How to Fix a Leaky Faucet?

In case you have problems with a leaking faucet, it is not only the nagging dripping sound that can irritate you, but there are some other issues followed by it.

You may encounter three significant problems: higher bills, wasted water, and an increased risk of developing worse leaks and water damage.

The longer the faucet is leaking, the more money you will be throwing down the drain.

This is due to the fact that every unnecessary drop drives your water bills up higher and higher.

Not to speak about the more serious water damage or a major plumbing problem that can happen, causing you to pay thousands of dollars to repair in other areas of your home.

All these facts may motivate you to take action to perform a DIY faucet replacement by yourself or hire a plumber.

In our article, you will learn more about some of the most common causes of household leaks, and we will provide you with all the necessary steps you need to take to fix the faucets on your own or determine if faucet repairs or replacement need a professional.

Search Plumber Programs

Get information on Plumber programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Listings

Causes of Leaky Faucets

You cannot expect that once you buy a faucet it will stay in working order forever.

Faucet is a mechanical device which is made of many different parts, and they may become worn out after years of usage.

There are many factors that affect the faucet, such as age, use, and deterioration.

Once it starts leaking, the problem can be minor and require just a simple fix, while there can be a more complicated problem.

Leaking faucets can be found in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or outside, and these are the common causes of faucet leaks:

Washer Woes: Every time you use your faucet, the washer which is located inside is pressed against the valve seat causing the friction from turning the faucet on and off to damage the washer.

Another possibility is that if the washer is not sized correctly or installed the right way, it can also leave your faucet leaking.

You just need to replace it and fix the problem.

Worn Seals: Sediment accumulates over time inside your faucet can cause damage to the outlet and inlet seals.

You should regularly clean sediment from the inlet and outlet seals so as to maintain your faucet.

If cleaning cannot help any more, you can replace these seals relatively easily.

O-ring: O-rings are small O-shaped discs which are there to hold your faucet handle in place and withstand regular friction with repeated faucet use.

Over a course of the time, the O-ring can wear out or loosen, causing the faucet to leak near the handle. You need to replace it which is in the majority of cases a very simple step.

Loose Parts: Packing nuts and adjusting rings located in the stem screw of the faucet can be components that can cause a faucet to leak from the handle area. In this case, you should tighten or replace the packing nut.

Corrosion of the Valve Seat: The valve seat of a faucet is there to connect the faucet to the spout using a compression mechanism.

Due to the fact that water-sediment accumulates in this area and corrodes the valve seat, it can cause the faucet to leak from the spout.

If you apply regular cleaning, you can extend its life.

In some instances which are quite rare, broken fittings or pipes can cause a leaky faucet by affecting your sink’s water pressure.

As you are not a professional and you have checked all of the above-mentioned areas and still have a leak, our advice is to hire a plumber to inspect the pipes

Importance of Fixing Leaky Faucets

If you do not fix the leaky faucet on time, you run the risk of having an all-out blowout or overflow, and this can make the entire rooms soaking wet.

Furthermore, it is estimated that the average household leaks waste upwards of one trillion gallons of water every year in the United States.

Due to the fact that water is a precious resource necessary to sustain life for humans and animals, it should not be wasted, and leaving a leak alone is not the most environmentally responsible choice you can make.

Bathroom Faucets – Average cost: $109

The way you can fix the bathroom sink faucet depends on the type of the faucet itself.

They can come in a variety of styles, from ball-type faucets to compression faucets, which commonly leak because they need new seat washers or O-rings.

So as to be able to fix these faucets, you are supposed to remove the decorative cap, unscrew the handle and unscrew the packing nut.

The next step is to remove the old seat washer and replace it with a new one.

Also, you will need to remove the stem from the packing nut and install a new O-ring before putting the faucet back together.

Kitchen Faucets – Average repair cost: $110

When we think about the type of kitchen faucets, it is a great thing that many kitchen sinks use ball-type faucets, but the bad thing is that they contain a number of parts.

This makes it difficult to identify where the leak is coming from.

It is our suggestion to buy a replacement kit, instead of installing all-new parts.

If you yet decide to fix the leak rather than replace the faucet, follow these basic steps:

  • Remove the handle set screw
  • Lift off the handle
  • Remove the cap and collar
  • Loosen the faucet cam and remove the cam washer and rotating ball
  • Use needle-nose pliers to remove the springs and inlet seals
  • Cut off the O-rings
  • Apply plumber’s grease to new O-rings and install them before installing the new springs, valve seats, and cam washers

Laundry Room Faucets – Average repair cost: Less than $100

Now we have some good news as laundry room sinks typically feature simple utility faucets.

They commonly leak from the spout or handle areas and you will be required to take the faucet apart.

You will need to replace the valve stem O-ring and the faucet washer at the same time, so you can start by removing the handle.

The next step is to unscrew the valve by turning it to the left with a wrench and pull the valve out and remove the screw that secures the valve and washer.

Then, you should install a new washer and O-ring, replace the screw and reassemble the faucet.

Step by Step Guide to Fixing a Leaky Faucet

People who have a problem with a leaking faucet should not ignore that leak for too long.

They should try fixing it by themselves, as this task requires only some relatively basic plumbing skills.

The first step that you need to take before even you start gathering your tools, is to take a look at the leaky faucet and see where the leak is coming from.

