How to Fix Leaking Taps

By Gary Schwind

It’s easy to be intimidated by home repairs – especially plumbing repairs. After all, you never see the pipes; you only see or hear the results when something is wrong with your plumbing. Plus, you may not even know what kind of faucet you have. If you’ve never had to work on it, you wouldn’t have any reason to know. If you experience the common problem of a leaky faucet, generally you don’t have to worry about an expensive repair. Your leaky faucet can be fixed pretty easily with some parts from your local hardware store and a minimal amount of effort.

Before you begin

To fix your leaky faucet, you will need a wrench, a screwdriver, needlenose pliers (for a cartridge faucet) and some plumber’s grease. Taping the jaws of the wrench will prevent you from scratching the fixture. You may also want to close or cover the drain to prevent any parts from falling into your pipes.

Fixing your leaky tap

The first thing to do is to turn off the water supply to the faucet you want to fix. After that, remove the hardware (bonnets, knobs, handles) that will allow you access to what’s inside the faucet. Depending on the type of faucet you have, you will see a rubber washer, a ceramic washer, or a cartridge. These are typically the parts that are causing your tap to leak because they are worn and do not provide the seal they should. When you buy your replacement parts, make sure they are the same sizes as the ones you remove.

Replacing a Rubber or Ceramic Washer

Installing the new parts is where the procedure varies. If you are replacing a rubber or ceramic washer, apply a thin layer of plumber’s grease to the washer before installing it. At this point, you can reassemble the faucet, turn the water back on, and test your work. If you’ve replaced a ceramic washer, make sure to turn the water on slowly to avoid cracking the new washer with the water pressure.

Fixing a Cartridge Faucet

If you have a cartridge faucet, there are a couple things you should know. Depending on when your plumbing was installed, it is possible that your cartridge is no longer manufactured. At that point, you may need to go to a specialty supplier. Another thing to try with the cartridge is to cut off the existing O-rings and replace them with new ones. If you are able to find the correct replacement cartridge, install it, turn on the water and see if the leak has stopped.

Fixing a Ball-Type Faucet

If you have a ball-type faucet, your job will be a little more complicated because it has more than just a washer that needs replacing. While it is more complicated than just replacing one washer, it’s still a pretty simple procedure. The good news is that you can buy a low-cost kit at your local hardware store to replace all the hardware inside the faucet rather than replacing individual parts and hoping that fixes the problem.

Prices will vary, but as a general rule you can fix that leaky faucet – and save money on your water bill – for less than 20 dollars. Furthermore, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you eliminated that nagging problem without having to pay a plumber.

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