How to Fix A Leaking Faucet

Last updated on: in Plumbing Tips

Did you know that by repairing a leaking shower faucet, you can save hundreds of gallons of water every year? Most people regard a dripping faucet as an irritation and are unaware of how much valuable water is being wasted one drop at a time. The good news is that most dripping faucets can be repaired by almost anyone with a few basic hand tools.

Let’s start with the fundamentals. Faucets serve a single purpose: they allow you to use the water in your pipes in a controlled manner. This means they must open to allow water to flow out of the pipes and close to keep water in. Isn’t it obvious that this isn’t rocket science? The conclusion is what we want to focus on here.

There are two basic faucet styles.

When a faucet fails to completely trap the water in the pipes, it drips. To stop the flow of water, most faucets use one of two fundamental mechanisms. Some, especially older designs, employ rubber or neoprene washers that tighten against a “seat” and prevent water passage. Replace the washers and/or seats to handle drips from these faucets. We’ll go over how to do that in a moment. The majority of other faucet designs use a cartridge. Some people refer to these as “washerless” faucets. Replacing the cartridge(s) is usually the first step in repairing newer style water faucets like these.

Seats and washers

Washers are frequently used in older faucet designs to stop the water and keep it in the pipes. Tightening the handle compresses the washer against a “seat” and shuts the orifice, stopping the flow of water. If you need to fix a bathtub faucet on a three-handle wall faucet, you most likely have this model. This type is especially useful if you need to repair a leaking shower faucet with two handles. Washers are also used in many sink and toilet faucets. One way to tell if your faucets use washers is to examine if the handle becomes more difficult to turn when you turn it off. If turning it really tight stops the drip, you most likely, but not always, have washers. If you have a dripping faucet with washers, the basic repair procedure is the same whether you need to repair a shower faucet, a leaking tub faucet, or a dripping sink faucet. There is, however, one significant distinction.

Bathtub Faucet Replacement

The most important thing to remember when repairing a leaking bathtub faucet is to turn off the water to the entire house before removing any parts other than the exterior trim pieces. If you’re not sure which sections are trim, simply turn off the water first. After you’ve turned off the main water supply to the house, you can start disassembling things. There are numerous faucet brands and styles available, and they all come apart slightly differently, so you’ll have to sort of feel your way through.

Taking Out The Trim

The first step is to take the handles off. Typically, this is accomplished by removing a cap to expose the handle screw and then removing the screw. Remove the handle next. This may require considerable skill, as the handles can become jammed in place. To nudge the valve handle loose, position the handles of a pair of channel lock pliers behind it, one on each side, and tap evenly on the handle. If this doesn’t work, you can buy a specific tool to remove handles, although these tools can be difficult to obtain, and generally a little patience is all you need.

After the handles are removed, the stem is normally covered by a sleeve. This is usually required as well. Once again, there are numerous configurations. Threaded plastic tubes are used in one popular design to connect the trim sleeve to the valve. In other cases, the sleeve is threaded directly onto the valve. Before you can progress, you must complete this step. If you know what brand of valve you have, you should be able to locate instructions online.

Now, let’s get to the bottom of the issue.

So you’ve removed both handles as well as any residual trim sleeve from the valve.

You are now ready to address the source of the problem, your valve stem. Almost always, the washer is located at the opposite end of the valve stem from the handle. Typically, the stem is threaded into the valve body and must be unscrewed to be removed. Here’s a hint. Reattach the handle for a second and partially open the valve. This lowers pressure on the stem and makes unscrewing easier. Now all you have to do is make sure you’re loosening the correct nut.

A packing nut is commonly seen around the stem of valves. It is usually a little smaller and located just in front of the valve body’s actual connection. When the valve is in use, the packing nut squeezes some particular packing material around the stem to prevent water from seeping around the stem. Loosening the packing nut will not assist; instead, get your wrench on the valve body’s real connection. A deep socket, by the way, is frequently the only instrument that will work to remove the valve stem.

