Do It Yourself: Fix Leaking Facuet

Leaky faucets are the source of frusteration for many homeowners. How to replace a washer and recommendations for what to do if the washer is not the problem.

for the last three hours but it has finally got to you""the leaky faucet. Perhaps one of the most annoying problems that plagues households is a running fixture in the bathroom. If you are going crazy over the drip drop sound that echoes through your halls late at night here is how you can make the madness stop.

To conquer the leak you must first make yourself aware of how the faucet actually works. The anatomy of faucets, are, for the most part, similar and simple. At the top there is the handle screw, often covered by a snap-on-plate. The handle protrudes out and is held onto the fixture by this screw. Below the handle is the packing nut, which holds, inside, a packing nut. The value stem or spindle is located under this nut, and below the spindle is the washer cup. The last two parts of the faucet are the stem washer and the screw at the base that leads into the valve seat. All the parts from the packing washer to the valve seat are located in the faucet body.

Now that you are familiar with the make-up of a faucet, here is how to fix one that leaks.

If the faucet drips from the spout it is likely that the washer from the stem region is worn out. If it leaks from just below the handles the problem is a worn out washer in the packing nut. Below are recommendations for handling both situations.

First, you will need some assorted washers from around the house or a prepackaged assortment from a hardware store. Arm yourself with a rag and an adjustable wrench as well. Once you have your gear, turn off the water source for the faucet that is giving you trouble. There is usually a valve or two valves (hot and cold) located under the sink or near the bathtub. Note that in some homes, particularly smaller houses or apartments these valves may be located near a sink or tub and when flipped will shut off all water in the apartment. After you have turned off the water, check that the faucet is not getting fluid by turning the knob as you would to wash your hands. If no water runs out you know you have successfully cut off the supply.

Using a screwdriver, unscrew the handle screw that sits at the top of the fixture. You may have to pry off a small cover to get to the hardware. Some handles actually have no handle screw; for these models simply pull straight upwards with a small amount of force.

Wrap a rag around the packing nut and loosen the nut with an adjustable wrench. (The rag will prevent you from gouging the nut.) Once you have loosened the nut pull the fixture open. You will see some string and perhaps a washer in the nut. Being careful to leave this area alone, remove the nut entirely and remove the unit.

Hold the stem or spindle in your hand and take notice of the small screw at the base that holds a washer. This washer will more than likely be worn down if you've been experiencing a leak. Remove the screw with the screwdriver and scrap the washer out of the base with a knife. Replace the washer with a new washer from your collection. Make sure the replacement is the exact same size as the old washer or else you may be in for another leak. Lastly, put everything back to place.

If the faucet is leaking from the stem, or just below the handle, it means the faucet needs new packing in the packing nut. To fix the leak fist try tightening the packing nut and see if this stops the water flow. If the leak continues unscrew the nut completely and expose the packing inside. Change the washer if it is worn and replace the string by winding new pipe string around the thread several times. Put some pipe compound in the packing nut and assemble the fixture back again.

If the faucet leak still occurs the problem may rest with the valve. It is possible that valve seat is dented or scratched and needs to be reground. If you are ambitious and want to try the regrinding process there are some hardware seat-dressing kits and tools on the market. The fix is very simple and may just reward you with an undisturbed night of sleep.

© High Speed Ventures 2011