Having a dripping faucet in the home can be extremely irritating. Dripping faucets not only cause annoying noises but they can result in higher water bills. Dripping or leaky faucets happen. However, the good news is they can typically be fixed rather quickly with a few tools.
Whether you are dealing with a dripping kitchen faucet or bathroom faucet, you don’t need to hire a professional plumber to fix an issue this small. Here is how you can easily fix a dripping or leaky faucet on your own in a matter of minutes.
Preparing Your Faucet for Repair
Before you start repairing any faucet, you need to take a few steps in order to prepare your sink or faucet for your repairs.
- Turn off the water connection. This doesn’t just mean having the faucet in the off position. Look underneath the sink for a set of pipes that run upwards. At the base of these pipes you will find handles that can be turned or rotated. Twist them clockwise to shut the water off.
- Plug the drain with a rag or sink plug.
- Identify the type of faucet you are working with. There are four main types of faucets most people have in their homes:
Compression faucet- This faucet will have two screw handles one for hot and one for cold. The rest of the other types of faucets have a single moving arm.
Ball Faucet- When you open up a ball faucet you will see a large metal ball in the middle.
Cartridge Faucet- This faucet contains a cartridge in the middle of the device and typically has a decorative cap on top.
Ceramic-Disk Faucet- When you open up this type of faucet you will see a ceramic cylinder in the middle.
- Gather your tools, including:
- Flat screwdriver
- Philips Head screwdriver
- Standard Pliers
- Needle-nose pliers
- Ball faucet repair kit (if necessary)
- White vinegar
- Plumber’s grease
- Utility knife
How to Fix a Compression Faucet
Compression faucets are extremely popular and extremely easy to identify. If your faucet has two separate handles, then it is a compression faucet. Here is how to fix this type of faucet when it leaks:
- Remove each handle from the faucet. There is one that typically says “hot” and one that says “cold.” Start by removing the decorative cap on the top, and unscrew the handle using a screwdriver.
- Removing the handle will expose a nut. Use the wrench to remove this nut. From there you will see a stem sitting on top of an O-ring and a washer. This washer is made of rubber and is the thicker of the two rings.
- Pull out the stem to get access to the O-ring and the washer.
- If the faucet itself is leaking, then it is likely an issue with the washer. This is the number one cause of dripping in compression faucets. Replace the rubber washer with one of a similar size from your local hardware store.
- If the handles are leaky not the actual faucet, then it is likely an issue with the O-ring. Remove the metal O-ring and take it with you to your hardware store so you can find a matching replacement.
- When replacing either the O-ring or the washer, you may also want to remove the seat washer. It is the thick ring at the bottom of the stem that is held in place with an upside-down brass screw.
- Replace the washer with one of similar size and make sure to coat the new one with plumber’s grease when installing it.
From there you can reassemble your faucet in the way you took it apart and your leaks and drips should be fixed.
How to Fix a Ball Faucet
If you have a ball faucet, the easiest way to repair drips in these faucets is to buy a ball faucet repair kit. These kits are fairly inexpensive and will include all of the items needed to repair these types of specialty faucets. It is typically more cost-effective than buying all of the individual items needed to repair this type of faucet. You can find these kits at most home repair or hardware stores.
Once you have your kit, here’s how to repair the faucet.
- Unscrew and remove the handle of the faucet.
- Using a pair of pliers, remove the cap and collar from the faucet. You can then loosen the faucet cam with the tool in the replacement kit. The dome-shaped cam, the washer and the metal ball should all be removed. Typically, the ball and the coordinating cam will be white in color and look like a ball and socket joint.
- Take a pair of needle nose pliers and carefully remove the springs and seals inside the mechanism. They are easy to spot once the ball is removed.
- The springs will have O-rings around them. Cut them off and remove them. This is most likely the cause of the dripping.
- Replace the old O-rings with new ones, making sure to coat them with plumber’s grease before putting them back in place.
- Take the new springs, valve seat and cam washer from your replacement kit and put them in the faucet where the old items were.
- Put the handle back on top of the faucet and reassemble using a screw driver.
How to Fix a Cartridge Faucet
A cartridge faucet is another type of faucet that has a single handle instead of two separate pieces. Here is how you fix it when it starts to drip.
- Pry off the decorative cap and use your screw driver to unscrew the top of the faucet handle. Then tilt it back to remove the handle completely.
- Use a pair of needle nose pliers to remove the small clip that will be coming out of the base of the faucet. This is called a retaining clip and it is typically made of plastic.
- With the clip gone, you can pull out the cartridge that sits at the middle of the faucet straight out.
- With the cartridge gone you will be able to see a little spout, known as the faucet sprout. Pull it out with your pliers and set it aside.
- Remove the old O-rings using a utility knife and replace with new ones, coated in plumber’s grease. They are the primary cause of dripping cartridge faucets.
When you have replaced the O-rings, you can carefully put the faucet handle back together in the order you removed it and enjoy a drip-free faucet.
Fixing a Ceramic-Disk Faucet
When you have a ceramic-disk faucet, there are a few different steps that you need to take in order to properly fix these devices. They are not as common as other forms of faucets, but you should still be able to find the parts that you need to repair them.
- Remove the cap of the faucet, also known as the escutcheon cap. After you unscrew this decorative cap and tilt the handle to remove it, you will find the escutcheon.
- The escutcheon sits directly underneath the handle and is made of metal. It typically has three holes in it. Locate it and remove it.
- Removing the escutcheon will reveal a disk cylinder with several neoprene seals on it.
- Use your pliers to remove these seals and cylinders. Typically, with this type of faucet, the cause of drips and leaks is actually from excess build up. Let these cylinders and seals soak for several hours in white vinegar.
- Once the seals have soaked, they will either look clean and ready for use, in that case, you can repair them, or the soaking may reveal small tears or breaks in the seals. If they look broken, warn or frayed, then you can replace them with new seals from the hardware store.
- With your cleaned or repaired seals in place, carefully put the faucet back together.
When repairing a ceramic-disk faucet, it is important to slowly run the water with the first use. Ceramic faucets can be slightly more sensitive especially with new parts in.