How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

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Having a leaky faucet is a major inconvenience for homeowners. Left unresolved, a leaky faucet can cause your water bills to rise and result in an increased risk of developing mildew and mold. Luckily, fixing a leaky faucet isn’t difficult, and with the right tools, it can become an afternoon DIY project. If you have a leaky faucet, here are the steps you can use to fix it in a couple of hours:

1. Gather the Right Tools

Before tackling the project of fixing the leak, you need to make sure you have the right tools and materials. Here is a list of what you will need:

  • Slotted Screwdriver
  • Hex Keys
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Phillips Head Screwdriver
  • Microfiber Cloths
  • New Faucet Cartridge
  • The Manufacturer’s Instructions

2. Turn Off the Water

Once you’ve gathered your tools, you will want to turn off the water to the sink. The valve to turn it off is usually found underneath the sink. Some sinks have two different valves, so you will need to turn off both. If your sink does not have its own individual valve, you can turn off the main water line to the house. After the water has been turned off, make sure you turn on the faucet; this will allow any remaining water to empty out before you begin.

3. Remove the Handle

Different faucets have different types of handles. It is important to reference the manufacturer’s instructions to understand how your faucet handle comes off and where the screws are located. Generally, faucets have one of two different handles:

Handle Attached With a Screw

If you look behind your faucet’s handle and find one or two screws, you will need to remove these with a hex key. If you do not have a hex key, an Allen wrench will work as well.

Top Screw

Some faucets have a top screw handle, meaning that the head component comes off. You will need to pry the head off with a flat screwdriver and then set it aside so it can be put back on later. Once the head is removed, you can use a Phillips head screwdriver to loosen the screw underneath the cover. Once you have removed the screw, you can remove the handle and set it aside.

4. Replace the Cartridge

A worn out cartridge is the number one cause of a leaky faucet. In order to replace the cartridge, you’ll first need to remove the old one. For this, you will need a crescent wrench to loosen the packing nut in the hand assembly. Remove the packing nut and set it aside so you can put it back once you are done replacing the cartridge.

Gently pull the exposed cartridge straight up and out of the assembly. This method will help you avoid breaking the cartridge and leaving parts behind in your faucet. Some faucets require that the cartridge be removed with a special tool. The manufacturer’s instructions will let you know if this is the case for your particular faucet.

The New Cartridge

Before you install the new cartridge, make sure to clean the area around the handle and the other parts with a cloth. This will remove any unwanted residue and allow the new cartridge to not wear out as quickly.

Carefully inspect any damaged O-rings that are located around the housing. If you notice a damaged or missing one, you will want to replace it.

After your inspection of the housing, you can insert the new cartridge. Double check that you have the right size cartridge for your faucet. You can always check with the manufacturer’s instructions or compare the manufacturer and faucet model with the new cartridge. If you are unsure, you can take your old cartridge into a hardware store and an associate will be able to point you in the right direction.

As you insert the new cartridge, be sure to align it correctly. An improperly aligned cartridge will likely result in another leak.

5. Reattach the Faucet Handle

Put the packaging nut back into its spot and tighten with the crescent wrench. Make sure that you do not overtighten the nut, as too much strain will cause it to break. Next, put the handle back on and replace the screws. Ensure that the screws are nice and tight before moving onto the next step. If you had to remove the handle head, you can now replace it.

6. Turn your Water Back On

After you have turned your water back on, you will want to test your faucet. Allow it to run for a few minutes, using both hot and cold water. This will ensure that the aerator isn’t clogged.

If your faucet is still leaking after you replace the cartridge, you likely have a larger problem. If this is the case, contact Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain. With years of experience, we can help you determine the source of the problem and take the necessary steps to fix the leak.