Every homeowner experiences the occasional annoyance of things not working properly — that’s all part of the fun of owning a home. A common household problem is a leaky faucet, with its spout drip, drip, dripping away. It may not seem like an urgent fix, but a faucet that drips once every second can add up to a wasted 5 gallons of water a day. What to do? Before you call in the pros, you might see whether you can fix it yourself.
Types of faucets
Among several types of faucets are two common types: a ball faucet and a cartridge faucet.
- A ball faucet is typically found in kitchens. It has a single handle attached to a rounded cap directly above the spout, and the handle moves a plastic or metal “ball” inside the faucet that controls the flow of water.
- A cartridge faucet has two handles that turn 90 degrees and use an up-and-down or side-to-side motion to regulate the flow of water.
Causes of a kitchen faucet leak
Let’s consider some common reasons why your faucet could be leaking from its base:
- Worn-out O-rings: An O-ring is a small disc that’s responsible for holding the faucet’s handle in place. This is usually an easy fix. A leak just means your O-ring isn’t creating as much of a seal as it should be.
- Corroded valve seat: If the leak originates from the faucet’s spout, it may be a problem with the valve seat, which connects the spout and the faucet.
- Worn-out washers: Just like the O-ring, your washer can wear out from use. These are metal or rubber pieces that also seal gaps to prevent leaks. (Sometimes a leak may also occur if the washer was not installed properly, or if the wrong size of washer was installed initially. If you plan to replace the washer on your own, be sure you are using the right size.)
- Worn-out cartridge: Leaks in cartridge faucets are usually caused by worn-out cartridges or worn rubber O-ring seals. These problems are easily fixed using repair kits that include both replacement cartridges and O-rings.
Is your bathroom faucet leaking? If so, there are different steps you will need to take to repair the issue.
The tools you’ll need
To repair your faucet, you’ll need to gather some tools that you probably already have around the house. To get started, you’ll need:
- A 4- or 6-way screwdriver
- Adjustable pliers
- A small adjustable wrench
- A flashlight
(Some models require an Allen wrench to disassemble them. Older faucets will require seat wrenches if the seats are worn and need replaced. Larger Allen wrenches can be used in most cases.)
Now you’re ready to go through the process of troubleshooting and fixing.
Locating the leak
Knowing where the leak is coming from can help you know where to start. Determine which side of your faucet is leaking by shutting off the water supply valves one at a time. There are usually shut-off valves, also known as stop valves (one for hot and one for cold), under the sink for such an occasion as this. If the leak doesn’t stop after the first valve is turned off, it’s the other line that’s leaking.
Once you determine which side is leaking, turn off both supply valves.
If your valves are stuck, shut off the water main. You will have to replace hardware for both sides because you won’t be able to identify whether the hot or cold side is leaking.
Fixing a ball faucet
- Loosen the set screw and take off the handle. Use a wrench to remove the cap.
- For leaky spouts, remove the cam (which holds the ball inside the faucet in place), washer and ball.
- Use a small screwdriver to remove the seats and springs.
- To repair leaks at the base, remove the spout and replace the O-rings. Add a little plumber’s grease and replace the spout.
- Install new seats on new springs. Replace the ball, taking care to line up the holes.
- Replace the washer and cam. Reassemble the faucet. Turn the handle to the “on” position.
Fixing a two-handled cartridge faucet
- Turn faucet handles to the “on” position to release any residual water. Close the drain and place a towel in the sink to protect the surface and catch any dropped parts.
- Unscrew the set screw (the screw that holds the handle on) to remove the handle. Remove the retaining clip or nut.
- Remove the O-ring from the housing with a screwdriver if necessary. Clean off any debris with a cloth.
- Gently pull out the cartridge and replace it with a new one.
- Reinstall the O-ring. Reattach the spout, insert the retaining clip and screw on the plastic retaining nut.
- Reassemble the faucet. With the faucet knobs in the “on” position, slowly turn on the water supply. Too much initial pressure can damage the new hardware.
Time and expense for this repair
To fix a faucet yourself, you’ll spend between $15 and $300, depending on the brand and parts needed. It normally takes a homeowner more than an hour and a half to do the job, while a pro may only take 30 minutes to an hour.
If your home repair is unsuccessful, the faucet may be beyond repair. It may simply be too worn out or have wrong or defective parts, or parts that weren’t installed correctly.
Call in the pros with ANEW
If the faucet continues to leak from the base, it might be symptomatic of a more serious issue, and you might want to consider hiring a professional. ANEW offers an easy, efficient and affordable repair service with remote diagnosis for only $20.
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