How Troubleshoot a Leaky Faucet

Your Guide to Troubleshooting a Leaky Faucet

The drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet is more than an irritation that keeps you awake at night. It wastes water, causing an unnecessary increase in your monthly water bill. The good news is that you can prevent that water, and your hard-earned money, from going down the drain – and you won’t need the services of a licensed plumber. Often the problem can be solved by replacing a simple part, and you can make the repairs yourself by following these steps for troubleshooting a leaky faucet.

Step one: Turn off the water to the faucet

The water pipe connected to your faucet will usually be beneath the faucet, perhaps behind the lower cabinet doors. It could also be above the faucet in an unfinished space. When you find the pipe, look for a twist lever somewhere along its surface. This lever controls the flow of water to the faucet. When you find it, give it a clockwise turn to shut the water off.

Step two: Put the plug in the drain

Because you’re going to be working on the faucet, it’s a good idea to put the plug in to prevent any screws or washers from falling down the drain during the repair process.

Step three: Identify your faucet

The type of faucet you have will affect how you repair the leak. Compression faucets are common in many homes and feature two separate levers for hot and cold water. For the purposes of this article, we will assume your faucet is a compression faucet. Resources are available for repairing ball, cartridge and ceramic disk faucets as well.

Step four: Fix your compression faucet

Start by removing each of the faucet’s handles, then use a wrench to remove the nut beneath them. When the nut is removed, you will find the stem, O-ring and seat washer, each sitting on top of one another. The seat washer is often made of rubber and, because of this, it can become worn after a while. Most leaky faucets are caused by worn seat washers.

After you have found these pieces, remove the stem to expose the thinner O-ring and the thicker seat washer. If your faucet leaks, including water escaping through the handles, it’s time to replace the O-ring. Remove your existing O-ring and bring it to your local hardware store to find a replacement.

Once the O-ring has been set aside, remove the seat washer by unfastening the brass screw that holds it in place and then replace the seat washer. Because these washers are available in a variety of sizes, you may need to bring your existing washer to the hardware store to find the proper replacement. When you have the proper replacement, make sure to coat it in plumber’s grease before you install it.

When you have replaced the washer, return it, the O-ring and stem to the faucet in their proper order and then replace the nut and handles. Your faucet should now be leak free and you’ll have earned a peaceful night’s sleep by having tackled this project yourself.


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