What Causes a Leaky Faucet?

Tired of hearing drip, drip? Then learn how to find the causes of a leaky faucet and the best way to fix it with the steps below.

A leaky faucet is an annoying but common home problem that can disrupt your beauty sleep and rack up your water bill. Even a small leak can send three gallons of water down the drain a day. Leave it that way for a year, and you’ll have wasted enough water to fill a swimming pool.

There are many reasons your faucet might be leaking, but depending on the issue, you may be able to fix it yourself instead of having to call in a repairman.

Let’s look at some of the most common causes of a leaky faucet and how you can fix them.

Bad O-ring

One problem that occurs mainly in cartridge faucets is a loose or worn-out O-ring. This is the small disc that’s attached to the stem screw that holds the handle of the faucet in place. A bad O-ring will cause the faucet to drip near the handle.

Worn-Out Cartridge

A leak in a cartridge faucet could also be due to the cartridge itself, which may need to be replaced. You’ll need to make sure you have a matching replacement cartridge to swap it with.

Corroded Valve Seat

If the leak appears to be originating from the spout, it could be an issue with the valve seat, which connects the faucet and the spout. A buildup of water sediments can corrode the valve seat, causing a leak. You can avoid this by regularly cleaning the valve seat, generally with the help of a pro.

Washer Problems

Another common cause of spout leakage is problems with the washer that rests against the valve seat. Over time, the friction between these two parts can cause the washer to wear out. Leaks can also occur if the washer is installed incorrectly or is the wrong size. This mainly occurs in compression faucets.

Worn-Out Seals

Much like the valve seats, inlet and outlet seals can become corroded by built-up water sediments.

Water Pressure

If the faucet only tends to drip during certain times of the day or when you move the handles a certain way, the issue could lie with the water pressure.

Loose Parts

The adjusting ring and packing nuts in the stream screw can become loose over time, causing a leak to occur in the faucet handle. Tightening the packing nut or replacing it will usually do the trick.

Broken Parts

If the leak is coming from the pipes underneath the sink, the cause is most likely a broken pipe or fitting. That’s when you know it’s time to call in a professional plumber.

DIY Fixes for Faucet Links

Although each of these symptoms generally has a different cure, here are the steps you’ll need to follow if you plan to tackle your leaky faucet on your own.

Step 1: Determine what type of faucet you have. The most common are a ball faucets, cartridge faucets and ceramic disk faucets.

Step 2: Turn off the water supply. You should be able to find a handle running along the pipes underneath the sink.

Step 3: Plug the drain with a sink plug or rag. You don’t want to lose any parts down there.

Step 4: Remove any decorative parts from the handle knobs. Underneath there should be a screw that mounts the handle onto the stem. Unscrew and remove the handle.

Step 5: Use a wrench to loosen the packing nut and then the stem. Check these parts for any damage.

Step 6: Next, check out the O-ring and washer within the valve seat. Replace the washer and see if that fixes the issue.

Step 7: Reassemble and test.

Step 8: If steps 1-7 don’t work, it might be in your best interest to call a plumber to come inspect the issue.

If you’d like to stay protected from plumbing issues like leaky faucets in the future, American Home Shield offers home warranties with flexible coverage for what you need for your home.

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