How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

A faucet that drips when turned off is an annoying and potentially expensive problem. According to the US Geological Service, a dripping faucet can waste 2,000 gallons of water a year. That’s not just money going down the drain, it’s also a waste of energy and resources.

Knowing that, if you want to fix that slow drip faucet, it is an easy process. In fact, with two simple tools and a quick trip to the hardware store you can fix a broken faucet easily. But before you head out to the store, you must know how to repair different water faucet types. 

NOTE: The first step in fixing a dripping faucet is turning off the water supply. You do this either under the sink locating the hot and cold water valves, then turning them until they stop the faucet’s water flow. Or, if there are no valves under the sink, find the home’s main water supply and turn it off.

Fixing A Leaky Ball Type Faucet

Fixing a leaky ball type faucet requires the seats, seals, and rings be inspected and replaced. Because ball faucets have more moving parts than other types of faucets, they leak more.

Ball faucets are found on kitchen sinks. Unlike dual handle type faucets a ball faucet adjusts water temperature according to where you move the handle. Moving the handle towards the counter splash plate increases flow. Moving the handle left to right adjusts the mix of cold and hot water, therefore the temperature.

Follow these steps to fix a dripping ball faucet.

Steps To Fix A Dripping Ball Faucet

  • Turn off the water supply
  • Inspect the faucet
  • Disassemble the faucet
  • Replace the ball faucet seats
  • Inspect the ball faucet O-Rings
  • Reassemble the faucet

Inspecting A Ball Faucet

Locate the allen head set-screw on the ball faucet’s handle. Loosen this screw until you can lift the handle off.  Notice the collar with equally spaced grooves on its top. If your ball faucet is leaking around the base of the spout, a ball faucet repair kit contains a spanner wrench that fits these grooves. Apply the wrench and tighten the collar. If the leak stops, you’re finished.

If, however, the ball faucet still leaks you need to disassemble the ball faucet to inspect its seals and o-rings.

Disassembling A Ball Faucet

Notice the flat surfaces on the ball faucet’s domed cap. Use a pair of slip joint pliers to grasp the cap on opposing flats of the dome. Cover the plier ends to avoid scratching the dome. Twist off the cap and lift the ball assembly clear of the faucet base.

With the ball clear of the faucet base, notice the rubber seats inside the faucet. These are the seats to be replaced. Snare them with a flat blade screwdriver while being careful to notice the springs beneath them. Remove the seats.

Replace The Ball Faucet Seats

Place the new ball faucet seats and springs on the end of a flat blade screwdriver. Using the screwdriver, slip the seats and springs into the opening. Remove the screwdriver and press firmly with your finger to finish the seating. Do this on all seats.

Inspect The Ball Faucets O-rings

If the ball faucet leaks around the base of the faucet you need to replace the ball faucet’s O-rings. Lift straight up on the spout until it clears the base assembly revealing the O-rings. Pry the O-rings off with the hooked end of the kit’s spanner wrench. Once the old O-rings are removed, coat the new O-rings with heat resistant plumber’s grease and pop the new ones in place.

Reassemble the repaired ball faucet for use.

Fixing A Leaky Ceramic Disc Faucet

You can easily fix a leaking ceramic disc faucet by dissembling the faucet, removing the disc to replace the seals at the bottom of the disc. The disc rarely fails, most often it is the seals.

Follow these steps to repair a dripping ceramic disc faucet.

Steps To Fixing A Ceramic Disc Faucet

  • Turn off the water supply
  • Remove the ceramic disc faucet handle lever
  • Remove the ceramic disc cartridge
  • Clean or replace the seals
  • Reassemble the ceramic disc faucet

Remove The Ceramic Disc Faucet Handle

Remove the handle by locating the attachment screw at the handle’s top. Note, the screw may be concealed beneath a plastic cap. If so, carefully pry the cap off with a flat blade screwdriver. 

With the screw exposed, use a Phillips head screwdriver or allen wrench to loosen and remove the screw. Lift the handle off the base assembly. You may have to pry gently.

Remove The Faucet’s Ceramic Disc Cartridge

Notice if screws are holding the cartridge in place to the body. If so, loosen the screws and remove, otherwise lift the cartridge clear of the base. You may have to wiggle the cartridge slightly.

Inspect the cartridge. In the unlikely event it is damaged, get a replacement. Take the old cartridge with you to the hardware store to avoid confusion.

