How To Repair a Faucet


Faucets are a key part of your home for an obvious reason: They dispense water. Therefore, keeping your faucets in working condition is of great importance. A number of things can go wrong with your faucets, from leaks to noise. Sometimes you'll need to replace a faucet altogether to solve the problem.

A dripping faucet is the most common plumbing problem as well as one of the easiest to repair. Yet many people ignore it and leave the dripping faucet unrepaired. That costs money. A steady drip can waste $20 or more in water in a short time. Multiply that figure by the number of faucet drips in your home, and you can calculate how much of your money is literally going down the drain. The waste from a dripping hot water faucet is even more because you're also paying to heat the water before it goes down the drain.

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What's the solution? A drip is caused by seepage from the water supply. Remember the water supply enters your home under pressure, so there must be a watertight seal holding back the incoming water when the faucet handle is in the OFF position. That seal is usually created by a washer pressed tightly against the faucet seat. Obviously, when the washer or the seat is not functioning properly, a little water can seep through and drip out of the faucet spout. To stop the drip, all you usually have to do is replace the washer or repair the seat.

In this article, we'll show you how to make a number of basic repairs to your home's faucet system, including stopping those pesky drips. We'll start by addressing leaky faucets on the next page.

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  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don't dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
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  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.

How To Fix a Leaky Faucet

A typical compression-type stem faucet is closed by a washer when the handle is turned. Most leaks are caused by faulty washers.
A typical compression-type stem faucet is closed by a washer when the handle is turned. Most leaks are caused by faulty washers.
HSW

The first thing to do when fixing a faucet drip is to turn off the water supply. You should be able to turn off the supply at a nearby shutoff, but if your house is not equipped with shutoffs for individual fixtures, you'll have to go to the main shutoff and turn off the entire water supply to your home. What follows are ways to address a drip in a compression-type faucet.

No matter what a compression-type faucet looks like, whether it has separate handles for hot and cold water or just one that operates both hot and cold, it operates according to certain basic principles. Here's how to disassemble a compression-type faucet and stop a drip:

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Step 1: Shut off water supply, and remove faucet handle held to main body of faucet by unscrewing tiny screw on top or at back of handle. Some screws are hidden by metal or plastic button or disc that snaps out or is threaded. Once you get button out, you'll see top-mounted handle screw. If necessary, use penetrating oil, such as WD-40, to help loosen it.

Step 2: Remove handle, and look at faucet assembly. Remove packing nut with large pair of slip-joint pliers or adjustable wrench, being careful not to scar metal. Twist out stern or spindle by turning it in the same direction you would to turn on faucet.

Step 3: Remove screw that holds washer. Use penetrating oil, if necessary, to loosen screw. Examine screw and stem, replacing if damaged.

Step 4: Replace old washer with an exact replacement. Washers that almost fit will almost stop the drip. Also note whether old washer is beveled or flat, and replace it with one that is identical. Washers designed only for cold water expand greatly when they get hot, thereby closing the opening and slowing the flow of hot water. Some washers will work for either, but you should make sure the ones you buy are exact replacements.

Step 5: Fasten new washer to the stem, and reinstall assembly in faucet. Turn stem clockwise. With stem in place, put packing nut back on. Be careful not to scar metal with wrench.

Step 6: Reinstall handle and replace button or disc. Turn water supply back on, and check for leaks.

Learn what to do if the faucet valve seat is the cause of your drip on the next page.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don't dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
  • How to Fix Sinks, Tubs, and Drains: Plumbing issues related to sinks, tubs, and drains, can be fixed by the average homeowner...if you have some tips under your belt to help you identify and fix the problem. Find such tips in this article.
  • Plumbing Troubleshooting: Sometimes figuring out what's wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Find helpful troubleshooting tips here.
  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.

How To Repair a Faucet Valve Seat

Two types of seat grinders, or dressers, for evening out a worn valve seat.

If a faucet still drips after you've replaced a washer, there may be something wrong with the faucet valve seat. A defective washer may have allowed the metal stem to grind against the seat and leave it uneven, or chemicals in the water may have built up a residue that now prevents the washer from fitting tightly against the valve seat.

