How to fix a dripping faucet

April 28, 2017

A dripping faucet isn’t just annoying; it can also waste a considerable amount of water. The first step in fixing a dripping faucet is to determine the type of faucet you have. Newer faucets have cartridges that need to be replaced, while older plumbing often features compression, disc or ball faucets with rubber washers. You may have to take the faucet apart to see what type you have if you're not sure. [Photo Credit:]

How to fix a dripping faucet

Time: Less than one hour
Frequency: N/A
Difficulty: Simple
Tools: Crescent wrench, screwdriver, pliers, utility knife, replacement rubber washer, replacement faucet cartridge.

Here are the different steps involved for the each type of faucet repair.

1: Before you start

  • As with any plumbing project, the first step is to turn off the water. The shut-off valve is usually located under the sink with the dripping faucet.
  • For outside faucets or showers, find the location of the water shut-off valve and close it.
  • Close the sink drain or place a rag or cloth over the shower drain to catch any parts you might drop.
  • Choose a convenient place to lay out the faucet parts as you remove them.
  • Use distilled white vinegar and a scouring pad to clean any mineral deposits off parts that are going to be re-installed.
  • Open the faucet to release any pressure and allow any remaining water in the pipe to drain out.

2: Repairing a compression faucet

Compression faucets are often found in older kitchen, bathroom or laundry taps.

  • Compression faucets are so called because they have a rubber washer that, when compressed by tightening the faucet handle, stops the flow of water.
  • Over time, these rubber washers wear out and need to be replaced. If there is a decorative cap on the tap, pry it off.
  • Remove the handle screw, which is attached to the faucet valve stem.
  • Pull off the handle and use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packing nut.
  • After unscrewing the stem, you can remove and replace the seat washer, which is held in place by a brass screw.
  • Take the stem out of the packing nut and replace the rubber washer, also called an O-ring, usually the culprit for leaky handles.
  • Coat the new O-ring with plumber's grease.
  • Clean the end of the washer holder of any dirt or debris buildup and pop the new washer back in place.
  • Reassemble the faucet and tighten the valve faucet securely.
  • Turn on the water and check for leaks.

Good to know!

O-rings come in a variety of sizes. Make sure your new one is the same size as the existing one. As this step is crucial, take the old washer to the hardware store to get the correct size.

3: Repairing a cartridge faucet

  • Pry off any decorative cap on the handle, remove the handle screw, and pull off the handle.
  • There may be a threaded retaining clip holding the cartridge in place. If this is the case, use a pair of pliers to remove it.
  • Pull the cartridge straight up.
  • Cut off the old O-rings using a utility knife. If the O-rings need replacing, coat the new rings with plumber's grease and install.
  • To replace the entire cartridge, make sure your replacement is the same size as the existing cartridge and that the stem end matches where the handle attaches.

4: Repairing a ceramic disc faucet

  • Ceramic disk faucets and ball faucets both use rubber seals similar to compression faucets.
  • These seals wear out and need to be replaced.
  • Disc assemblies don't often wear out, but sometimes the inlet and outlet seals fail.
  • Replace the worn seals with duplicates.
  • Be sure to realign the new seals on the bottom of the cartridge with the holes in the faucet.

Repairing a ball faucet

  • Ball faucets drip when the inlet seals or the O-rings wear out.
  • If the handle leaks, remove the handle off the assembly and tighten the adjusting ring.
  • If the handle continues to leak, replace the cap.
  • If the spout drips, it's likely the inlet seals and springs or the ball needs replacing.

When you first notice a drip from a faucet, resist the temptation to tighten the faucet in an effort to stop the drip. In most cases, you will just end up damaging the faucet. Always check the rubber washers and seals first and replace them if necessary. If you have an older faucet that leaks often, it may be time to replace it with a new, higher-quality model.

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