Dear Handy Andi,
I’ve got a leaky faucet in my kitchen, and the constant rap-tap-tapping of the water is driving me insane. I don’t even want to think about what it means for my water bill. Help!
– Sally, New Jersey
Leaky faucets are one of the easiest, and least expensive, home repairs there is. There’s no need to give a plumber your hard-earned money when you can do it yourself for a few dollars, or sometimes even less. The biggest reason that faucets leak is because something inside of them is not sealing correctly. You can solve this easily by taking apart the faucet and checking that everything is clean, assembled tightly and that all seals are in good condition. Here’s how:
First, shut off the water using the valve located under your sink. This will prevent you from having a geyser in your kitchen when you remove the faucet fixture. Be sure to plug all drains so you don’t lose any small parts.
If you have a ball faucet, which has a single handle for both hot and cold, you will need to buy a replacement kit from your local hardware store. This will include some replacement parts as well as a few specialty tools you will need, and shouldn’t cost much. If you have a compression sink, which has two separate handles for hot and cold, you’ll only need to purchase a few gaskets, or O-rings, and washers. You may need to wait until after you take apart the faucet to know what sizes you’ll need.
For a ball faucet, start by using an Allen wrench to loosen the screw at the base of the faucet handle. This will allow you to remove the handle. Use a pair of pliers to remove the cap and collar from the faucet. You’ll want to wrap the teeth of the pliers in tape to prevent scratching the finish. Lift the spout off of the assembly to expose the cam — this is the part directly below the spout. Now, loosen the cam using the special the tool provided in the replacement kit. Remove the cam, washer, and ball. Reach into the assembly with a pair of pliers to pull out any inlet seals and springs. Cut off the old O-rings, coat new ones in plumber’s grease, and replace them. Install new springs, valve seats, and cam washers, which you should find in your replacement kit.
For a compression faucet, pry off the decorative caps from the center of the each handle, then use the appropriate screwdriver to unscrew and remove the handles. Use a wrench to remove the large nuts that the handles set onto. Pull out each handle stem to reveal first an O-ring — a thin rubber ring — then a seat washer — a thick, flat rubber ring. Remove the O-rings and unscrew and remove the seat washers. Replace both seat washers and O-rings with new ones, coating the seat washers in plumber’s grease.
Now, whichever type of faucet you have, reassemble it, making sure everything is nice and tight. Turn the water back on at the valve and test it. Your leak should be gone!
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