How To Fix A Leaky Faucet – Forbes Advisor

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  • Working time: Less than an hour
  • Total time: Two to three hours, including time to find replacement parts
  • Skill Level: Get started
  • Project costs: Less than $30 depending on faucet model

The drip, drip, drip from a leaky faucet is not only annoying, but it can lead to higher water bills and other headaches if it persists. But repairing a leaky faucet is an easy and inexpensive repair that only takes a few hours to fix. You will need to pick up a faucet repair kit or individual parts if you have a bead on the source of the problem. Faucets usually leak due to mineral buildup or deteriorating rings.

Four types of faucets and why faucets leak

A leaking cartridge faucet usually stems from a worn rubber washer on the valve seat.

Compression faucets have become less popular, but older homes may still have them. A bad O-ring or neoprene seal usually causes a leak for a compression valve, as well as ceramic disc valves and ball valves.

Leaks can also come from a cracked disc and require a disc cartridge replacement, which can be expensive.

Ball valves have several places where leaks occur because the faucet has more parts than the others.

Safety Considerations

Repairing a leaking faucet requires tools that can easily slide off faucet parts because there may still be wet parts. Start by turning off the water to the faucet. The shut-off valve is usually located under the faucet, but if you can’t find one, locate your water line and shut it off.


  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • hex key
  • tongs
  • Slip joint pliers
  • half wrench
  • Adjustable wrench


  • Faucet repair kit
  • O-ring seals
  • Duct tape
  • Plumbing grease
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • scouring pad
  • washers


Faucets typically have a 10-year life before parts begin to fail, so record the date of existing faucets and repairs in a home repair book so you know when it’s time for a repair. Note that ceramic disc faucets usually come with a lifetime warranty from manufacturers because they are so durable and rarely require repair.

1. Buy parts or faucet repair kit

You can buy seals and washers or just buy a faucet repair kit. Buying a faucet repair kit includes everything you need and saves you more trips to the hardware store, so it’s an easier route.

2. Turn off the water and complete the repair kit

Locate the shut-off valve for the faucet to prevent water from flowing through the faucet. Usually the valve is located under the tap. If you can’t find the shutoff, shut off the water line. If you don’t know where your water pipe is, you can call a professional. After shutting off the water, cover the drain so you don’t lose any parts in the drain.

Fix a leaking cartridge faucet?

To get started repairing a leaky cartridge faucet, tape the jaws of your slip-joint pliers with duct tape to prevent damage to the faucet. Also put some distilled white vinegar in a bowl and a soft scouring pad to remove any mineral deposits on faucet parts.

1. Pry off handle cap

After removing the cap on top of the faucet handle, loosen the handle screw and tilt the handle back to pull it off. When you remove faucet parts, you want to keep them in order. You can label the parts or use your phone to take videos or photos of the parts to remember the order of replacement.

2. Remove the retaining clip if present

If your leaky cartridge faucet has a threaded retaining clip, you’ll need to grab a pair of needle nose pliers to remove it. Once the retaining clip is removed, pull the cartridge straight up.

3. Unscrew cartridge

The replacement kit comes with a key cap, which you need to place over the cartridge to remove it. Remove the cartridge by grasping the key cap with slip-joint pliers and twisting it back and forth.

4. Remove the cartridge and replace worn parts

Remove the cartridge by grasping it with pliers and pulling straight up. After that, start replacing worn parts. Don’t forget to clean all parts with mineral deposits with distilled white vinegar and a scouring pad. Cut off old O-rings with a utility knife and use plumber’s grease to coat the new O-rings.

5. Install new faucet parts

  • When replacing the old faucet with the new one, assemble the faucet in the reverse order it was disassembled.
  • Pull up on the stem before inserting the new cartridge. The new cartridge may need to be turned with the plastic key cap or pliers to align with the retaining clip, if there is a retaining clip.
  • Slide the retaining clip into the slots in the valve body to secure the cartridge.
  • Locate the small notch at the top of the stem and turn the stem so that the notch is facing you. Then install the rest of the parts and trade.
  • Try the faucet to see if it works properly. Sometimes the hot and cold water can be reversed during reassembly. To fix it, remove the handle, dome assembly, and handle adapter, then rotate the stem 180 degrees.

