pressure in all of your faucets it could be the main water pressure valve (PRV) or a leak in the pipes. First, ask your neighbors if they are having the same issue; if so, you will need to contact your municipal water supply district office. Otherwise, continue to the next step.
Check the Pressure Regulator Valve (PRV)
A water pressure regulator valve (PRV) is part of your water meter assembly. It’s a brass fitting that is usually located near the main shutoff valve, where the main water line enters the house. Most PRVs have a locking nut you can turn to increase or decrease the water pressure.
A PRV is responsible for reducing high water pressure and leveling out the ebb and flow of water coming into your home to ensure that water pressure is even. While the PRV keeps the water flow at a consistent pressure level, it can cause low water pressure if it is clogged or malfunctioning. And a broken PRV can cause seriously expensive plumbing problems.
Things you’ll need:
- Wrench or Vice Grips
To Check the PRV water pressure, locate the locking nut. To decrease pressure, turn it clockwise. To increase pressure, turn it counterclockwise. Be very careful when you are increasing the pressure. If you turn it too high you can blow a pipe. If this doesn’t solve your problem, go to the next step.
Check the Plumbing System for Leaks With a Pressure Gauge
If it’s not the PRV valve, it could also be a leak. Any leaks in the plumbing, inside or outside, will lower the water pressure in the entire house. This can not only raise your water bill, but it can cause more severe plumbing issues.
Things you’ll need:
- A water pressure gauge
- An outside hose bib with a gate valve on it.
First, shut off the main water supply to the house. This is usually found in the garage or a crawlspace. Make sure the water is off by testing your faucets.
Next, connect the water pressure gauge to a hose bib attached to your house. Turn the gate valve to the off position. Now, look at the indicator. If the PSI starts dropping, you have a leak. If it’s staying at 80, leave the gauge on for 5-15 minutes to see if it moves. If it drops, you have a leak.
Check for Leaks Using a Water Meter
The water meter is typically located near the edge of your street or on a specific part of your property. On most homes, it’s in a box buried in the dirt but they also come freestanding. Newer meters will have a digital display while older ones have a dial.
Find the meter, if there is a cover on the face of it, remove it. Newer meters will have a symbol of a leaky faucet if there is a leak. On older meters, the dial will spin if the pressure is dropping.
Hopefully, you were able to isolate the problem and fix it yourself. Usually, it’s an easy fix, but you may be dealing with a larger problem in some cases. If you went through all the steps and still couldn’t diagnose the problem, it’s probably time to call in a plumber.
Likewise, if you did find a leak, you might want to call a professional. Leaks can lead to costly damage if they aren’t fixed properly. Even if you end up paying for repairs, you can still save money in the long run. Most plumbers offer leak detection and leak repair services together.