What do you do to repair a bad faucet seat? Of course, you can replace the entire faucet. Another option is to replace the seat. Removal of the old valve seat is fairly simple if you have the right tool, called a seat wrench. Insert the seat wrench into the seat and turn it counterclockwise. Once you get the old seat out, be sure the replacement seat you buy is an exact duplicate. If the valve seat is impossible to remove, insert a seat sleeve that slides into place in the old seat and provides a tight seal.

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Another option is to use a valve seat grinder, or dresser, which is an inexpensive tool that will even out a worn seat. Be careful not to use this tool too long or with too much force because the seat is made of soft metal, and you can grind too much of it away quite easily.

To use a dresser, remove the faucet stem and insert the seat grinder down to the valve seat in the faucet body. Using moderate pressure, turn the tool clockwise a few times. Then clean the valve seat with a cloth to remove any metal shavings.

A loose nut in a faucet's packing can be another reason for a leaky faucet. Learn what to do for this problem on the next page.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don't dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
  • How to Fix Sinks, Tubs, and Drains: Plumbing issues related to sinks, tubs, and drains, can be fixed by the average homeowner...if you have some tips under your belt to help you identify and fix the problem. Find such tips in this article.
  • Plumbing Troubleshooting: Sometimes figuring out what's wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Find helpful troubleshooting tips here.
  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.

Replacing Faucet Packing

A drip occurs when the faucet is turned off; a faucet leak occurs when the water is running. If you see water coming out around the handle, you have a faucet leak. The first thing to do is make sure the faucet's packing nut is tight, but be careful not to scratch the nut with pliers or a wrench.

Step 3: Install new packing. If you use stringlike packing material, wrap a few turns around stem. Packing that resembles soft wire is wrapped around stem only once. Before you finish reassembling faucet, smear light coat of petroleum jelly on threads of stem and on threads of packing nut.If you suspect your faucet's O-ring is the culprit for your leaky faucet, see the tips in the next section.

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Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don't dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
  • How to Fix Sinks, Tubs, and Drains: Plumbing issues related to sinks, tubs, and drains, can be fixed by the average homeowner...if you have some tips under your belt to help you identify and fix the problem. Find such tips in this article.
  • Plumbing Troubleshooting: Sometimes figuring out what's wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Find helpful troubleshooting tips here.
  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.

Replacing an O-Ring

Kitchen faucets contain one or more O-rings to prevent water from oozing out around the spout. Worn O-rings can be replaced easily.

Kitchen faucets have one or more O-rings to prevent water from oozing out around the spout. If the ring wears out, you'll see water at the base of the spout every time you turn on the water. To replace an O-ring:Step 2: With coupling nut removed, work spout up and out of its socket, where you will find ring(s).

Step 3: Replace any defective rings with new rings of the exact same size. Reassemble faucet.

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For faucets that don't seem to follow the descriptions already discussed, see the next page for other suggestions.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don't dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
  • How to Fix Sinks, Tubs, and Drains: Plumbing issues related to sinks, tubs, and drains, can be fixed by the average homeowner...if you have some tips under your belt to help you identify and fix the problem. Find such tips in this article.
  • Plumbing Troubleshooting: Sometimes figuring out what's wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Find helpful troubleshooting tips here.
  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.

Repairing Other Types of Faucets

Some faucets use rubber diaphragms instead of washers to control the flow of water. If you have this type of faucet, you may have to remove the faucet stem from the faucet body with a pair of pliers. Be sure to wrap the top of the stem with plumbers' joint tape to protect it from the teeth of the pliers. The rubber diaphragm covers the bottom of the stem, and you may have to pry it off with a screwdriver. Make sure the replacement diaphragm fits snugly over the base of the stem before you reassemble the faucet.

Another type of faucet uses a rubber seat ring that acts like a washer. To remove the ring from the stem, hold the end of the faucet stem with pliers while you unscrew the threaded center piece that holds the seat ring in place. Remove the sleeve to insert the new seat ring, but be sure the seat ring's lettering faces the threaded part of the stem.

