How to Fix Dripping Faucets

Plumber repairing faucet in shower, closeup

A dripping faucet is not only annoying, it can cause a significant loss of water and problems with mold and dampness. The right method for fixing a dripping faucet depends on the faucet type and internal design. The four types of faucets are compression, cartridge (sleeve), ceramic disk, and ball type, and the technique to fix each of them differs. Remember that before doing any work on your faucet you should switch off the water supply to your faucet.

Compression Faucets

Compression faucets rely on rubber washers to seal the valve, but these can often wear out over time and need replacement.

  1. Remove the decorative cap from the compression faucet, and take out the screw underneath. This will allow you to detach the handle.
  2. Then use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packing nut and remove the stem. Underneath you can access the O-ring and the seat washer to replace them.
  3. Coat the new parts with plumber’s grease, install, and then reassemble the faucet. This should fix the dripping in your compression faucet, but if not, call your local plumber for advice.

Ball Type Faucets

Ball faucets use a ball valve and are composed of many different parts, which can make it difficult to identify the leak and replace the affected part. Since ball faucet designs vary, getting a repair kit for your particular faucet can help you easily replace worn out washers. Otherwise, you can completely replace your ball faucet.

  1. Loosen the handle by turning the set screw and remove the handle. This will reveal the faucet top cap.
  2. Remove the cap and collar using adjustable pliers or a pipe wrench, turning counter-clockwise to remove.
  3. Using the special tool provided in the ball faucet repair kit to loosen and lift out the faucet cam along with the cam washer and rotating ball.
  4. You can then reach into the faucet with needle nose pliers and remove the inlet seals and springs. Cut off the O-rings, coat the new ones in plumber’s grease, and roll them on.
  5. As you reassemble the faucet, install new springs, valve seats, and cam washers to renew your faucet.

White marble bathroom with open shower

Cartridge Faucets

Cartridge faucets function without a washer and are usually easy to repair if they start leaking.

  1. Remove the handle by prying off any decorative cap, and removing the handle screw.
  2. Use pliers to remove the retaining clip if there is one, then pull up the cartridge.
  3. Remove the spout and cut off the old O-rings, replacing with new ones that are covered in plumber’s grease.
  4. If you want to replace the entire cartridge, this is usually inexpensive. Simply find a cartridge that matches the length and stem end of the one you currently have.

Ceramic Disk Faucets

Ceramic disk faucets are popular and durable, and if your ceramic disk faucet starts dripping, you can fix it with replacement parts.

  1. Loosen the set screw and remove the handle. Removing the decorative cap will allow you to access the ceramic cartridge.
  2. Loosen the cartridge with groove joint pliers and lift the cartridge off, either by hand or with the pliers if necessary.
  3. Remove the seal from the base of the cartridge and clean the base. If you can’t remove the sediment from the seals or the cartridge, replace them.
  4. Pry the O-ring up from the faucet. Apply plumber’s grease to a new O-ring and replace it. You can then reassemble the faucet.

By first establishing the type of faucet you have, you can apply the right DIY repair to a dripping faucet. If your faucet continues to drip, or you notice other issues with your pipes and fittings, call your local plumber, Magnificent Plumbing as soon as possible to provide a full diagnosis and repair.

6 Comments on “How to Fix Dripping Faucets”

  1. With cartridge faucets, thanks for the tip to remove the handle by prying off the decorative cap and removing the handle screw. My faucet has been working strangely lately, and I would like for it to be checked out by a faucet repair service. Dripping is something that I have been dealing with, but there are some other issues as well that convinced me it’s time for a plumber to look at it.

  2. I didn’t realize that there are so many types of faucets out there. My kitchen sink faucet has been leaking. It started as a couple drops here and there, but it has since grown to a steady trickle when the water is running. I think mine may be a ball-type faucet, so your suggestion either get a repair kit or have it replaced is smart. Ours is getting old anyway, so I might have it replaced. Once I pick out a new one to match the kitchen, I’ll have to get help installing it.

  3. It’s great that you elaborated on how important it is to use a special tool when attempting to repair ball type faucets. My dad has been trying to work on his faucet for some time but it still has a small leak. I’ll be sure talk to him about hiring a professional plumber with the proper equipment to do some faucet repair in his home.

  4. Thank you for all the information on how to fix a dripping faucets, we will have to give these a try and see if it fixes it. If they continue to drip, I’m glad you mentioned that we should call a local plumber. I think that would be the best solution.

  5. I am glad you said to loosen the handle on my ball type sink by turning the screw and removing the handle. My faucet has been really leaky lately so I’m having a plumber come fix the leak. I appreciate the information on how they fix dripping faucets.

  6. My fiance and I just moved into a new home that has a leaky faucet. We want to get it fixed and back into good condition so that we can live comfortably in our home. When we contact a professional, we will be sure to ask how to use plumber’s grease on the O-ring.

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