How To Fix a Leaky Faucet: Plumbing Repairs Made Easy


A leaky faucet is one of the most common plumbing issues homeowners face. Not only can it be annoying to listen to that constant drip, but it can also lead to water wastage and higher utility bills. Luckily, fixing a leaky faucet is a relatively simple task that can be accomplished by anyone with basic DIY skills. In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of fixing a leaky faucet, helping you save money and preserve water resources.

Identifying the Type of Faucet

Before you start your repair journey, it is essential to understand the different types of faucets and how they function. The four common types are compression faucets, ball faucets, cartridge faucets, and ceramic-disk faucets. Identifying the type of faucet you have will help you choose the right repair method and replacement parts, ensuring a successful fix.

Compression faucets are the oldest and most common type of faucet, found in many older homes. They have separate hot and cold water handles and are prone to leaks due to worn-out rubber washers. Ball faucets are commonly found in kitchens and have a single handle that controls both water temperature and flow. They are known for their durability, but over time, the rubber seals and springs may deteriorate, causing leaks.

Cartridge faucets, on the other hand, are similar to ball faucets but have a different mechanism. They have a single handle that moves up and down to control the water flow and from side to side to adjust temperature. Leaks in cartridge faucets are often caused by worn-out O-rings or cartridges. Lastly, ceramic-disk faucets are known for their reliability and are often found in upscale kitchens and bathrooms. They have a single lever operation and rarely leak. However, if a leak does occur, it is usually due to a cracked or worn-out ceramic disk.

Gathering the Tools and Materials

Now that you have identified the type of faucet you have, it’s time to gather the necessary tools and materials for the repair. The tools you will need may vary based on the faucet type, but some common ones include an adjustable wrench, screwdrivers (both flathead and Phillips), pliers, and a utility knife. Additionally, it is advisable to have a flashlight ready to help you see into tight spaces under the sink.

In terms of materials, you may require replacement parts specific to your faucet type. These can include washers, O-rings, cartridges, or ceramic disks. It is best to turn off the water supply to your faucet and disassemble it to identify the damaged parts accurately. Once you know what needs to be replaced, visit your local plumbing supply store or search online for the specific replacement parts. Having these parts ready beforehand will save you time and allow for a seamless repair process.

Step-by-Step Repair Process

Now that you have the tools and replacement parts, it’s time to dive into the repair process. The following step-by-step guide will walk you through fixing a leaky faucet, regardless of its type.

1. Turn off the water supply: Before you start disassembling the faucet, it is crucial to turn off the water supply. Most faucets have shut-off valves located under the sink. Turn the valve clockwise until it is fully closed to stop the water flow.

2. Remove the faucet handle: Use a screwdriver or an Allen wrench (depending on the type of faucet) to remove the handle. This will give you access to the inner workings of the faucet. If the handle is stuck or difficult to remove, a handle puller can be used to safely extract it without causing any damage.

3. Disassemble the faucet: Carefully take apart the faucet based on its type. Compression faucets typically require removing the packing nut and unscrewing the stem assembly. Ball faucets require removing the cap, collar, and cam. Cartridge faucets often need the cartridge itself to be replaced, which is simpler but may require a bit of force to remove. Ceramic-disk faucets typically involve unscrewing the setscrew and removing the disk cylinder.

4. Inspect and replace damaged parts: Once the faucet is disassembled, inspect the various components for signs of damage or wear. Common parts that may need replacing include washers, O-rings, cartridges, or ceramic disks, depending on the type of faucet. Carefully remove the damaged parts and replace them with the new ones. Lubricating the new parts with plumber’s grease will help ensure smooth operation.

5. Reassemble and test: After replacing the damaged parts, reassemble the faucet in the reverse order of disassembly. Make sure all the components are securely attached and tightened. Turn on the water supply and slowly open the faucet to check for any leaks. If the leak persists, you may need to repeat the process and check for any missed damaged parts or defective replacements.

Preventative Maintenance and Additional Tips

Once you have successfully fixed your leaky faucet, there are a few tips and preventative maintenance practices to keep in mind to avoid future issues. These steps will help extend the lifespan of your faucet and keep it in top condition:

1. Clean regularly: Regularly clean your faucet to prevent the buildup of mineral deposits and debris, which can cause leaks and affect water flow. Simply wiping the faucet with a mild detergent solution and a soft cloth can help maintain its appearance and functionality.

2. Be gentle with handles: Avoid excessive force when turning the faucet handles on and off. Applying too much pressure can cause unnecessary wear and tear on the internal components, potentially leading to leaks.

3. Fix leaks promptly: Don’t ignore even the smallest leaks. Promptly attend to any leaks to prevent them from escalating into major plumbing issues. Regularly check your faucets for leaks and take action immediately if you notice any signs of dripping.

4. Replace washers and O-rings annually: As a preventative measure, consider replacing the washers and O-rings in your faucet annually. These inexpensive parts can go a long way in preventing leaks and maintaining the smooth operation of your faucet.

Fixing a leaky faucet doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right tools, materials, and a little bit of know-how, you can easily resolve this common plumbing issue. Not only will you save money on your water bill, but you will also contribute to water conservation efforts. Remember, if you ever feel uncomfortable or unsure about tackling a plumbing repair, it is always best to consult a professional plumber.