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Cartridge-type stem faucets may have a spring and a rubber washer. To replace these, lift the cartridge out of the faucet body and remove the washer and spring. Insert the new spring and washer, and carefully align the cartridge so it fits correctly into the slots in the faucet body when reassembling it.

There are also faucets with washers that have the faucet seat built into the stem itself. This type of assembly lifts off the base in a removable sleeve, which contains the valve seat. Unscrew the stem nut from the base of the stem and remove the metal washer and the washer retainer, which contains a rubber washer. Insert the new washer -- bevel side up -- into the washer retainer.

One type of faucet doesn't have washers at all. It works by means of two metal discs. Turning the faucet on aligns holes in the discs and allows water to flow through the faucet. If something goes wrong with this type of faucet, the valve assembly usually must be replaced.

Single-lever faucets are easy to fix, too, but there are so many different types that you must buy a specific repair kit for the faucet you have. Generally, a faucet company makes repair kits for its products and includes detailed instructions and diagrams with the replacement parts. The most difficult part of repairing a single-lever faucet may be tracking down the hardware dealer or plumbing supply store that carries the appropriate kit. Once you have the kit, however, you should have little difficulty eliminating the leak. Make sure the water supply is shut off before disassembling the faucet, and follow the kit's instructions carefully.

You can avoid having the teeth of the wrench scar a chrome-plated plumbing fixture during installation or repair by wrapping the fixture with a double layer of plastic electrical tape.

If a dripping faucet is getting on your nerves before the plumber arrives or before you have time to fix it yourself, tie a 2-foot-long string around the nozzle, and drop the string's end into the drain. As the faucet drips, the drops will run silently down the string.

If your problem is noise instead of drips, we have that covered in the following section.

Not what you’re looking for? Try these:

  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don’t dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
  • How to Fix Sinks, Tubs, and Drains: Plumbing issues related to sinks, tubs, and drains, can be fixed by the average homeowner...if you have some tips under your belt to help you identify and fix the problem. Find such tips in this article.
  • Plumbing Troubleshooting: Sometimes figuring out what’s wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Find helpful troubleshooting tips here.
  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.

How To Silence a Noisy Faucet

Faucets can scream, whistle, or chatter when you turn them on or off. There are several possible causes for these ear-shattering phenomena. If your house is newly built, you may have pipes that are too small to allow the water to pass through them properly. Similarly, pipes in older homes can become restricted by the formation of scale, indicated by a noisy faucet. In either case, you must replace the pipes to get rid of the noise, which is not really a quick fix.

Most likely, however, your noisy faucet is caused by a washer that is either the wrong size or is not held securely to the stem. Turn off the water supply before starting on this or any other faucet repair job. Replacing the washer or tightening it should eliminate the noise. If the faucet still makes noise, check the washer seat. The seat can become partially closed with residue, and the restricted water flow can cause whistling or chattering. If this is the case, clean the seat.

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A squealing noise heard when you turn the faucet handle means the metal threads of the stem are binding against the faucet's threads. Remove the stem, and coat both sets of threads with petroleum jelly. The lubrication should stop the noise and make the handle easier to turn. Of course, if the stem threads or faucet body threads have become worn, the resulting play between them causes vibration and noise in the faucet. In this case, you'll need more than just lubrication to quiet the faucet.

Install a new stem, and see if the noise stops. If not, the faucet body threads are worn, and the only solution is a completely new faucet. Fortunately, the stem usually wears first. But even if you must replace the entire faucet, the job is fairly easy. It's examined in detail in the next section.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don't dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
  • How to Fix Sinks, Tubs, and Drains: Plumbing issues related to sinks, tubs, and drains, can be fixed by the average homeowner...if you have some tips under your belt to help you identify and fix the problem. Find such tips in this article.
  • Plumbing Troubleshooting: Sometimes figuring out what's wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Find helpful troubleshooting tips here.
  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.

