Everybody knows that leaky faucets waste water and can wear on your patience, but not that many people know how quick and easy they are to fix. With just basic tools, you can fix any leaks in just a few minutes.

What Causes Leaks?

We deal with a lot of complex plumbing leaks, but most problems homeowners encounter are pretty simple. The source of the problem is usually a deteriorating O-ring, a rubber ring inside your plumbing fixture that helps create a water-tight seal and prevents leaks. To replace the old O-ring, you’ll need to take apart the faucet (not a big deal) and then put it back together, possibly even replacing some other old or corroded pieces. Other faucets use cartridges that may be causing your leak, and they’re simple to remove and replace, too.

drop of water dripping from a tap

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • Phillips-head and flat-head screwdrivers
  • Plumber’s grease
  • Pliers
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Parts for your particular faucet type (see below)

Turn off the water

Before you do any work on a plumbing fixture, either repairing or replacing it, you’ll need to shut off the water to the fixture. For sinks, this is as easy as turning off the football-shaped valves beneath the sink.

Pull the stopper stem or put a rag in the drain to cover it and catch any hardware that falls into the sink; you don’t want to have to take apart the drain trap underneath to retrieve any small pieces.

What kind of faucet do you have?

If you’re not sure what kind of faucet you have, you can usually find it by sight looking at the manufacturer’s website. Kohler’s website, for example, has a handy guide for identifying your plumbing fixture’s model number. Then you can easily find replacement parts (cartridges, handles, etc.) and order them online or at your local hardware store. Once you know what it is and have the right replacement or repair parts, you can get started.

Compression

If your faucet has two handles for hot and cold that you have to rotate to turn on the water, you have a compression faucet.

  1. Remove the handles. You can usually remove the “hot” and “cold” knobs or caps on the top of your faucet handles with a flathead screwdriver and then unscrew the anchor screw or nut inside the handle to remove the whole thing. Other handles have a set-screw on the side of the handle that you can remove with a mini-screwdriver.
  2. Pull out the valve stem. You can usually get it out by rotating it counter-clockwise with your adjustable wrench. Remove the old O-ring from the base of the stem threads and remove the screw and old washer from the bottom of the stem.
  3. Replace the O-ring. Apply a little plumber’s grease to the stem, put on a new O-ring and washer, and reinsert the stem into the faucet and replace the handle. That should clear up any leaks you have.

Cartridge

Cartridge style faucets use a type of plastic cartridge assembly to regulate water flow. Remove the handles just like with the compression faucet and then pull out the cartridge. Replace it with a new one, replace the handles, and you shouldn’t have any more leaks.

Ceramic Disc

Some faucets use a cylinder containing ceramic discs inside. The seals on the bottom of the cylinder can become worn and start leaking water through. You’ll need to replace them and scrub off any corrosion.

  1. Remove the handles. Remove the handles as described in the compression style instructions and then unscrew the mounting screws or retaining nuts at the base of the cylinders in the faucet. Then just pull the cylinders out.
  2. Remove the seals. Pull the rubber seals off of the base of the cylinder and scrub the area to clean it. Put on new seals and reassemble the faucet assembly.

Important: Before you turn the water back on, open each of the faucets fully. Then slowly open the water supply valves below the sink. Too much water pressure too fast can damage the ceramic discs inside those cylinders.

In Over Your Head?

Sometimes, replacing a cartridge or an O-ring just doesn’t cut it. If you are experiencing extreme leaks, and your faucet is unusable or has to have water shut off completely, give us a call or contact us here. A Ben Franklin plumber will be over and help you solve your fixture leaks fast. We’re happy to help!

Proud that she can fix a faucet in 5 minutes flat, Amanda Peters is the resident DIY and home improvement guru at BenFranklinFlorida.com. You’ll find more of her tips and tricks here on the blog or around the web.

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