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How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

 |  General Home Care, Plumbing

A leaky faucet is more than a mere annoyance. At Isley’s, we’ve seen countless homeowners fall prey to seemingly innocent drips that eventually caused their water bills to skyrocket. If you’re not careful, you might experience a similar fate.

Fortunately, you no longer have to waste gallons of water on a daily basis, because we’ve gathered some expert DIY tips on how homeowners can fix their own faucets. Of course, you can always count on the professional plumbers at Isley’s to help you with the really tough jobs, but these pointers should help you get started.


Get Prepared: Everything You’ll Need to Fix a Leaky Faucet

Gather these items before digging in:

  • A pair of needle-nosed pliersPlumber tool kit
  • A 1/8-inch Allen wrench
  • A set of adjustable tongue-and-groove pliers
  • A screwdriver
  • Replacement parts for your faucet type


Faucet Repairs Made Simple: The Quick and Dirty Version

Most faucets can be fixed by adhering to the following generic procedure:

  1. Always start by shutting both feed valves beneath the sink. Open the taps all the way to drain the lines.
  2. Next, remove the faucet’s handle screw and handle.
  3. If your faucet has a cap, also known as an escutcheon, you should pull it off now. If you use a prying tool, wrap the edge in electrical tape to prevent damaging the hardware.
  4. Pull the inner mechanism out.
  5. Examine valve seats, seals, washers or O-rings for irregularities or rough surfaces. Replace any components that look damaged.
  6. Rebuild your faucet. Test your repair by slowly turning on the water supply.

Read on to learn more about the details of these procedures.

What Kind of Faucet Do You Have?

The vast majority of faucets are classified as compression faucets or washerless faucets. Washerless faucets include ball, disc and cartridge valve types, and as their name implies, their main mechanisms work without stem washers. Compression faucets, on the other hand, depend on compression washers to prevent leaks.

Most compression fittings include separate controls for hot and cold water, while washerless types typically feature a single control. It’s usually recommended, however, to disassemble your faucet and confirm what kind it is before getting started. Checking for manufacturer and model information at this stage can also ensure that you obtain the correct replacement hardware.

Putting a Halt to Compression Faucet Leakage

Inside compression faucets, there are stems that look similar to thick screws with rubber washers mounted near the top of their threads. When the stem is tightened as you screw the handle, the washer should stop water flow by pressing against a nearby valve seat.

Most compression faucet leaks that involve water dripping from the spout happen when either the rubber seals or valve seats become defective. This can occur for a number of reasons, such as the general wear and tear these parts experience during years of usage and repetitive compression.

Some compression faucets leak from their handles. In this case, you’ll need to identify the faulty packing, washer, twine or O-ring wound around the stem and replace it.

Fixing a Leaky Washerless Faucet

Ball Faucets

Ball faucets include plastic or brass ball valves whose inner ball mechanisms are supported by springs and seats. When you turn the handle, the semispherical ball turns in the valve to open or close nearby supply inlets.

Many ball valve leaks occur when the seals on their inlets or their O-rings wear out, so try replacing these components. If the faucet leaks from the handle, you may simply have to tighten the handle adjusting ring. More persistent leaks, however, might require that you replace the escutcheon, ball, inlet seals or springs.

Disc Faucets

These faucets include paired ceramic discs with holes in them to permit water flow. One disc remains fixed. The other moves when you operate the handle to align the flow holes as necessary. The whole assembly usually sits in a cartridge inside the handle.

These valves can leak when sediments in your water supply damage the disc surfaces and hinder their sealing abilities. The flow holes could also become clogged. In most cases, you can repair these issues quickly by replacing the whole cartridge, but you may also need to swap out the nearby gaskets, caps and seals.

Cartridge Faucets

In cartridge faucets, a metal or plastic insert, or cartridge, sits against the faucet body. Like the discs inside disc faucets, these hollow cartridges include holes that align to regulate water flow when you turn or adjust the handle.

To fix cartridge leaks, you should first check the O-ring that seals the cartridge stem area. If the cartridge itself looks damaged, replace it with an exact or compatible match.

Isley’s Pro Tips for Flawless Repairs

  • When replacing a washer, you may also need to replace the screw that holds it secure.
  • Some valve seats can be repaired by using a manufacturer tool to reface them.
  • Cheap faucet repair kits that include O-rings, washers and other parts may come in handy for these fixes.

Always document your faucet repairs while you go. Take notes or smartphone photos of the disassembly process so that you can recall the order later when it’s time to put everything back together. It will also be easier to fix your mistakes if you have a record.

To avoid getting the wrong replacement parts, take your faucet mechanism to the hardware store with you. Ask for help matching the components.

What If Your Repair Doesn’t Work?

Never hesitate to call in the experts. When these fundamental DIY techniques fail, it’s generally a good indicator that your faucet has bigger problems.

Sure, you could try to upgrade the whole leaky faucet, but this may not correct the root problem. Talking to a professional is the best way to avoid costly mistakes and ensure repairs actually work. To learn more about your options, visit Isleys.com for prompt, proven assistance 24/7.

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