Taking Out The Valve Stem

The simplest approach to ensure you have the correct nut is to loosen it and look for a gap between the nut and the valve body. When you have the correct one, the valve stem will usually turn as well. Don’t worry if you accidentally loosen the packing nut; you’ll adjust it before you’re done. Remove both stems and keep track of which one is whose; it matters on many valves.

After you’ve removed the stems, look for the washer on the “inside” end. It is most likely the source of your drip if it is nicked, ripped, or brittle. Replace it even if it appears to be brand new. You’ve already progressed this far. Replacement washers are available at practically any hardware shop. If the handle end has been pulled away, you may wish to replace the entire stem. It’s better to simply bring the stem to the retailer and see if you can match it up. Replacement stems for several popular brands are available at most Do It Yourself stores. The same procedure applies if your valve has a center diverter valve to switch the water from the tub spout to the shower head. It is frequently easier to replace the diverter stem than to fix it. This is entirely dependent on the stem’s design.

How are your seats doing?

Another thing to look at are the seats. These are the parts of the valve body against which the washer tightens to block the flow of water. Feel the seats to see if they are rough whether you can get your finger inside the valve. If that’s the case, it’s advisable to replace them if you can get them out. When the valve is open, the water flows through the inside of the seats, which normally have a hex or square recess. To remove the seats, special seat wrenches are used. These wrenches are usually available in the same location as the other parts, and they are not expensive. Simply insert the wrench through the seat and unscrew it. Replaced seats screw back in the same way; simply apply a little pipe dope to the threads before installing.

Put everything back together.

After you’ve determined what has to be replaced and replaced it, all that remains is to put everything back together. If your valve has packing nuts, do not replace the trim until the water is turned back on. Once the water is turned on, hold the handle for a second and open the valve. Check for any water leaks around the stem. If it’s leaking, tighten the packing nut with the handle halfway open until the leak stops. It’s simple. If you make it too tight, the handle will be difficult to turn. Finish up with the trim pieces and you’re done.

Repairing Modern Water Faucets

The repair process for a newer, “washerless” type valve is similar, but usually easier. Many of these valves have a self-contained cartridge. If the valve begins to leak, simply change the cartridge and you’re done. You must still turn off the water and remove the handles and trim. A retaining nut on the valve body or, in the case of most Moen valves, a retaining clip holds the cartridge in place. Simply remove the cartridge and replace it with a new one. If your hot and cold temperatures are reversed when you finish, turn off the water, remove the cartridge, rotate it 180 degrees, and reinstall it.

Delta-Shape Valves

Another popular “washerless” style was made famous by Delta and imitated by several other manufacturers. It employs small “cup” seals that fit over springs recessed in the valve body’s back. The springs force these “seals” against the cartridge, regulating the flow via the cartridge’s little tapered apertures. If you have one of these and it’s leaking, changing the springs and seals will usually fix the problem. Here’s a hint. After you’ve removed the cartridge, push a phillips screwdriver into the seal and snap the seal and spring out. Place the new ones on the end of the screwdriver to aid in their placement. This is especially useful if you lack long, slender fingers.

Delta, as well as a few imitators, have a faucet design that employs a ball rather of a cartridge. This is less frequent in tub and shower valves, although there are many of them. Although the springs and seals are the same, there are many additional o-rings and parts to contend with. The good news is that these components are easily accessible. While it is more difficult than learning how to repair a Moen kitchen faucet, which is a piece of cake, it is still simpler than working with most washer type faucets.

These methods also work in the kitchen.

With the knowledge you’ve obtained in this article, you can not only repair a shower faucet and a leaking tub faucet, but you can also apply these skills to a variety of other faucets. Stopping a dripping outside hose faucet will be a piece of cake after repairing a leaky bathroom faucet. The techniques used to conduct a “washerless” bathtub faucet repair can also be utilized to fix newer model water faucets of all types. You can now repair an old leaky tub faucet or a newer kitchen faucet that just won’t shut off. So put your new talents to use, roll up your sleeves, and get that drip stopped!

In case of an emergency plumbing situation it is best to call a licensed plumber to help. Easy Call Plumbing can put you in touch with certified plumbers in Naperville, IL. Call 855-670-2434 to get a free quote today!