How To Replace a Faucet

The faucet is secured to the sink by a nut under the basin. The water supply line is usually connected to the faucet with a threaded compression fitting.

Replacing a faucet requires some work and patience. Fortunately, new faucet units are made for do-it-yourself installation with easy-to-follow instructions included. A new faucet can work wonders for the appearance of your fixtures and will also eliminate all the leaks, drips, and other problems you may have had with your old faucet.

Make sure whatever faucet unit you choose will completely cover the old faucet's mounting holes. If you have an unusual sink in your home, look for an adjustable faucet unit that is designed to fit many types of sinks. Once you select the faucet model you want, follow these steps to install it properly:Step 3: Remove old faucet assembly from sink, then clean sink around faucet mounting area.

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Step 4: Before installing a faucet, apply plumbers' putty around its base. If gaskets are supplied with faucet for this purpose, putty is not necessary.

Step 5: If new faucet has spray hose, attach hose. Run spray hose down through its opening in faucet assembly, through its opening in sink, and up through sink's center opening. Then attach hose to supply stub on faucet.

Step 6: Install new faucet assembly into mounting holes in sink. With new faucet assembly in position, place washers and nuts on assembly's mounting studs under sink and hand-tighten them, making sure assembly is in proper position and any gaskets are correctly aligned. Then further tighten nuts with basin wrench.

Because there is very little room under the sink, you will probably need a basin  wrench to tighten the coupling nuts.

Step 7: Align and connect original water supply lines with flexible supply tubes coming from new faucet. Make sure hot water and cold water lines are connected to proper supply tubes on faucet assembly. When you attach lines, be sure to use two wrenches. One holds fitting while the other turns nut on water supply line.

Step 8: Turn on hot and cold water supplies to fixture. Run both hot and cold water full force to clear supply lines and to check fixture for leaks. If there's any evidence of leakage, go back over procedure to check for loose or improper connections.

Although bathroom faucets are similar to the ones we've just described, they can present their own distinct challenges. Read on to learn how to install various bathroom faucets.

Replacing Bathroom Faucets

Replacing a bathroom sink faucet can be done using the same procedures that were described in the previous section. One difference may be the presence of a pop-up drain plug that's connected by a linkage to a knob or plunger on the old faucet assembly. There should be one or two places in the linkage where it can be easily disconnected from the faucet before removing the original unit from the basin. Instructions provided with the new faucet will tell you exactly how to connect the new drain assembly. Be sure to reconnect the drain linkage when installing the new faucet.

Replacing a shower or tub faucet is not usually a quick fix because the connections are made behind a wall. However, there may be an access panel so you can get at the pipes without ripping the wall apart. If you have to cut into the wall and want to tackle this project, be sure to add an access panel for future pipe and faucet repairs.

Replacing a tub faucet can be complicated because the connections are behind a wall. However, there may be an access panel that allows you to reach those connections.

Once you get to the tub faucet connections behind the wall, the job is no harder than working on your kitchen sink. Shut off the water supply, remove the faucet handle on the tub side, then disconnect the old faucet unit from the back. If there's an old showerhead pipe, unscrew it from its pipe inside the wall; do the same thing with the tub spout. Now you're ready to install all the new parts. Follow the directions that are included with the new assembly.

Whether it's a worn O-ring or noisy pipe, your home's faucet system will need periodic repairs. But if you follow the steps we've outlined in this article, you'll be able to get these jobs done with minimal trouble.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Plumbing: Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Don't dismay -- the plumbing tips detailed in this article are sure to help, even if helping means advice on when to call a plumber.
  • How to Fix Sinks, Tubs, and Drains: Plumbing issues related to sinks, tubs, and drains, can be fixed by the average homeowner...if you have some tips under your belt to help you identify and fix the problem. Find such tips in this article.
  • Plumbing Troubleshooting: Sometimes figuring out what's wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Find helpful troubleshooting tips here.
  • Plumbing Tools: You may already have many of the tools necessary for most plumbing jobs because they are the same tools used for other do-it-yourself projects. Find out about special plumbing tools, such as pipe wrenches, in this article.