That is how you will determine what part needs repair or replacement.

If the faucet is leaking from the spout, the valve seat is probably the problem.

On the other hand, if it is leaking near the handle, it could be because of a packing nut that needs adjusting.

Average time for this project is one hour and these are the tools and materials you may need:

  • Adjustable wrench and a C wrench
  • Flat-head/Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Penetrating oil such as WD-40
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Nylon scrubbing pad
  • Rags
  • Replacement parts

Step One: Turn Off the Water

This may look silly to you to mention it as a first step, as for plumbing professionals this an obvious first step.

However, if this is your first time working on your plumbing, turning the water supply off, is the very essential thing.

Make sure you do not skip this step, as you risk getting a geyser of water shooting from your fixture.

Step Two: Prepare Your Tools and the Faucet

It can take a few minutes at the very beginning, but the project will run much more smoothly if you put everything you need close at hand.

You should wrap the jaws of your wrench with duct tape to avoid scratching your fixture while you are working.

As you have turned the water supply off, you should turn the faucet on to relieve any accumulated water pressure and to verify that the supply is off.

Another good thing to do is to close the sink drain and cover it with a rag in order to avoid losing any small faucet parts while you work.

Step Three: Remove the Faucet Handles

It is necessary to remove decorative handle knobs by prying them off the handle using a flat-head screwdriver.

There is a screw under each knob that secures the handle to the main body of the faucet.

While you unscrew each of the screws and remove the handles, it is advisable to take pictures to help you remember how to put them back together or lay them out in a row in the order in which you removed them.

If the screws or decorative parts are difficult to remove, you can use WD-40 to help loosen things up.

Step Four: Inspect the Packing Nut

After loosening the packing nut with a wrench you will see the stem which should be removed by twisting or popping it off the valve. Inspect all the parts for signs of damage or corrosion.

Step Five: Inspect the O-Ring and Washer

Once you determine that the packing nut and stem are in good shape, you should next inspect the washer and O-ring located inside the faucet’s valve seat.

Step Six: Clean the Valve

You should look at the interior of the valve to see if there are any mineral deposits or gaskets and you are supposed to loosen the mineral deposits by soaking the affected parts in vinegar and using a nylon scrubbing pad to clean the surfaces.

Another thing that you need to do is to clean out any clogged holes in the body of the faucet with a penknife before flushing any debris by holding a rag over the faucet and opening the water supply shutoff slightly.

Step Seven: Reassemble the Faucet

This has to be done in order of how you removed everything – O-ring and washer, stem, packing nut, screw, and handle.

When getting the new parts but you are not sure which is the exact size you need for your replacement, you can take the old washer and O-ring to your local store to find an exact fit, which is necessary to avoid leaks.

Step Eight: Test the Faucet for Leaks

Once you reassemble the faucet, turn the water supply back on and test the faucet.

If you still have a leaky faucet, you should call a professional to check it or buy a new one.

Occasions When It Is a Better Choice to Replace the Faucet Rather Than Call a Plumber?

We have given you all the possible causes of a leaking faucet and how to fix it, but if you checked them all and you still have a leaky faucet, you might be better off installing a new faucet instead of pursuing professional repairs.

This is necessary if you are working with an older faucet.

If you want to go shopping for a replacement, first you need to measure the existing one and not how many holes are in the sink for the faucet (one, two, or three).

Also, you need to check whether the holes are widespread or center-set so that you choose a faucet that best fits your sink.

There are some other situations in which replacing the faucet might be the best possible option, such as:

  • The leaking faucet was inexpensive and/or it has non-standard parts that are difficult to find.
  • The faucet leaks from multiple areas.
  • The part you need is possible to find only in one store, and that store is already closed.
  • The location of the faucet is a cramped area, and once you put in the amount of work necessary to clean it, you might as well just replace it.
  • The existing faucet has extensive corrosion.

Hiring a Plumber

As your plumbing abilities are not as great as a journeyman or master plumber’s and you still have a leak, you should definitely hire a plumber.

The issue solved by a professional provides peace of mind, especially if some bigger problems are in question, such as broken or cracked pipes.

The cost of hiring a plumber averages $282, but there are some plumbers who charge by the job or by the hour.

Average hourly costs range from $45 to $150, although calling a plumber for an emergency or off-hour project typically costs more.

These are some of the things you need to pay attention to when hiring a plumber:

  • Ask for proof of the plumber’s state-issued license.
  • Ask the plumber for proof of insurance.
  • Find out how the plumber charges.
  • How long he or she estimates the job to take and who will be joining him or her on the job
  • Ask the plumber for references.
Search Plumber Programs

Get information on Plumber programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

Sponsored Listings

This page is also available in Spanish.


Plumber Resources

What Is the Difference Between Residential and Commercial Plumbing?

When people think about plumbing, they believe that both residential and commercial properties will need the same plumbing services and…

Plumber Versus HVAC Tech

We would like to compare Plumbing with HVAC, but first, we need to make a difference between these two. A…

Journeyman Plumber vs. Master Plumber

If you are wondering what the difference is between a Journeyman and a Master Plumber, we have to mention that…

Are Plumbers in Demand? Plumber Job Shortage

If you consider becoming a plumber, you can expect to find a job immediately once you finish your training, as…

Find a Program