How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

Banish costly drips and dribbles in a few simple steps with our faucet repair guide.

A dripping faucet isn't just annoying; it's a waste of water, too! If you have a leaky faucet in your home, you'll want to take care of it quickly, and we've got you covered. Follow along below to see just how easy it is to replace faulty parts and get your water supply under control.

Bathroom Faucet Basics

What You Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement rubber seals
  • O rings
  • Silicon grease

Before You Begin

modern faucet

A single-handle disk faucet is made with a pair of ceramic or plastic disks encased in a cylinder. The upper disk rotates when you turn the handle. Water flows when the inlets of the upper and lower disks line up.

Should You Fix or Replace the Faucet?

If parts are hard to find or expensive, or if the faucet is unattractive, you may be better off replacing the whole faucet rather than repairing it. Depending on the type and age of the faucet, replacing may take less time.

Other Leaks

If water leaks below the sink, the problem may be a leaky stop valve or supply tube. If the leak is at the point where the supply tube enters the faucet, try tightening the nut. If that doesn't solve the problem, replace the supply tube.

Step 1: Stop Water and Remove Handle

faucet water supply

Shut off the water. Turn the faucet on until the water stops running. If the faucet is on the first floor of a multistory house, you may have to wait a minute or so for the water to drain.

To remove the handle, you'll probably need to unscrew a setscrew using a hex wrench or small screwdriver. Lift off the handle and remove the dome housing.

Editor's Tip: If the house has old galvanized pipes, shutting the water off and turning it back on will probably dislodge debris inside the pipes, clogging aerators in faucets and showerheads throughout the house.

Step 2: Find Replacement Disks

Pull out the cylinder that contains the disks, and take it to a home center or hardware store to find replacement parts. The O rings can be pried out of the cylinder using your fingers.

Step 3: Remove Rubber Seals

sliding in faucet water valves

On some models, removing the bottom plate reveals the rubber seals. Remove them with a small screwdriver, taking care not to nick the plastic housing. If the cylinder is cracked or scored, replace it. Otherwise buy a kit with the rubber seals and O rings.

Step 4: Clean Parts

Before replacing the rubber parts, gently clean away scum and debris from the seats using a toothbrush or a nonmetallic abrasive pad. Rub a little silicone grease on the rubber parts.

Step 5: Reassemble Cylinder

securing faucet handles

Reassemble the cylinder, installing the cylinder so it faces the same direction it did before.

Finding the Right Parts

bathroom sink

You may spend more time finding the correct parts than working on the faucet. To prevent multiple shopping trips, remove the worn parts—perhaps even the whole faucet—and take them with you to the store.

The faucets in the store are the most common types. Chances are good that yours will look and work much like one of them. However, hundreds of faucet types have been made, so you could have an unusual model with parts that are hard to find.

A helpful and competent salesperson can save you time. Some home centers have knowledgeable employees. The staff at a local hardware store may have more expertise. Plumbing supply stores, which cater to professionals, can be impatient with do-it-yourselfers, but they have a wide selection of parts as well as knowledgeable personnel.

If your faucet has a brand name inscribed on its body, look for a repair-kit brand to match. Otherwise, dismantle the faucet to find out its type.

In some cases only inexpensive O rings and washers are needed. Other times a main part—a cartridge, stem, or ball, for instance—needs to be replaced. Usually replacing the inner workings results in a faucet that works as smoothly and is as durable as a new faucet.

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