Clean Or Replace The Ceramic Disc Faucet Cartridge Seals

Sometimes the seals of a ceramic disc faucet get fouled from minerals in the water. If they look ok, then you can clean them, lightly coat them with plumber’s grease and reassemble the faucet. However, since you have the faucet taken apart it is better to replace them.

If your leaky ceramic disc faucet was dripping at its spout body base take notice of the O-ring seal at the faucet body neck. Obtain a new one, lightly coat it with plumber’s grease and pop it in place.

Reassemble the Ceramic Disc Faucet And Turn On Water

Put the faucet back together. Then, slowly turn on the water supply and operate the faucet. Turning the water on quickly can damage the ceramic cartridge.

Fixing A Leaky Cartridge Faucet

You can fix a leaky cartridge faucet by replacing its cartridge. Cartridge faucets may have a one or two handle design. Regardless of number of handles, the procedure is the same per handle.

Follow these steps to repair a leaky cartridge faucet.

Steps To Fixing A Leaky Cartridge Faucet

  • Turn off water
  • Remove cartridge faucet handle
  • Remove and replace cartridge
  • Reassemble the cartridge faucet

Remove The Cartridge Faucet Handle

Looking at the side of the cartridge faucet handle, notice a set screw. With a properly sized allen wrench remove this screw. Once removed, lift firmly on the handle until it is clear of the base.

Notice the keeping ring on handle base with flattened sides. Using a pipe wrench turn the keeping nut until loose and remove it. 

Remove The Cartridge 

Look at the top of the cartridge’s stem. If there is a screw, remove it . Otherwise, lift firmly on the cartridge until it is free. Be careful to look at the orientation of the cartridge related to the sink. When you get the new cartridge you will place it back with the same orientation.

With this cartridge in hand, go to the hardware store and get a replacement, two if required for a dual handle faucet.

Install The New Cartridge

Before you put the new cartridge in place, do two things. First, apply a light coating of plumber’s grease to the O-ring of the new cartridge. Second, orient the cartridge in the same position as the old one you removed.

Reassemble The Cartridge Handle(s) And Test Your Work

Assemble the cartridge faucet handle(s), turn on the water and use the faucet.

Fixing A Leaky Compression Faucet

Compression faucets are the oldest faucet design and are very common in older homes. To repair a compression faucet you disassemble the faucet handle assembly, remove the stem, and replace the seals in the valve chamber. Compression faucets come in both single and double handle design. As before, the steps to repair the compression faucet are the same per handle.

Follow these steps to repair a dripping compression faucet.

Steps To Repair A Leaky Compression Faucet

  • Turn off water
  • Remove the compression faucet handle
  • Remove the compression faucet valve stem assembly
  • Remove and replace the stem washer and seal
  • Reassemble the compression faucet handle

Remove The Compression Faucet Handle

Looking at the handle take note if there is a decorative cap. If so, gently pry this cap away with a flat blade screwdriver exposing the brass screw below. With a Phillips screwdriver loosen and remove the brass screw that holds the handle in place. Firmly lift the handle until it is clear and exposing the valve stem below.

Removing The Compression Faucet Valve Stem

Notice the hex nut pattern on the brass valve stem.  Also, you may see a plastic cap covering the stem assembly. If so, remove the plastic covering by loosening the nut hold it in place and firmly lift it away from the stem assembly. Otherwise, use an adjustable wrench or pair of slip-joint pliers on the hex nut loosening it and unthreading the stem from the compression faucet  base.

Replace The Compression Valve’s StemWasher and O-Ring

Looking at the valve stem, you’ll notice a washer attached by a screw at the stem bottom, and an O-ring seal on the stem body. Taking the entire valve stem assembly, go to the hardware store and find replacements.

Remove the lower washer by loosening and removing the screw. Attach the new washer with the same screw. Now, remove the O-ring from the body and lightly coat the new O-ring with plumber’s grease.

Reassemble The Compression Valve To The Faucet

Screw the valve stem back into the valve body, and when seated firmly by hand, use an adjustable wrench or pair of pliers to snug the valve stem to the base. 

Reattach the plastic cover if required, and then reattach the handle. Turn on the water and test your work.

The Cost Of Repairing A Leaky Faucet

There’s no need to be intimidated by the thought of repairing a leaking or dripping faucet. To be sure, disassembly and assembly of leaky faucets is easy with just a few common tools. Moreover, the parts needed to repair a leaking faucet are inexpensive and readily available.

If you have any questions, or are looking for a reliable plumber to repair your leaking faucet, give us a call, we love to talk plumbing and are happy to help you our.

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