How To Fix A Leaky Faucet
by Ruby Bayan
Why does a faucet leak?
A faucet leaks when a drip, a trickle, or a flow of water comes out of the spout even when the handle is in the closed position. Faucets are supposed to efficiently regulate water flow but age and heavy usage leads to the wear and tear of the rubber o-rings and washers inside the fixture. When these worn-out washers fail to seal the faucet pipes properly, water leaks through.
Why is it important to fix a leaky faucet?
A small drip can send gallons of clean water down the drain every day. Allowing a drip to last for days is a huge waste of a precious natural resource. Also, a leaky faucet can make an irritating tapping sound that magnifies into a sleep-disturbing nuisance in the quiet of the night; and long-standing drips can leave nasty stains on the sink.
Because leaky faucets are relatively easy to fix, you won't have to call a plumber over to bill you for the simple job of replacing old rubber washers and o-rings.
Types of Faucets
The different types of faucets are: conventional, ball-type, push-button, and sensor-type. The conventional faucet has a handle that you turn counterclockwise to open, and clockwise to close; ball-type faucets swivel to control the intensity as well as the temperature of the water; push-button types dispense a calibrated quantity of water each time the button is depressed; and sensor-type or automatic faucets are triggered on and off by sensors that detect the presence or absence of an obstacle.
Most of the unconventional faucets are specifically designed such that repair of leaks should be done using manufacturer-prescribed kits. When buying new unconventional fixtures, take note of the manufacturer's recommendations for quick repairs, so that when you have to deal with a leak, you know which appropriate kit to use.
If you're fixing a conventional faucet, purchase a set of rubber washers. These are available (usually a set of different-sized washers in a small pack) from any hardware or home repair store. For unconventional faucets, get the appropriate repair kits.
Before starting any faucet repair, turn off the main water source. Many faucets have a control valve somewhere along its pipe just under the sink, turning the valve counterclockwise will shut the water off from the faucet you're working on.
Plug the sink drain (or cover it with a rag) to prevent screws or spare parts from falling in.
- Just below the handle, where the faucet stem joins the water pipe, is a nut. Using a wrench, twist the nut counterclockwise to loosen it completely.
- Turn the handle as if you're opening the faucet (counterclockwise) until the whole assembly comes off.
- At the bottom of the assembly, you will notice a rubber-like washer (or what is left of it) held by a screw. This dilapidated washer is what's causing the water leak. Use a screwdriver to unscrew the old washer off and install a new one. Be sure the washers are of the same size. Tighten the screw well enough to secure the new washer.
- Slip the assembly back into the pipe, turn the faucet handle clockwise to re-install, and tighten the stem nut in place.
- Turn the water back on to check if the faucet still leaks. If it does, despite the washer change, then the faucet itself may be defective, in which case a new faucet is called for.
Due to the many unconventional faucet types available, especially those designed for use with contemporary vanities and sinks, no basic step-by-step procedure can make for a standard reference for the repair of leaks. Some fixtures have easy-to-find screws for dis-assembling the faucet, while others conceal the screws and nuts under twist-off covers. Some faucets even require special tools to dislodge springs and tighten adjusting rings. O-ring washers may also be highly specific to a particular brand of fixture.
The best recourse to take when an unconventional faucet is leaking, is to check with the hardware store or the manufacturer for specific repair kits and easy-to-follow instructions. When repair seems too complicated to tackle, it's always best to call a professional.
[First published at New2USA.com, 2000]