Having a leaky faucet can be really annoying, especially at night when all you hear is the continuous and monotonous song of water dripping out of your taps. It also leads to higher water rates, which can also be quite bothersome come month end. It is then better to just get rid of that constant drip-drip-dripping…you can do it yourself by following a few easy steps.
Before you start:
Before you channel your inner handyman, it is important to do the following: turn off the water under the sink, close the sink drain – you can just put a cloth over it in order to catch any loose parts, tape the jaws of the wrench that you’ll use with a layer of duct tape in order to prevent the fixture from getting scratched, and use distilled white vinegar and a soft scouring pad to remove mineral deposits on faucet parts.
Find your faucet:
There are four different types of faucets and they will all be discussed in order to help you identify the correct one.
- Compression Faucet: this type of faucet relies on rubber washers as sealants for the valve seat. These rubber washers wear out and need regular replacement. To replace this, pry off the decorative handle and use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packing nut. After unscrewing the stem, replace the seat washer which is held in place by a brass screw and coat the washers with nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease. Then pop the stem out of the packing nut and replace the O-ring, which is the cause of your leaky faucet. Make sure that you buy the right sized O-ring to match the size of your faucet. Coat the O-ring with the plumber’s grease and reassemble the faucet, remembering to tighten the packing nut. Should your faucet continue to leak, the seat may be pitted. Remove the stem and grind the valve seat smooth with a valve- seat dresser.
- Ball-type Faucets: this type of faucet may be a bit trickier in pinning down the cause of the leak, because it has so many parts. The best would be to buy a replacement kit and to replace all the parts with new ones. First, lift off the handle by removing the handle set screw. Use adjustable pliers to remove the cap and collar. A special tool will be included in your repair kit; use it to loosen the faucet cam and lift it out along with the cam washer and rotating ball. Remove the inlet seals and springs by using needle-nose-pliers to reach into the faucet body. Then continue to cut off the O-rings, coat the new ones with plumber’s grease and roll them on. Install the new springs, valve seats and cam washers as you go on reassembling the faucet. A more expensive option would be to replace the entire fixture, which is normally the case with older faucets.
- Cartridge Faucets: pry off the decorative cap on the handle, remove the handle screw, tilt the handle back and pull it off. If there is a threaded retaining clip holding the cartridge in place, use needle-nose pliers to remove it, and pull the cartridge up. Remove the spout and cut off the O-rings by using a utility knife. Coat the new O-rings with plumber’s grease and proceed with the reassembly. It is important here to match the new cartridge length to the old one, as well as matching the stem end where the handle attaches.
- Ceramic Disk Faucets: Push the faucet handle back to access the screw, remove it and lift off the handle. Remove the escutcheon cap, unscrew the disk cylinder mounting screws and lift out the cylinder. Use a blunt screwdriver to lift out the neoprene seals from the cylinder (replace these seals if they are damaged), and use distilled white vinegar and plastic scouring pads to clean the cylinder. Rinse it thoroughly before replacing the seals and reassembling the faucet. When you are done, move the handle to ‘on’ and very slowly turn the water back on. If this happens too fast, the force of the water can damage the ceramic disk. It is seldom necessary for you to replace the whole cylinder, but if you have to, merely set it in place and secure it with the new mounting screws.
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