Nothing is more annoying than getting all snuggled in bed for the night only to hear the constant drip of a faucet. Obviously, faucets are a key part of the home and something that people depend on every day without giving them much thought. Unless faucets are in proper working order, drips will happen.

In many instances, a leaky faucet can be repaired, whereas for more serious problems, the entire unit might need to be replaced. Using the appropriate tools and dedicating a little time to the project, a leaky faucet can be repaired or replaced easily. A leaky faucet is actually a common problem, and although an individual could call in a plumber if preferred, this is a job that is very easy to fix in most cases.

Keep in mind that something as simple as a dripping faucet can increase the monthly water bill significantly, so in addition to being an annoyance, a leak becomes expensive. The majority of the time, a leaky faucet is the result of a worn part. However, the exact part involved depends on the type of faucet and the mechanical design.

To determine where the leak is coming from, it helps to understand the type of faucet involved. For example, if the faucet has just one handle for hot and cold water, it is a disc, cartridge, or ball type, whereas if it has two handles for controlling water, it is most likely a compression type. To be certain, the faucet needs to be disassembled.

In comparison, faucets of the disc, cartridge, or ball type are made without washers, which is why they are often referred to as “washerless” faucets. Based on design, this type of faucet generally does not leak, but it is designed with an O-ring that, like a washer, can wear out over time. When this happens, water will leak from the base or handle.

Repairing a Compression Faucet

Of the different types of faucets, compression leaks happen most often. With these faucets, washers receive a lot of torque against a metal valve seat. With this repeated process, the washers eventually wear out. When this happens, not only does water leak, but constant drips can lead to erosions of the faucet itself and cause unsightly stains in the sink bowl.

If a leak is coming from the handle area, an individual can try to tighten the packing nut. If this does not help, the packing may need to be replaced, which is the O-ring. However, if water leaks from the actual spout, the valve seat might have become corroded. For this, the shutoff valve to the sink will need to be turned off, the handle and stem removed, and the old part removed and replaced.

Repairing a Ball, Disc, or Cartridge Faucet

If a leak is coming from a ball type of faucet, the washer or inlet seal is probably the culprit. As mentioned, these wear out over time and need to be replaced. If water is leaking from around the handle, the handle assembly needs to be lifted off and the washer tightened. If that does not stop the drop, the cap will need to be removed, and the inset seals, as well as springs or ball, must be replaced.

The nice thing about the disk type of faucet is that the actual assembly will not wear out, but chances are good that both the inlet and outlet seals have worn out. It is also possible that within the inlet is a buildup of sediment. For this, the shutoff valve needs to be turned off and seals replaced. For this particular type of repair, it is essential to keep the seals on the cartridge bottom perfectly aligned with the faucet holes.

If the problem is with a cartridge type faucet, more than likely the O-ring designed to cushion the stem has either worn out or broken. For this, the cartridge will need to be replaced. Typically, this part is sold at most hardware and home improvement stores, but no matter where an individual buys it, the replacement part needs to be an ideal match to the original.


When a faucet first begins to drip, it is important not to try to torque down on it, because instead of helping, this usually causes more damage. The first step is to replace the seals or washers, which will probably stop the leak. Of course, if making the repairs mentioned does not stop the leak or for older faucet models, a licensed plumber can always provide assistance. Experts also recommend lubricating the faucet when making repairs, which will provide better operation.

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