Dripping or leaky faucets are not only a nuisance; they can waste hundreds of gallons of water and add dollars to your water bill. If you’ve never repaired a faucet and have been afraid to try, I’ll offer some simple pointers that can save a call to the handyman.
There are four types of faucets, compression—usually with separate valves for hot and cold water–cartridge, disc, and ball—usually the single handle type. Compression, the most prone to leakage caused from use, is the type your parents and grandparents probably had; and the others are the newer replacements. And while the newer types offer improvements, they too, can experience problems.
First, turn off the water supply to the faucet and open the faucets to allow the water to drain. The cut-off valve is usually located in the cabinet under the sink. If you cannot locate the cut-off, turn off the water supply to your home. Close or cover the sink drain to avoid dropping small parts or screws down the drain.
The easiest way to make a repair is to disassemble the faucet valve—use a cloth or apply tape to your tools to avoid scratching the surface. Many faucet handles can be removed by prying up the center plug with a small screwdriver or knife, exposing the screw that holds the knob or handle in place. Then, remove the screw and pull up on the knob or handle. Other faucet handles may require the loosening of a small set screw—a hex key or allen wrench may be required—and popping the handle off.
Once the handles are removed, the valve can be accessed with an adjustable wrench. Pull it out and inspect for obvious wear on “O” rings or washers. Also look for unusual wear or damage to threads.
Take the parts to your local hardware store or home center like Home Depot. A knowledgeable person in the plumbing supply section should be able to direct you to the replacement parts you’ll need. Before assembling, it may be helpful to apply a small amount of Vaseline to the rubber “O” rings or washers and to apply pipe joint compound to the valve body threads.
Once the faucet is reassembled, remove the aerator from the end of the faucet to keep it from clogging with any debris generated by the repair. Turn on the water, check for leaks, and check the faucet operation. Install the aerator and you’re done.