At some point, we all have a leaking faucet. Every once in a while the faucet needs a tune-up, and believe it or not, you can do this yourself. You may feel like you need the expertise of a plumber, but you probably don’t need the shock of an $100+ invoice for ten minutes of work. Follow these simple steps and leave the plumbers to bigger jobs.
It’s important to determine which kind of faucet you have. There is a slight chance you may have to take the faucet apart before you learn this, but that’s okay. It all has to come apart anyway. A compression faucet is easy to recognize as it has two handles – one for hot and one for cold. Other types of faucets have one, central swiveling arm that you can move from hot to cold per your needs. The internal workings of these faucets are all different, and you will need to determine what you’re looking at.
A ball faucet contains a ball bearing; a cartridge faucet has – you guess it – a cartridge; and a ceramic-disk faucet has a ceramic cylinder. Begin by turning off the water. Don’t skip this step. Beneath your sink, you will find pipes that run to your faucet. Somewhere along the pipes will be handles that can be turned to shut off the water. Our guess is you will want to turn the handle to the right.
Next, protect your parts. Watching things fall down a drain can ruin a day, so cover your sink drain with a rag, or, if you have a plug, use it so you don’t lose any of the bits and pieces of the faucet.
So, let’s say you’re working with a compression faucet. Start by removing each of the handles, and pry off any decorative caps (sometimes they say “hot” and “cold”). Unscrew the handle, and remove.
Pull out your wrench, and remove the nut. You should then see the stem, which will be on top of the o-ring, which will be on top of the washer. Nut, stem, o-ring, washer…got it? The washer is the rubber piece, and is often the problem. Remove the stem, exposing the o-ring and the washer. If your leak is coming from the handles themselves, try replacing the o-ring. This often does the trick. If not, remove the seat washer – sometimes held in place with an upside-down screw. Unfortunately seat washers are not one-size-fits-all. If the washer is the problem, you will need to take it to a hardware store to find an exact match. While you’re there, get some plumber’s grease, and coat the new washer before replacing it. Reassemble! Go back the way you came, reattach the handles, turn on the water, and assess. Hopefully you fixed the leak. Not hard, right?
If you have a ball faucet, head to the hardware store and buy a replacement kit. You’re not replacing the entire faucet, but you will need some unique parts and special tools. Unscrew the handle. Beneath the handle are the cap and collar. Use pliers to remove them. Next, the faucet cam…there is a special tool in your kit to remove this. Then, remove the washer and ball beneath the faucet cam. Next, the inlet seals and springs have to come out, and you can do this with pliers. O-rings should be replaced, and coated in plumber’s grease. Your kit will have new springs, valve seats and cam washers. Again, go back the way you came, installing all the new parts. Finally, screw the handle on. That should do the trick!
Begin replacing a cartridge faucet in the same way: pry off any decorative cap, and unscrew the handle. You may come across a retaining clip; this is a circular, threaded piece that holds the cartridge in place. Use your pliers to remove it. Pull the cartridge straight up. It’s in this position when the water is on full blast. Remove the faucet spout, and replace the o-rings. Remember the plumber’s grease! Reassemble the handle. Wasn’t that easy?
And, last, but not least, the ceramic-disk faucet repair begins the same way: unscrew and remove the handle. Remove the escutcheon cap; this is metal found beneath the handle. Next, unscrew the disk cylinder; you should see several neoprene seals underneath. Pry them out, and clean with white vinegar, if you have it. If they don’t look too much better after a thorough cleaning, or are just worn out, replace them. Back to the hardware store with you. You want an exact match. Reassemble. When you are ready to test your repairs, turn the handle v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. A surge of water could crack the ceramic disk.
It’s not hard to stop a slow descent into madness from a relentlessly dripping faucet. You can do it, and use the money you saved on an actual plumber on detergent to get the plumber’s grease stains out of your clothes.