Photo by Courtesy of Kohler
Learn about 4 types of faucets, what causes a faucet to drip, and how to repair them.
There are few things more annoying than a leaky faucet. It’s a constant reminder that you’re wasting water, plus the drip, drip, dripping sound is beyond irritating. Don’t put up with it—fix it! Repairing a leaky faucet is an easy and inexpensive project. The key is in knowing how to fix your particular type of faucet.
What Causes a Faucet to Drip?
There are four kinds of faucets: cartridge, compression, ceramic disk, and ball type. A compression faucet relies on rubber washers to seal the valve seat, which can wear out and need to be replaced. With the other three types of faucets, either the O-ring or neoprene seal that’s causing the leak needs to be replaced. We’ll go over each of these fixes in more detail below.
How Do You Fix a Dripping Faucet?
Before you start, shut off the water under the sink. Cover the drain with a rag to catch dropped parts, and establish a spot nearby to lay out the parts in the order of their removal. Tape the jaws of your wrench with a layer of duct tape to avoid scratching the fixture, and have some distilled white vinegar and a soft scouring pad ready for removing any mineral deposits found on the parts.
How To Fix a Leaky Cartridge Faucet:
- Pry off the decorative cap on the handle, remove the handle screw, tilt the handle back, and pull it off.
- If there’s a threaded retaining clip holding the cartridge in place, use needle-nose pliers to remove it, then pull the cartridge straight up.
- Remove the spout and cut off the old O-rings using a utility knife. Coat the new O-rings with nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease.
- To replace the entire cartridge, match the length of the old cartridge with the length of the replacement. Also match the stem end where the handle attaches.
How To Fix a Leaky Compression Faucet:
- Most leaky compression faucets need new seat washers. Use a small slotted screwdriver or utility knife to pry off the decorative cap on the handle, exposing the attachment screws.
- Use a screwdriver to remove the handle screw, then pull off the handle.
- Use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packing nut and an adjustable wrench to loosen the stem from the faucet body.
- Unscrew the rubber washer from the bottom end of the stem to remove and replace the seat washer.
- Coat the washers with nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease.
- Pop the stem out of the packing nut and replace the O-ring, the culprit for leaky handles. O-rings range in size from 3/8 to 5/8 inch, so it’s crucial to match the exact size of your faucet. Coat the new O-ring with plumber’s grease.
- The washer sits in a round, recessed disk called a retainer. If the original retainer is damaged, grind it flush and install a replacement retainer ring. If your faucet continues to leak, the seat may be pitted.
- Remove the stem and sand the top end of the seat with emery cloth to smooth it out.
- If you can’t repair the original seat, replace it with a new one.
How To Fix a Leaky Ceramic Disk Faucet:
- Push the handle back to access the set screw. Remove the screw and lift off the handle.
- Remove the escutcheon cap, unscrew the disk cylinder mounting screws, and lift out the cylinder.
- With a blunt screwdriver, lift out the neoprene seals from the cylinder. If the seals are damaged, replace them.
- Use distilled white vinegar and a soft scouring pad to clean the cylinder openings, then rinse them thoroughly.
- Replace the seals and reassemble the faucet.
- Move the handle to the “on” position and turn the water back on slowly—the force of the returning water can fracture the ceramic disk.
- If you’re replacing the entire cylinder (usually not necessary), set it in place and secure it with the new mounting screws.
How to Fix a Leaky Faucet Ball-Type:
This type of faucet contains a lot of parts, which often makes it difficult to find the cause of the leak. You can avoid the aggravation by buying a replacement kit and putting in all new parts.
- Use a pocketknife to pry off the small index cover from the side of the faucet and reveal the hex-head screw.
- Loosen the screw with a hex-key wrench and pull off the faucet handle.
- Use adjustable pliers to remove the cap and collar.
- Using the special tool included in the faucet-repair kit, loosen the faucet cam and lift it out, along with the cam washer and the rotating ball.
- Reach into the faucet body with needle-nose pliers and remove the rubber seats and springs.
- Slip a new spring and rubber seat onto the tip of a pencil and lower it down into the faucet.
- Repeat to install the second seat and spring.
- Reinstall the stainless-steel ball, making sure to align its keyway with the corresponding tab inside the faucet body.
- On top of the stainless-steel ball, install a new rubber gasket and cam cap.
- Align the keyway on the cap with the corresponding slot.
- Hand-tighten the top cap assembly back onto the faucet.
- Use a spanner wrench to tighten the nut to provide the proper tension against the stainless-steel ball.
Looking for help with repairs around your home? A home warranty may help. Check out these in-depth guides from the This Old House Reviews Team: