Step by Step Guide on How to Repair Your Dripping or Leaking Faucets


A small drip from a leaky faucet might seem like a little annoyance, yet it actually can cost you hundreds of dollars a year in water down the drain and next to nothing to fix. A leaky faucet is one of the most common home plumbing problems. Faucets are relatively easy to fix-once you know how they work and what to do to fix them.

Faucets begin to drip when washers, o-rings, or seals inside the faucet are dirty with sediment, covered with mineral deposits, or just worn-out. Fixing a faucet is fairly easy, but varies depending on the type of faucet you have (see below for specific description and instructions). Once you know your faucet design, you can properly disassemble the faucet, locate the source of the leak, and then replace the worn parts or clean dirty parts.

First – Determine Faucet Design: There are four basic faucet designs: ball-style, cartridge, disc, and compression. Sometimes a faucet type can be determined by the outer appearance, but often the faucet must be taken apart to identify what kind of faucet it is. The four faucet designs come under two categories: washer and washer-less.

Second – Disassemble the Faucet: The same basic principals apply to all faucet types when starting to take a faucet apart for repair or replacement. Keep all parts and layout in the order you take them apart. This will help you both put the faucet back together and identify the parts to be replaced. See below for specific variations in faucet dis-assembly.

a. Before you begin, turn off water supply. Use the shutoff valve underneath faucet/sink or the main water service valve to the home, usually found near the water meter.

b. Also before you start faucet dis-assembly, plug the sink and place a towel over sink-saves you from loosing parts down the drain and scratching the sink surface.

c. Remove decorative cap or plug (if faucet has one). Start to pry off with a razor blade, then completely remove cap with a flat-head screw driver. It is a good idea to cover the screw driver end with masking or painter’s tape to avoid scratching he faucet finish.

d. Remove handle screw or setscrew, depending on type of faucet.

e. Remove the handle.

f. Depending on faucet type you may need to remove a rounded or escutcheon cap.

g. Pull or pry off the whole faucet assembly. Note the manufacturer if possible.

h. Carefully disassemble the faucet and lay out in the same order you remove parts.

Third – Identify the Problem & Repair Faucet: Look for broken, cracked, or worn o-rings or other faucet components. Replace worn or broken faucet parts. It is recommended to take the old parts to be replaced to the store to be sure you have the correct ones. Also note the faucet manufacturer. Clean screens and faucet components of dirt, grim, or mineral deposits that may be impairing the faucet’s function.

Fourth – Re-assemble the Faucet: Put the faucet back together in the correct order and re-install.

Last – Turn Water Back On: When opening shutoff valves after faucet repairs are complete, keep the faucet’s handle open, let the trapped air release, then when water runs steady, close faucet.


Traditional Faucet with Washer
Compression Style Faucets – this design is used for many double-handle faucets and is the old-fashioned style faucet (when shutting the faucet off, you usually can feel the rubber washer being squeezed inside the faucet.) Compression faucets have separate controls for hot and cold water and can be identified by the threaded stem assemblies inside the faucet body. Compression faucets all have washers or seals which control water flow and need to be replaced regularly over time. The replacement parts are inexpensive and easy to replace.

To disassemble unscrew the bonnet from the faucet, using slip-joint pliers. Remove the valve stem, keeping in mind this has reverse threads, so unscrew it by turning it clockwise. Older compression faucets may have corroded handles that can be difficult to remove. Most hardware stores and rental centers have a specialty tool called a Handle Puller which makes the job easier.

Once you have the faucet out, replace all rubber washers and o-rings. When replacing washers, check the condition of the metal valve seats inside the faucet body. If the valve seats feel rough, they should be replaced or resurfaced.

Washerless Faucets
Ball-style Faucet – this washerless faucet has a single handle and is identified by the hollow metal or plastic ball inside the faucet body which controls water temperature and flow. Many have a rounded cap with knurled edges located under the faucet handle. Dripping at the faucet spout is caused by worn valve seats, springs, or a damaged ball. Leaks around the base of the faucet are caused by worn o-rings.

To disassemble unscrew the setscrew and pull off handle. Tighten the plastic adjusting ring inside the cap by turning it with a special flat adjusting tool-or fit tow screwdrivers into the slots and cross their blades to turn the ring. If your ball-style faucet with this type of cap is leaking from the spout, first try tightening the cap with channel pliers. Still leaking? Disassemble and replace worn/broken parts. Often you need to lift out the ball and replace the rubber seats and springs on both sides of the valve. If the faucet leaks around the spout, replace worn o-rings. Replace rotating ball only if clearly worn.

Faucet manufacturers make several types of replacement kits for ball-type faucets; some kits have only the springs and neoprene valve seats, while better kits also have the cam and cam washer.

Cartridge Faucet – this washerless faucet is identified by the narrow metal or plastic cartridge inside the faucet body; and it is available in both single and double handled cartridge designs. Cartridge faucets have a hollow cartridge insert that lifts and rotates to control the flow and temperature of water. Dripping at the spout occurs when the cartridge seals wear out. Leaks at the base are caused by worn o-rings.

To disassemble unscrew and pull off handle. To release the cartridge, use a pair of pliers to pull the retainer clip straight out. Pull out the cartridge and replace the o-rings and seals to fix leaks. You may need to replace the entire cartridge-it is an easy repair that will fix the majority of cartridge faucet leaks. Faucet cartridge come in many styles, so bring the old cartridge to the store. Be sure to insert the new cartridge so it is aligned in the same way as the old cartridge. If the hot and cold are reversed, take the faucet apart and rotate 180 degrees.

Disc Faucet – a top-quality fixture, the disc faucet has a single handle and is identified by the wide cylinder by the faucet body. The cylinder contains a pair of closely fitting ceramic discs that regulate the water flow: a movable upper disc turns or lifts and lowers against a fixed lower ceramic disc. Most ceramic disc faucets don’t drip or leak because they’re made to be almost maintenance free. Dripping at the spout occurs when the neoprene seals or cylinder openings are dirty. If the faucet continues to leak after cleaning, then install a new cylinder.

To disassemble unscrew the setscrew and pull off handle. Though these faucets are washerless, they do have inlet and outlet seals that may leak, or sediment may build up inside the inlets and cause leaks. After removing the escutcheon cap, lift out the cylinder and clean the neoprene seals and cylinder openings. Be sure the faucet is in the “open” position when replacing seals.

Important: After making repairs to a disc faucet, it is imperative the handle in the ON position, then open the shutoff valves slowly. The ceramic discs can be cracked by the sudden release of air from the faucet. Once the water is running steadily, it is safe to close the faucet.

Or Just Get a New Faucet Of course an alternative to fixing a leaky faucet is to replace it. Faucets are not to pricey and pretty easy to install-just follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Replacing a faucet goes a long way in updating a kitchen or bathroom sink.

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