Stem-Compression Faucet Repair and Installation
It may be time for your two-handle faucet to get some parts replaced. Check out our best tips before you get started.
Most older two-handle faucets have stems that move up and down as the handle is turned. A rubber washer at the bottom of the stem presses against a seat in the faucet body to seal out water. If the washer or the seat becomes worn, water seeps through and drips out of the spout.
If water seeps below the handle or the base of the faucet, an O-ring or the packing probably needs to be replaced.
Getting the parts All-purpose repair kits for stem faucets contain washers and O-rings of various sizes. To make sure you have a perfect match, take the stem along when buying the repair kit. An older type of faucet may need a packing washer or string packing. If the stem itself is worn, replacing the rubber parts will not solve the problem. You can replace the stem if you can find a new one; replacing the faucet may be the best option.
What You Need
- Adjustable wrench
- Perhaps a handle puller, seat wrench, or seat grinder
- Silicone grease
Older and Newer Models
On older compression faucets, string packing or a packing washer keeps water from oozing out the handle. On a newer model, an O-ring does the job.
Step 1: Remove Handle
Shut off the water and open both handles until water stops running. Pry off the decorative cap, remove the handle screw, and gently pry off the handle. If the handle is stuck, tap and pry on one side, then the other or use a handle puller.
What if the Handle is Stuck?
Handles on older two-handle faucets may be stuck tight. If tapping and prying with moderate pressure does not remove a handle, avoid the temptation to pry hard — you may crack the handle or the faucet body. A handle puller grasps the handle from underneath at two sides and slowly draws the handle off the stem.
Step 2: Remove Stem
Loosen and remove the retaining or packing nut with an adjustable wrench. A sleeve may also cover the stem. Grab the stem with a pair of pliers and pull it out.
Step 3: Replace Washer or Seat
If water drips out the spout when the handle is turned off, you probably need to replace a worn washer. Remove the screw and install an exact replacement. If this doesn't solve the problem, or if washers wear out quickly, replace the seat.
Step 4: Replace O-Ring
If water seeps out below the handle, replace a worn O-ring or any other rubber part on the stem. Gently pry out the O-ring with a knife or small screwdriver. Rub silicone grease on the replacement O-ring and reinstall it.
Step 5: Replace Seat
If the seat is pitted or scratched, remove it using a seat wrench. Install an exact replacement. If you can't find a new seat, you may be able to grind a worn seat to smooth it.
Grind a Worn Seat
If you cannot obtain a new seat, smooth the existing seat with a seat grinder. Keep the tool stable while you grind; if it wobbles you may make matters worse. The seat should be smooth and even when you're done.