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Faucet Leak Repair 101

by Marcus Pickett

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A faucet leak is one of the most common home improvement problems. From bathrooms to kitchens, worn out washers, seats, o rings, and seals can cause a faucet leak that ranges from inconvenient to catastrophic. Most leaky faucets are within reach of your average homeowner to fix if you have the right tools, though many homeowners choose to call in a professional plumber to ensure the job is done right. Here's a list of some common faucet leak problems and how to fix them.

How to Repair a Leaky Faucet

The Compression Faucet Leak
The first step of identifying any leaky faucet is figuring out what type of faucet you have. Compression faucets are older, though still fairly common. They generally consist of a faucet with two knobs, one for cold water and one for hot. When the knobs are turned open, the faucet is opened and water is allowed through. These faucets tend to fail when the washers on each knob fails. To fix these faucets, you're usually looking at a simple washer replacement.

The Washerless Faucet Leak
The other type of faucet that is common in most households is of the washerless variety, though the term "washerless" is a bit misleading. These faucets still have washers of different varieties, but they also have a host of other components that allow them to operate and that can fail and cause leaks. These types of faucets include ball faucets, disk faucets, and cartridge faucets. While washerless faucets are generally more reliable and last longer than compression faucets, fixing leaks in them can also be more of a challenge. Here's a quick breakdown of how each faucet works, and the most common failures of each.

  • Ball Faucets have a single, free moving handle that rotates on a "ball" in the faucet housing. The most common causes of a faucet leak in these faucets is a loose adjusting ring, a failed cam washer, or worn valve seats or springs.

  • Disk Faucets come in two varieties: single and double handle models. Both have a ceramic disc assembly that opens and closes to allow the flow of water through the faucet. These faucets are very reliable and rarely fail, however if you do have a leak the most common culprits are the seals in single handle faucets, and the o-rings and stems in double handle models.

  • Cartridge Faucets are usually single handle faucets that utilize a cartridge assembly to allow water flow. These cartridge assemblies have a series of o-rings that are usually to blame if your cartridge faucet is experiencing a leak.

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    Got a Leaky Faucet? Call a Plumber (Even if you Plan to Fix it Yourself)
    Whether you plan to fix your faucet leak yourself, or prefer to hire a professional to come solve your problem for you, it's a good idea to call a plumber to help you address your problem. Most plumbers will be happy to walk you through a simple faucet repair on the phone, giving you basic guidelines and outlining the tools and parts you'll need to get the job done right. And if you're not into do-it-yourself repairs, they'll be more than happy to come out and take care of your faucet leak for you.

    Of course, more extensive faucet or plumbing problems may force your hand in calling a plumber out to your home. While we've seen dozens of leaky faucet repairs cost $100 or less, we've also seen scores of repairs that cost $500 or more. Overall, basic plumbing repairs average $341 and take about 5 hours for a professional to complete. It's important that you prepare for the possible cost of professional repair, but it's equally important that you understand the consequences of neglecting these repairs. Ignore your leaky faucet and you may watch a $250 repair balloon into a $1,000 project for plumbing replacement. It's also worth noting that a faucet that drips twice per second is wasting approximately 100 gallons of water each month, while even a small stream will waste thousands of gallons each month.

    Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.