How To Fix A Leaky Faucet

How to fix a leaky faucet without the expense of a plumber.

Drip, drip, drip, that annoying sound of a faucet leaking, just a few drops a minute, but oh, so intensely irritating. The sound of money going down the drain, drip by drip. You could call a plumber; the expense would be greater than the problem. You could ignore it, but it would get worse eventually, or you could fix it yourself. Then again what if you make a mistake, the plumber will still have to be called, and that will be more expensive. Drippy faucets are within most people's abilities if they pay attention to what they are doing, and are careful.

First, fill a couple of jugs of water, this is just in case the problem is greater than initially thought. It is better, by far, to be prepared for the worst and then have it be a simple fix. Make sure you have the number to a local plumber near by, this again is just in case, it is easier to have a number handy than trying to look one up in an emergency. You should also plan your project when the local hardware store is open, in case you need additional parts, or tools.

There are two types of faucets, the two handled compression faucets, and the single handle non-compression, or washerless faucets. Most leaks are located in compression faucets because of the way they are designed, so the following will apply more to that type than the washerless.

Next determine what brand name faucet you have. Most faucet parts are interchangeable, but a few are brand specific. You are almost ready to start, so get your tools together. You will need the following:

A plumbers wrench, or an adjustable jaw wrench.

A screwdriver, both a standard slotted and a Phillips or a cross top.

Plumbers tape

An assortment of washers

A few rags, or towels

A flashlight

Steel wool

You should be ready now to shut off the water supply to the faucet. Turn the water off and then open the faucet to drain any residual water out, this will also let you know if the faucet is truly off, or just almost off. Once all the water is drained you will be ready to start your repairs.

Your faucet will have two handles and a central spigot. The parts are assembled in the following order: a decorative cap that covers a screw that holds the handle on. The handle covers the packing nut, which seats on the stem. The O-ring will fit around the bottom of the stem. The stem will sit upon the seat washer, which will have a larger rubber washer sitting inside the valve seat, which, in turn sits upon an inlet seal, over a metal washer. If this sounds complicated it really isn't. You do have several small parts, so as you take your faucet apart you will need to lay them out in order, so that you don't get them mixed up. You will also need to pay attention to the direction the parts go in, most only fit one way.

Inspect your parts, you are looking for a washer or O-ring that is worn, or a corroded, or pitted part. If everything appears fine, then you probably will just need to tighten everything up to stop the leak. It is a good idea though, since you have the faucet apart to replace your washer and O-ring now. Unless you did this just a few months ago, in which case you should probably replace the faucet since it is more than probable that the problem is with the faucet parts being worn out.

If the valve seat appears corroded, or worn, then replace it. You could possibly clean it up temporarily with a little steel wool and some light buffing. This would be only a temporary fix until you can replace the valve seat.

Put your faucet back together in the opposite order you took it apart, putting a little plumbers tape around the threaded areas of the stem. Do not over tighten the parts since this can damage brass fittings, and lead to bigger leaks. Hand tight plus a 1/4 turn is usually sufficient.

Now turn on your water, slowly, open the faucet just a little, to let the water slowly enter, if you notice any seepage during this procedure, you will need to shut the water off and retighten everything just a little more. Repeat the above until the faucet is on fully, and there is no seepage. Shut the faucet off, dry the head of the faucet then place a clean, dry bowl, or cup underneath for half an hour or so. When you check the bowl there should be no water in it. If there is, your leak was not fixed and you will have to repeat the procedure or call a plumber.

The washers and O-rings should not be expensive, usually just a couple of dollars for an assortment. If you need to replace the valve seat or in a non-compression faucet the ball, or cartridge, that will be a little more expensive, but less than the cost of a plumber.

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