How to Fix Leaky Faucets

Faucets can become leaky and damaged over time. Before you can fix one, you must shut off the water supply valves under the sink and drain the water.

Leaky Faucets

Once the water is off, you can begin disassembling the faucet and removing the handles. Depending on the type of faucet, you may need to remove extra parts to get to the O-rings, washers, and gaskets, or the cartridge or valve seat and stem. However, if you need some professional help, you can contact Plumber The Woodlands.

If you have a leaky faucet, it’s important to fix it right away. Leaks can lead to higher water bills, and over time, they can damage the pipes underneath your sink. Fortunately, fixing most faucets is not difficult. If you follow the steps in this guide, you can usually eliminate a leaky faucet by replacing a washer, O-ring, or valve seat. You may also need to tighten or replace a screw or nut, or you might need to clean the cartridge and handle components to remove mineral buildup or rust.

Before you start, shut off the water supply valves beneath your sink. If you’re not sure how to do this, consult your homeowner’s manual or a plumber for instructions specific to your type of faucet.

Once the water is turned off, use a towel to cover the drain. This will prevent small parts from falling down the drain during the repair process. Now you can begin the repair process.

First, remove the faucet handle(s). Remove the decorative cap and then take off the handle. If you’re having trouble removing the handle, try using a hex wrench or hex screwdriver. Once the handle is removed, you can access the screw securing it. Remove this screw and then gently pull or pry off the faucet handle. If the handle is stuck, try applying penetrating oil to loosen it.

Next, unscrew the adjusting ring and packing nut that holds the stem in place. This nut may unscrew in either direction, so try turning it the opposite way if it doesn’t come loose on the first try. Once the nut is loose, you can remove the stem and replace the washer and O-ring.

After you’ve replaced the washer and O-ring, you can reassemble the stem and valve assembly. Make sure to use the correct sized screw for each component. If you don’t have the right size screw, you can always purchase one from a hardware store.

A leak near the spout can often be caused by a corroded valve seat. This part connects the faucet to the spout and can get corroded when water sediments accumulate in it over time. You can usually avoid this problem by cleaning the valve seat regularly.

Repairing a Faucet with a Cartridge

The cartridge in a single-handle cartridge faucet is responsible for turning off and on the water. If it is damaged or worn, replacing it may fix the leak. Before you can replace it, though, you must remove the handle. Use a screwdriver to unscrew the decorative cap on the handle, then an Allen wrench to loosen the handle screw. Once the screw is removed, pull the handle straight up to remove it from the escutcheon (the flat plate that surrounds the handle). Remove the retaining clip or nut at the base of the handle, then unscrew the adjusting ring. A spanner tool is often included with a cartridge repair kit to help you do this.

Turning off the water supply to the faucet is important before you begin working. You should also shut off the electrical switch for your bathroom or kitchen fixture if you have one. You might need to disconnect the hoses connected to the faucet, depending on your model.

Once the handle is off, examine the cartridge and its parts for damage or wear. There should be two rubber seats and springs that sit on the cartridge, which will need to be replaced if they are cracked or worn. There is also a small O-ring that will need to be replaced as well, but you should first try to cut off the old O-ring and then coat it with nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease before trying to insert a new one.

If the faucet is a ceramic-disk style, you must remove the escutcheon cap and collar. Then, using needle-nose pliers, you can remove the cam washer and cartridge to reveal the inlet seal and springs beneath. You should replace these if they are broken or worn, and you should clean the inlet seal, springs and cartridge before you reinstall them.

Once you have the new parts, install them according to your model’s instructions and reassemble your faucet. Then, turn the water supply back on and test it for leaks. If you still have a leak, you should try re-tightening the adjusting ring or turning the nut to the right to adjust the pressure of the water flow from the spout. If the leaking continues, you will need to replace the entire cartridge.

Repairing a Faucet with a Ball

Faucets with a ball are designed to resemble futuristic joysticks, with the stainless-steel ball resting on a series of neoprene washers and springs. As you move the handle up and down, the position of the ball causes these washers to align with the openings in the valve seat and allows water to flow through the faucet spout. Over time, these washers and the valve seat can wear out, causing a leak from the spout. Luckily, the only thing you need to do to fix this is replace these parts.

The first step is to shut off both the hot and cold water supply valves underneath your sink, unless you have individual shutoffs for each fixture (if you do, turn them off). Cover the sink drain with a rag to prevent any small parts from falling down the drain. The next step is to remove the handle by prying off the decorative screw cap on each side of the handle (typically a hex-head screw) and loosening the Allen set screw beneath it; this is usually very easy, but if the handles are older you may need to apply some force.

Once the handles are removed, you can disassemble the entire faucet assembly, including the ceramic-disk cylinder. Use a pocketknife to pry off the index cover on the side of the cylinder to reveal a hex-head screw; use a hex-key wrench to loosen it and then pull the cylinder out.

If you notice any mineral build-up on the cylinder, use a brush and distilled vinegar to clean it out and then reassemble it. You’ll also need to install new rubber valve seals and springs. These are available in a kit for this specific type of faucet, or you can purchase them individually.

Using the tool included in your faucet repair kit (or a similar pair of needle-nose pliers), loosen the cam nut, a slotted cone-shaped piece above the handle; it should come off easily. You’ll then be able to remove the plastic cam and the rotating ball. Using a screwdriver, reach down into the valve compartment to remove the old rubber seats and springs from the ports at the bottom of the faucet body. Replace them with the new ones, making sure to orient the springs correctly (the narrow end goes into the rubber seals, and the wide end is on top of the cam).

Repairing a Faucet with a Ceramic-Disk

Cartridge-style faucets with ceramic disks are durable and usually reliable, but a leak can occur. The problem stems from the rubber seals at the bottom of the cartridge, which can become damaged or layered with grit and mineral deposits. You can clean them with a nonmetallic scrubber or an old toothbrush, but the best way to fix the issue is to replace the cartridge. You can buy cartridges designed for your specific faucet model or a generic kit that includes cam washers, seals and O-rings.

Shut off the water supply to the faucet by turning the valves under the sink or at a main home shutoff. Drain the faucet and plug the drain with a stopper or rag. Unscrew the screws that secure the handles with a screwdriver — typically standard flathead, but on some models, you may need a hex wrench or a hex screwdriver. If the handle’s screw seems seized, apply penetrating oil to loosen it.

Use the flathead screwdriver to remove the decorative cap that covers the screw securing the handle. Place the parts you’re removing in order as you take them off to make it easier to reassemble the faucet.

Turn off the water supply by turning the valves under the sink or in the main home shutoff, then open the faucet to release pressure and drain it. You’ll need to wait a few minutes for the water to drain completely from the faucet.

You can also use a bucket to catch the water. Remove the escutcheon cap, which is the metal dome-shaped cover beneath the handle. This may be held in place with a single screw that’s exposed, or it may have an Allen wrench slot. Then unscrew the handle, if needed.

Disassemble the faucet’s cartridge by removing the disk cylinder from the base of the faucet body. You can usually remove the cylinder with just your fingers, but it’s helpful to have a small screwdriver on hand to assist you. The round neoprene seals at the bottom of the cylinder can be cleaned by soaking in calcium-removal products such as white vinegar or calcium remover for several hours. They can be replaced if they’re worn, but you need to know the exact size of your cylinder so you can buy an exact replacement at the hardware store.