How to Fix a Leaking Faucet
If one or both of your faucet’s handles leak, the problem is probably with the cartridge. Start by turning off the water supply to the faucet.
Remove the handle screw using a flathead or Phillips-head screwdriver. If the screw is seized, use penetrating oil to break up any rust or sediment that may be present. For professional help, contact Local Law 152.
Modern faucets are designed to last for years, but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. Over time, environmental factors like hard water and routine wear and tear from turning handles on and off cause them to fail. Fortunately, many faucet issues are minor and can be repaired without the need for a full replacement.
One of the most common problems with faucets is a drip. Even a small drip can cost you money and waste hundreds of gallons of water. Often times, a dripping faucet can be easily fixed by replacing the washer, but sometimes it will require more extensive repair.
Another common issue is a leak. This can be caused by a number of factors, including old or worn seals, improper installation, and rust. If you notice a leak, it is important to fix it immediately. Otherwise, it could lead to serious water damage to your home and property.
A third common problem is a noisy faucet. If your faucet handle(s) make a squeaking noise when turned on, it is most likely due to the threads of the stem valve becoming worn. Fortunately, this is an easy fix with a little bit of plumber’s grease.
The first step in repairing your faucet is to identify the brand and model. The easiest way to do this is to look for a logo printed or etched on the body of the faucet. You may also be able to find the model number printed or etched somewhere on the faucet. It’s best to use a flashlight to increase your chances of finding the model number.
Once you have identified the brand, you can start looking for the necessary parts to repair your faucet. If the model number isn’t displayed on the faucet, you can usually find the installation manuals and maintenance guides for that specific faucet on its manufacturer’s website.
Before you begin repairing your faucet, be sure to turn off the water supply so that you don’t spray water everywhere. Once the water is off, you can then remove the faucet handle(s) by unscrewing them with a screwdriver. Be careful not to lose any screws or other parts when you’re removing the handle(s). Once you’ve removed the handle, you can then start to work on the plumbing underneath.
Disassembling the faucet
There are a few ways to disassemble a faucet without breaking any of the more expensive parts, including using a special tool that can get under a screw and loosen it. However, it is usually more effective to simply use tools you probably already have in your garage, such as the type of grip used for opening stuck jars or a wrench. The main problem with a stuck handle is often mineral buildup that has hardened and seized the metal parts. You can try soaking the handles in vinegar to help loosen this buildup. If this doesn’t work, you can also try a commercial mineral deposit remover.
To begin disassembling the faucet, first shut off the water supply at the valve under the sink. Then, remove the decorative cap on the faucet handle by unscrewing it with a screwdriver. This will expose the Allen screw that holds the handle onto the faucet body. If the handle is still stuck, you can try tapping it with a hammer or using pliers to loosen it.
Once you have loosened the handle, it should easily pull up and off of the valve body. Then, you can access the spout and the cartridge inside. The cartridge is the piece that controls the flow of water from the spout, so you should be able to see if there are any visible signs of damage. If you can’t see any damage, then the problem could be with the spout itself or the o-rings that attach it to the valve body.
If you can’t find any damage or o-rings, then the most likely issue is that the rubber seals on the cartridge are worn out. This can be fixed by replacing them with a new cartridge, but it’s also possible that the cartridge itself is cracked, which would require replacing it entirely. It’s best to replace the entire cartridge if this is the case, so you should purchase a replacement kit that includes the necessary parts. Before you install the new cartridge, you should lubricate the threads with plumber’s grease to make it easier to remove and reinsert the spout.
Replacing the cartridge
The cartridge is the only part of a faucet that can be replaced without having to completely disassemble the entire fixture. The way that the cartridge is held in place varies depending on the faucet style. Some older models have a large retaining nut that is exposed once the handle is removed, while newer, more complicated faucets may have a decorative collar or other parts that need to be removed before you can reach the nut. Once you can see the retaining nut, use channel-type pliers or an adjustable wrench to turn it counterclockwise and remove it. Set the nut aside.
Once the nut is removed, you should be able to pull out the entire cartridge. Examine the cartridge for any obvious problems, such as mineral deposits or worn-out O-rings. Replace any O-rings that are worn out, and rub the cartridge with plumber’s grease before inserting it back into the faucet.
Some cartridges can be pulled out by hand, but others are more stubborn and require a special cartridge-pulling wrench (available at hardware stores or home centers) made for your specific brand of faucet. Once the cartridge is out, note its orientation so you can reinstall it in the same direction. If your faucet is a two-handle model, note which side the cartridge is on so you can reinstall it with the hot and cold valves in the correct positions.
Before reassembling the faucet, drain it by turning on the water until all of the water has stopped running. Cover the drain with a rag to prevent any parts from falling down the drain. Once the faucet is empty, screw on the new handle and replace the decorative cap. Turn on the water to test the faucet, and replace any decorative covers or caps if needed.
If your faucet is still leaking, shut off the water at the house valve, then flush the toilet to drain any remaining water from the lines. Turn off the water valve underneath the sink and open the drain to fully clear the line. Reconnect the valves and allow the pipes to drain, then wipe down the faucet interior and reassemble it. If you are unsure of the order in which to reassemble your faucet, look at the photos or ask an employee at a plumbing supply store for help.
Reassembling the faucet
Many types of faucets use a cartridge system for controlling water flow. These are sometimes referred to as “washerless” faucets because they do not have a washer and valve seat but rely instead on the up-and-down movement of the handle to open and close the spout. To fix a drip from this type of faucet, you must replace the cartridge. Cartridges are readily available at home centers and hardware stores; just take the old one with you when you shop for a replacement to ensure that you buy the correct part.
The first thing to do is remove the decorative cap from the top of each handle; this will reveal the screw that holds the handle in place. Use a screwdriver to loosen the screw, and then pull the handle straight off. If the spout has a diverter valve, you’ll need to turn the water off at the shut-off valve to prevent wasting water while you work.
Aerators are found on the end of the spout and can be removed by hand twisting (though you may need to hold the aerator with your fingers). If it’s stuck, use a toothpick to break apart the aerator’s parts; clean them all with vinegar; then reassemble the aerator. If the aerator is hidden inside the faucet, you’ll need a special tool known as an “aerator key wrench” to remove it.
If your aerator is not the problem, you’ll need to remove the faucet collar from the spout; this can be done with a water pump plier or basin wrench. After the nut is removed, you can pull off the faucet collar and aerator and then remove the faucet spout.
If you have a cartridge faucet, you can remove the handle and spout assembly by unscrewing the decorative trim, handle dome, and screw; then you can unscrew the valve stem with a pair of slip-joint pliers or needle-nose pliers. If the cartridge is leaking, you can replace it by loosening a plastic spanner cap or brass retainer clip on the bottom of the stem with a screwdriver, then inserting the new stem and tightening the brass clip and spanner cap. Then reassemble the faucet by reversing the process you used to disassemble it, using the pictures you took while removing the parts to make sure the new parts are installed in the same order. Reconnect the water line and turn on the faucet to test it.