How to fix a leaky bathroom faucet
Drip. Drip. Drip. You probably know that all too familiar sound and how it grows in rhythm and volume with each little drop. The leaky faucet is a common nuisance that no homeowner is immune to. Fortunately, you can fix it with relative ease with the right tools and supplies.
From shaving to brushing your teeth, your bathroom sink gets a lot of use nearly every day. This use inevitably leads to the components inside the faucet head wearing down or corroding from mineral deposits, which can cause a dripping faucet. Faucet leaks are not only wasteful but can also run up your water bill if left untreated. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), household leaks account for nearly 10,000 gallons of water waste each year. Fixing water leaks when they happen can prevent this and save households about 10% on monthly water bills.
If you want to know how to get the drip out of your life and reduce water waste, read on. In this article, you’ll learn how the faucet works, common causes of faucet leaks and how to repair faucets DIY style.
What causes leaky bathroom faucets?
At some point, we all have to deal with a leaky faucet. Older homes and even newer ones will run into this troublesome issue. Whether it’s your bathroom sink or the bathtub faucet, most causes of leaks are generally the same and attributed to accumulated mineral deposits, corrosion or defective parts of the faucet.
Fortunately, faucet replacement parts are found at just about any home improvement or hardware store and are generally easy to install, even for DIY enthusiasts. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a handyperson around the house, you’ll be surprised at how straightforward fixing a leaky sink can be.
The following are components that commonly wear down or corrode, causing your faucet to drip or leak. Once you know which component needs replacing, you can purchase the necessary parts at your local hardware store and get to work on your faucet repair. Even better, replacing all parts at the same time will help you avoid having to make another repair shortly down the road.
A worn-out internal washer
An internal washer stops water flow in the faucet. It opens and closes as you turn the water faucet handle on or off. Over time, friction can cause a rubber washer to wear down, and the sink faucet will begin to leak.
A bad O-ring
The O-ring — found in cartridge faucets — is a small rubber disc and can become loose or wear out over time and break. Repeated use and friction cause the O-ring to wear out. When this happens, water drips from the base of the sink or handle rather than the spout.
A corroded valve seat
Corrosion can occur from mineral deposits or friction on parts. The mineral buildup causes corrosion on the valve seat. White vinegar is a common remedy to remove mineral deposits to prevent further corrosion. Incorrect installation of washers can compromise the structure of the valve seat, as well, affecting the seal and causing the faucet to leak.
How to fix a leaky bathroom faucet
If you notice your bathroom sink drips or leaks out of the faucet head when turned off, there is likely an issue with the seal inside the faucet head, allowing the water to run through or drip.
Before calling a professional plumber, consider whether you’re able to repair the leak in your bathroom sink yourself. By learning how to take apart the faucet and install the new replacement parts, you might be able to stop faucet drips and leaks. To get started on this DIY project, gather the tools and supplies listed below:
- Allen wrench
- Flathead screwdriver
- Crescent wrench
- Sink stopper
- Faucet cartridge
- Vinegar for sediment removal
The following steps will help you determine which side of the faucet has a leak and how to remove, repair and replace the faucet head.
Turn off the water supply to the faucet
First, you need to shut off the water supply. You can do this by turning the shut-off valves located under the sink. To determine which side of the faucet leaks, begin with turning off the cold water valve only. If the water continues to drip, turn off the hot water valve. Once you know which side of the handle faucets has the issue, turn off both valves.
Sometimes, the valves under the sink won’t turn. If that’s the case, shut off the main water valve to the property. This is at the exterior water meter. Open the water meter lid and turn the knob located inside clockwise to turn off the water valve. Some main water valves require a specialized key. You can obtain this by contacting your local municipal water service.
Remove the faucet
There are several types of faucets requiring different removal methods; however, their anatomy is generally the same.
Before you begin, turn both handles to the “on” position to empty the faucet of any remaining water. Be sure to close the sink drain to avoid losing any parts or tools. Place a towel inside the sink to avoid surface damage.
Using an Allen wrench, remove the screw located on the faucet handle (this specific screw is also sometimes referred to as the set screw). If there is a decorative cap covering, you can detach it by gently prying it off with a Phillips flathead screwdriver. Now, you can remove the handle to get to the faucet cartridge located inside the faucet.
Remove the faucet cartridge
You may need to remove a “beauty ring” using a crescent wrench to unscrew the hex on top of the faucet cartridge. The cartridge should then come out of the faucet easily. To remove the cartridge, simply grasp firmly and pull in an upward motion.
Once you remove the old cartridge, thoroughly dry the area and components with a clean towel. Now, you’re ready to replace it with the new cartridge.
Replace the faucet cartridge
To install the new cartridge, insert and press the faucet cartridge into place. Using a crescent wrench or pliers, reattach the “beauty ring” and avoid over-tightening and stripping the packing nut.
Reinstall the faucet
Now that you have replaced the old, worn-out components, you’re ready to reinstall the faucet handles on the sink.
Place the handle over the newly installed faucet cartridge and set the screw with an Allen wrench. Once in place and secured, open the water valve. Be sure to remove any tools or other materials from the sink before testing the faucet for leaks.
To avoid damage to the newly installed components, slowly turn the hot and cold water handles to the “on” position. Allow water to run for one to two minutes to remove any debris collected on the new parts. This ensures the aerator is not clogged. During this time, watch for any signs of leaks. If the aerator is sluggish, soak in vinegar to remove accumulated debris.
Call an expert
If, after doing these steps and your faucet is still leaking, you may require help from a professional plumbing company. With more complex issues, DIY can get complicated. Without specialized tools and expertise, you may end up doing more harm than, good causing an immediate need for a plumber.
If you’ve had the faucet for a long time, it might be time to replace it. Like any other home appliance, faucets have a limited life span, and you’ll eventually need to replace them. If there are leaks in several locations around the faucet or the replacement parts have been discontinued, it might be time to think about replacing the faucet with a newer model.
To be proactive about future leaks, you can also consider investing in a home warranty through Cinch Home Services. Through a service call, we can match you with a local service provider who can help eliminate the leak.
Protect your plumbing systems with a home warranty from Cinch
Cinch is committed to taking a no-nonsense approach to home warranty protection. We offer home protection plans that are easy to read and understand and also include coverage on certain bathroom systems, such as plumbing and water heaters, in addition to kitchen and laundry appliances.
Backed by a 180-day workmanship guarantee, Cinch home warranty plans are an affordable way to repair home appliances and systems when they break down over time due to everyday use. Discover the right home protection plan for you, and contact us today for a free quote.