How To Fix a Leaky Faucet
It isn't until you live with the drip, drip, dripping of a faulty faucet that you realize how effective water torture must be! Irritation aside, just one leaky faucet has the potential to waste up to 7 gallons of water a day. That's more than 2,500 gallons a year, not to mention a huge chunk of change literally going down the drain.
The good news is that in many cases you don't have to live with the constant dripping or call a plumber to fix it. All you need is a few tools, a bit of patience, and some perseverance. At worst you'll end up needing to call that plumber after all but more than likely, you'll gain a great sense of satisfaction--and the end of that water torture!
Jane Tip: If your faucet is especially old, or you keep having to replace parts, you may just want to replace the whole unit.
Repairing a faucet is pretty simple, but you need to know what kind of faucet you have which usually requires taking it apart. Once that is out of the way, you just need to determine which part inside has given out. Take these parts to the store for replacement.
Jane Tip: Remember to cover the drain with a rag or hand towel before you get started. You don't want any crucial pieces going down the drain!
What follows is a list of the different kinds of faucets out there and what you can do to repair them. Because every faucet varies according to the manufacturer, you may not have exactly the same parts as we have outlined here. Just remember to keep all of your parts together, and take notes as to their placement.
Compression Faucets: A compression faucet is simply a faucet with two handles controlled by a stem. If you can't determine which side is leaking, start by shutting off either the hot or the cold water valves. Typically, the hot water is on the left side and the cold water on the right. This is done by turning the oval-shaped knobs under the sink. If you turn off the hot water and you still have a drip, then you know the cold water side is the one with the leak.
Shut off the water by turning the valves under the sink. Let all water out of the pipes by turning the faucets on for a few seconds and letting them drain.
Using a screwdriver or another prying tool, gently lift the cap off from the top of the faucet. There should be a screw underneath this cap. Remove it.
Jane Tip: Keep your hardware in a plastic bag so there is no searching for missing parts later.
Once the screw is removed, remove the locknut underneath with your plumber's wrench.
After the locknut is off, you will have access to the stem. Aptly named, the stem looks like a short flower stem, and removing it should be fairly easy. Simply lift if off or gently pry it loose with your wrench.
Jane Tip: Also, if taking apart your faucet means putting a wrench directly onto a visible part of the chrome, cover the gripping parts of the tool with a sturdy tape beforehand.
Inspect all of your parts. There should be a washer under the stem, along with a little rubber piece called an O ring. (FYI: Replacing an O ring can help with leaks occurring from the handle of the faucet.) If these or the stem looks corroded or broken, take them to the local home improvement store and get them replaced. Remember, the flat side of the washer faces down.
If you are replacing an O-ring, be sure to coat the new piece in petroleum jelly or packing grease first.
If you don't see major damage, your problem may lie a little deeper. Is the washer scraped up a little? If so, it probably means that your valve seat (the place where the stem rests) needs replacing. Once the stem and other parts are removed, put your finger into the faucet. Is the bottom rough? If so, your valve seat is old and is ruining your washers and causing leaks.
Remove the valve seat by turning it counter-clockwise with your hex wrench. Take it to the home improvement store so that your replacement is an exact match and you won't have to make two trips!
After you have inspected/removed/replaced all parts, you can start to put your sink back together again. Replace all parts of the faucet, securing them tightly. While you want them secure, don't over tighten, as it could lead to more leaks!
Turn the water back on from underneath the sink. Turn the faucet on and then off. You should be drip-free!
A leaky faucet is a minor problem that can cause major damage to your wallet! So stop living with that DRIP! One last tip: if your drip has graduated into a steady stream of water, you may just want to replace the entire faucet. Good luck tackling that drip!