How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

A leaky faucet shouldn’t be ignored. This problem is more than a minor nuisance. An average leaky faucet, left unaddressed, could waste as much as 3,000 gallons of water per year. In other words, this problem is potentially much more costly than you might anticipate.
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It doesn’t have to be. Fixing a leaky faucet on your own is actually fairly simple. Just follow these steps:

Getting Started

Shut off all water to the faucet before doing any work. Place a washcloth or small towel over the sink drain in case you drop any parts while working on the faucet.

Identify the type of faucet you have. This will determine how to fix it. If you have two handles (one for hot water, one for cold), that means you have a compression faucet. A faucet with a single-handle that sits atop a sphere is a ball faucet. Some single handle faucets have cartridges inside; this is a cartridge faucet. If your handle doesn’t appear to be mounted on a sphere, it’s likely this type.

Fixing a Leaky Compression Faucet

Fixing a compression faucet is typically as simple as replacing the seat washers and O-ring. To start, remove the decorative handle covering and unscrew the nut with a wrench to reveal the stem beneath.

Next, remove the stem. At the bottom you’ll find the O-ring (thin circle) and washer (thicker).

Replace the O-ring if the handles are leaky. If the only problem is a leaky faucet, replace the seat washer. Be sure to hold onto both the O-ring and seat washer, though. The new ones need to match their sizes. Bring them to a hardware or plumbing supply store to get the proper replacements.

Once you’ve replaced the necessary parts, reassemble the handle and monitor your faucet for any future signs of leaks. There probably won’t be any.

Fixing a Leaky Ball Faucet

The best way to fix a leaky ball faucet is to simply replace all the major parts with a new kit. These types of faucets have many components. Most hardware stores have kits designed to replace the components that may be responsible for the leak.

Unscrew the handle until you can easily remove it. Set it to the side and use pliers to remove the cap and collar. Next, use the tool provided in your kit to loosen the faucet cam. Remove it once it’s loose, along with the washer and ball. Use pliers to remove the inlet seals and springs from within the faucet body.

Remove the old O-rings, coat new ones in plumbers grease, and install them. As always, make sure they are the correct size.

Your kit should come with replacements for the cam washers, valve seats, and springs. Install them by repeating the process described above backwards. The kit will probably include instructions for this process as well. Once you’re done, turn the water back on and test the faucet for signs of leaking.

Fixing a Leaky Cartridge Faucet

Pry the decorative handle up and unscrew it. You should be able to easily remove it now by pulling it back. If your faucet has a plastic retaining clip holding the cartridge in place (not all faucets do), remove it with pliers.

Pull the cartridge out and remove the spout. Remove the old O-rings, coat the new ones in plumber’s grease, and install them.

Next, simply reassemble faucet by repeating the steps above backwards.

This task isn’t as difficult as you might assume. That said, if your faucet still leaks after following these steps, contact a professional plumber. They’ll identify the cause.

Either way, don’t overlook your leaky faucet. Taking the time to fix it as soon as you notice a problem will save you a lot of money in the long run.

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