How to Fix Dripping Faucets
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How to Fix Dripping Faucets

There are few sounds more annoying than water dripping from a leaking faucet and splashing into the sink. The sound is usually amplified late at night when the house is quiet and not only can the noise be troublesome, it can also be a reminder that money is going down the drain with every drip of water coming from the leaking faucet. Fixing dripping faucets is not very difficult, but affecting the repairs as soon as possible can save time and money on the cost of the fix.

Fortunately, faucets do not have many moving parts and fixing dripping faucets can be done quickly with a few tools and the right parts. There are only a two basic faucet designs, the single handle and dual handle. Both types have the same parts:

  • Handle
  • Stem
  • Washer
  • Valve seat

Underneath the handle, where it connects to the valve, there is a packing material that keeps water from flowing out of the top of the valve. This is not usually a concern, but depending on the age of the faucet may require replacement when you fix a dripping faucet.

Most common problem is faucet washer

One of the most common causes of a dripping faucet is a bad washer. To replace the washer you will first need to turn off the water to the faucet. Typically, there is a shut off valve going to the hot and cold faucets but in rare cases, the water may need shut off for the entire house. Using the right tool, usually a screwdriver, remove the handle from the top of the faucet stem.

If you don't see a screw, it may be hidden under a small piece of plastic or metal in the center of the top. Simply pop that out with a small screwdriver to get to the screw. There will be some other tools needed to fix a leaking faucet, such as:

  • Slip joint pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Penetrating oil
  • New washers
  • Seat removal tool

Once the handle has been removed, use your slip joint pliers to remove the valve stem. Turn it in the same direction needed to turn on the water. Once removed, examine the washer on the bottom of the valve stem to check for signs of deterioration. Using the screwdriver, and possibly some penetrating oil, remove the screw holding the washer to the stem. Be careful not to damage the metal bottom of the stem. If it become bent or gouged, it will need replaced.

Visually check valve seat for damage

While checking the washer it has what looks like bites taken from it, the seat may also need replaced. It is located in the bottom of the faucet and can be removed with the proper tool, typically an allen wrench. It can be removed by turning it counter-clockwise and a new one, specifically for the faucet. Be careful not to damage the new seat or seat it too tightly into the faucet…never force it into place. Once seat has been replaced:

  • Install new washer on valve stem
  • Replace stem into faucet
  • Replace faucet handle

When you go to fix one dripping faucet, it is best to replace the washers on both the hot and cold-water faucets. Chances are when one goes bad they other will be close behind. To insure they don't start dripping in the near future, when you replace the washers, for a couple of dollars more you can replace the seats as well. This will nearly guarantee a quiet night's sleep for years to come.

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