Repair a leaking compression valve?

Compression valves usually leak due to faulty seat rings. The disassembly of a compression valve is the same as a cartridge valve.

1. Remove the handle cap

Remove the handle cover with a screwdriver or utility knife to access the screws.

2. Remove the handle screw

Use a screwdriver to remove the handle screw, then pull the handle off.

3. Unscrew the packing nut and loosen the stem

Grab a crescent wrench to loosen the packing nut, then use an adjustable wrench to loosen the stem from the faucet body.

4. Unscrew the rubber ring and replace the saddle ring

There is a rubber ring on the bottom of the stem that you need to remove and then replace the seat ring. Remember to lubricate rings with plumber’s grease before installing them.

5. Remove the stem and replace the O-ring

Remove the stem from the packing nut to access the O-ring to be replaced. The O-ring is usually the source of faucet leaks, but they range in size from ⅜-⅝ inch, so pay attention to the size of the O-ring or take the damaged O-ring to a hardware store to find the right match. Lubricate the new O-ring with plumber’s grease before replacing the O-ring.

6. Check the holder

The holder is a round, recessed disk containing a ring. If the retaining ring appears damaged, grind it flat and add a replacement retaining ring. If the faucet is still leaking, the seat may have pitting. To remedy pitting, remove the stem and sand the top of the seat with an emery cloth to smooth it out.

How to fix a leaking ceramic disc faucet?

1. Remove the setscrew

Push the faucet handle back to access the adjusting screw. Loosen the setscrew with an Allen wrench and turn counterclockwise and lift the handle. Then unscrew or unscrew the cap.

2. Remove Disc Cartridge

Remove the mounting screws on the disc cartridge and lift the cartridge out.

3. Check and replace the cartridge seals

The cartridge will likely show some mineral buildup, so take the time to clean up mineral buildup with distilled white vinegar and a scouring pad or cloth. Then turn the cartridge over and replace the rubber seals.

4. Replace O-rings

Remove the plastic disc and replace the O-ring seals underneath. Inspect the holes in the faucet body and clean them if they are clogged. Be careful if you have an older ceramic disc faucet when completing repairs, as early ceramic disc faucets were more fragile and could burst from a blast of compressed air. To avoid that, leave the faucet open when you turn the water back on. The air will escape and wait for the water to run smoothly before turning off the tap.

Repair a leaking ball valve?

A ball valve holds more parts than other types of faucets, so it’s important to pick up a replacement kit before getting started. Leaks can come from different spots, so it’s better to replace them all than try to locate one spot.

1. Loosen the Allen screw

Lift the handle and remove the cover to access the Allen screw. Use an Allen wrench to loosen the Allen screw by turning counterclockwise. Twist until it is loose enough to lift the handle off the stem. Look for water leaks around the base of the handle. If so, the solution may be to simply remove the handle and tighten the adjusting ring. Turn the adjusting ring clockwise with a wrench from the repair kit. If the faucet drips from the spout, replace the seats and springs.

2. Remove the cap

Grab a slip-joint pliers and wrap the jaws with duct tape to prevent damage to the faucet while unscrewing the cap by turning the pliers counterclockwise.

3. Remove the ball

Lift the plastic ridge and wrapper and then remove the ball. Inspect the ball to see if it is damaged. Replace the ball if it shows any cracks, wear or scratches.

4. Remove seats and spring and install new parts

  • Remove the two rubber seats and springs with a screwdriver, drop new springs where the old ones were and place new rubber seats over the springs.
  • Install the ball by aligning the groove of the ball with the pin in the holder.
  • Align the cam on the plastic cam with the notch in the valve body before placing it over the ball
  • Thread the cap with the adjusting ring and use slip-joint pliers to tighten it.

5. Test valve:

Turn the water back on to look for leaks. If you notice a leak around the ball bar, tighten the adjusting ring with the wrench. Replace the faucet handle to get the job done.

When to call a professional?

If a leak persists and you can’t locate it, then it’s time to call a plumber. Plumbers usually charge between $125 to $350 for a leaking faucet. Plumbers usually charge between $45 to $150 one hour with a minimum of $50 to $100.

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