A leaky faucet is not only annoying but costly. If you have a hot water leak, for example, this means you're also wasting the energy it takes to heat that water. Then, it's a matter of finding out where the leak originates and making sure you have the right parts. Luckily, this type of home repair is a more straightforward fix than many, because it has standard steps and can be done in a couple of hours.
If you know the make of your faucet, you can head to your local hardware store to get the replacement kit ahead of schedule. While it is tempting to just get one or two pieces, you want to get a whole kit, just in case you find other damaged parts. In addition to that, you need a Phillips- and flat-head screwdrivers, a hex key, also known as an Allen wrench, a crescent wrench, pliers, two rags, and plumber's grease.
Before disassembly, remove the aerator in the spigot. If you can't do so by hand, it may have caked-on dirt and grime. Dip one of your rags in white vinegar and secure it around the spigot with a rubber band for about an hour. Use the rag as a buffer to the wrench to unscrew the cap and take out the aerator. If it's dirty, you can drop it in some white vinegar, or you can just replace it.
If you have a double-handle faucet, you'll need to check which valve is leaking. First, turn off both hot and cold water. Turn them on one at a time, and whichever side still leaks is the side you need to fix. After turning off the valves, turn on the faucet to release any residual water. Close the drain and lay the other rag over it. This helps you to catch any loose parts that may drop.
With the flat-head screwdriver, gently pry off the decorative cap. Place it on the rag. You should see an internal screw with a Philips-head. Remove that and place it next to the cap. This will help you to keep the parts in order, so reassembly is easier. Lift off the packing nut with the crescent wrench, giving you better access to the cartridge or disc. If you have trouble removing the cartridge by hand, use the pliers to get a better grip to gently pull it out, keeping an eye on how it is aligned. Install the new cartridge, aligning it like the old one. Screw on the packing nut by hand first, then use the wrench to tighten it.
After reinstalling the internal screw and cap, turn on the faucet and slowly open the valve. Run the water without the aerator for a few minutes, making sure you remove any sediment build-up. Turn off the valve, wash off the aerator, and reinstall it. Use the rag to buffer the wrench, so you don't scratch the finish.
If your double-handle faucet is a compression or reverse-compression, the fix has a few differences. Your objective is to replace the washer and the O-ring on the valve stem. You also need to replace the valve seat. First, take off the handle and unscrew the valve stem. Remove the old O-ring gasket, screw, and seat washer. Apply the plumber's grease and add the new gasket, seat washer, and screw to the valve stem. In the faucet, use a hex wrench to remove and replace the valve seat, and reassemble the faucet handle.
There are three types of single-handle faucets: ball, ceramic disc, and cartridge. The fix is similar to double-handle in some ways, but single-handle faucet leaks fall into two main categories. A spout leak means that there's damage inside the body of the faucet, while a base leak means that there is damage to the seals. Either way, a fix could mean turning off the main water valve, so you have to really plan ahead.
A ball faucet has a handle that rotates. To remove it, use either a hex key or a screwdriver for access. Once you take off the cap, lift out the cam, washer, and ball. Note how the holes on the ball line up with the handle as you take it out. Use a screwdriver to remove the seat and spring. If you have a base leak, slide off the spout, replace the O-rings, and add a bit of plumber's grease. Replace the spout, new seats, and springs.
Single-handle cartridges are usually located in the shower, and if you have a leaky showerhead, fixing it is relatively simple. Remember to cover the drain with the towel as before. Gently pop off the cap to take out the screw and clip. Remove the handle and trim ring, then unscrew the retainer and pull out the cartridge. Insert the new cartridge and reassemble.
For the ceramic disc, remove the handle and trim ring. Unscrew the retainer nut to pull out the old cylinder and insert the new one. Then, turn on the water valve slowly to let the built-up dirt run out. Bear in mind, these steps are standard, but it's a good idea to check out the manufacturer's instructions, so you have a better idea of the kind of tweaks you need to apply.
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