How-To Fix a Leaky Faucet

That slow steady drip of a leaky faucet. It’s annoying to say the least. Even though it’s relatively quiet, you notice it just enough so that it drives you crazy. Maybe it’s in your master bathroom and keeps you and your significant other from getting the healthful rest you need at night. Or perhaps it’s in the kitchen and subtly makes its presence known during family dinner as everyone recounts their day. Sure, leaky faucets are annoying to listen too, but they are also a tremendous waste of water. The good news is that if you have a leaky faucet it’s most likely something you can fix yourself.


What Type of Faucet do You Have?


There are four main types of faucets – compression, disc, cartridge and mechanism. Knowing which of these four you’re working with dictates how you will need to go about fixing it.


Basic Tools


Once you’ve figured out what type of faucet you have, you’ll need some basic tools including WD-40, replacement washers and O-rings, an adjustable wrench, channel lock pliers and a Philips head screwdriver.


Fixing Your Faucet

Before you start to dismantle your faucet, you’ll want to turn off your water supply from all the handles around the sink. If you forget this first step, you could end up with water gushing everywhere.


The next step is to remove all the cosmetic caps and covers. Under each knob you should find a screw that attaches the stem to the handle. Gently unscrew this piece and remove the handle. If the handle seems sticky, don’t reef on it too hard as you risk breaking it. Instead, apply a liberal amount of WD-40 to loosen it and you shouldn’t have any problem.


Now that you have the handle off, you’ll want to remove the packing nut with your adjustable wrench. Once it’s off you should see the stem. Depending on the type of faucet you’re working on, the stem will either pop off or twist off from the valve. Take your time completing this step of the process as these parts are delicate and damaging them could make the problem worse.


If your faucet is 25 years old or newer it will have a cartridge. Using your channel lock pliers, attempt to pull the cartridge straight out. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t come out easily as years of use have likely allowed sediment to build up and caused it to become stuck. If you’re having trouble, gently wiggle the cartridge back and forth and it should come free eventually.


Now that you have everything removed it’s time to inspect the O-ring. More often than not this is the part that causes leaks as it becomes damaged from excess use or the seal wears out. If the O-Ring is worn out, it needs to be replaced. If you’re unsure of the size, take the old O-ring to your local hardware store and they will be able to help you find the right match.


Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to reassemble the faucet. Just like when you were taking the faucet apart, taking your time is crucial to make sure everything fits properly and nothing breaks. Start by installing the new O-Ring. Then put the stem back in, followed by the packing nut, screw and handle. After you’ve put everything back together, turn the water back on and turn on the faucet. If the leak is gone, you will have completed yet another home project you can be proud of.

In the event that your faucet still leaks however, it’s a sign that the problem could be corrosion in the valve seat, other loose parts, worn seals or broken plumbing. In these instances, your best bet is to call a professional before the problem gets worse.


Just like any other type of plumbing issue you might encounter, it can be difficult to diagnose the root cause of a leaky faucet. The good news is that the simple steps discussed above might very well be all the knowledge you need to resolve the issue. If you take all the necessary steps and your faucet still leaks, a quick phone call to your local Einstein Pros will have whatever the problem is fixed in a timely manner at a fair price.

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