Guide to Repairing a Leaky Faucet

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How to Repair a Leaky Faucet

Leaky faucets can cost homeowners quite a bundle in utility costs. From simple drips to massive leaks, faucets can be a major problem. Dripping not only carries a price tag, it also can make an irritating background noise. Fixing leaking faucets puts money back in a homeowner’s pocket, particularly when they tackle the repair without calling in the plumber. Plumbers can be rather expensive, and a leaky faucet should be no trouble for even the novice handyman. Instead of waiting for the next drip to turn into a flood, anyone can learn how to fix faucets in short order.


Finding the Culprit for a Leaky Faucet

As with any repair, fixing a faucet starts with identifying the broken part. Faucets have three main parts, the handle, the valve, and the spout. In most cases, the culprit for a leak will be found in either the handle or the valve.





Turns the water on. Faucets come with one or two, depending on the type.


The water flows from the spout.


Controls water flow internally.

Both the handle and the valve have numerous internal pieces that wear out over time, eventually causing leaks.


Identifying the Type of Faucet

Before diving into any plumbing repair, the homeowner should be sure to turn off the water at the source. Either use the main valve into the home, or use the valve specific to the sink being fixed. Afterwards, the line needs to be drained, so there’s no surprise shower when disassembling the faucet. A full line can result in a gallon of water rushing out, probably at the worst possible moment. After the water is off, it is time to take a look and determine the type of faucet and parts most likely responsible for the problem.

Compression Faucet

In many bathrooms, compression faucets are the standard. They are easily recognisable since they have two handles, one for hot water and one for cold. Most of the time, the problem with a compression faucet is simply a worn out washer. To find it, a handyman needs to pry off the decorative cap on the handle and unscrew it. There should be an O-ring with a seat washer underneath. The next step is to pull out the stem and assess the O-ring and the washer. Either one could be the problem, and both parts are very inexpensive. Replacing whichever part is worn down, reassembling, and turning the water back on should fix most leaks.

Cartridge Faucet

A cartridge faucet is one with a single handle, and typically looks like a lever, with the side-to-side motion controlling the temperature. There is no washer in a cartridge faucet, so the most likely leak culprit are the O-rings. These are located on the stem. When removing the handle, it is important to check to see if there is a retainer that prevents the handle from moving. If there is, needle-nosed pliers will help with removal. The old rings will need to be cut off and new ones installed. Once everything is reassembled, this should fix any leaks.

Ceramic-Disk Faucet

Removing the set screw is the first step to fixing a ceramic-disk faucet. Once it has been removed, the cap needs to come off and the disk cylinder mounting screws need to come out. After removing the cylinder, the neoprene seals could be a possible cause of leaks, so replacing them is a good idea. The fitting should also be cleaned. A simple white vinegar solution will soak the dirt off and a plastic scouring pad can take care of any stubborn spots. When reassembling the handle, it needs to be in the “off” position. A sudden rush of water pressure can crack the ceramic fittings, so it is important to turn the water back on, slowly.

Ball Faucet

Ball faucets are the most complicated, and they have a number of internal parts that could be the problem. For this type, it may be best to buy a replacement kit and install all new parts. After all, any of the internal mechanism could be the culprit, including the O-rings, valve seats, springs, and cam washers. To get the cam loosened up and out, special tools make the job a lot easier. All told, a replacement kit offers the best value for fixing a ball faucet.


Buying Faucets on eBay

To find the right tools and parts to repair a leaky faucet, eBay is a great resource. A quick keyword search using phrases like “faucet”, “O-ring” or “washer”, will bring up a large variety of listings. Prices vary, so the smart shopper takes a look at factors like shipping costs, and return policies before finalising a sale.

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