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DIY Plumbing: How to Fix a Leaking Faucet

Using personal experience fixing leaky faucets, Mrs. Menagerie aims to help you do the same without spending a lot of time or money.


How to Fix a Leaky Faucet Without a Plumber

Do you have a leaking faucet but don't have the time or money to hire a plumber to fix it? No problem. Most of the time, a leaky faucet is a quick and easy fix.

First, you will want to shut off the water to the faucet in question by using the water stop valves usually located under the sink.

Try Simply Tightening the Spout Nut

If the faucet leak is coming from the base of the spout, it may be as simple as tightening the spout nut. The spout nut is at the base of the spout, sometimes hidden under a decorative cover. Simply tighten the spout nut with a wrench (remember the rule: "righty tighty"), and use a cloth or tape to protect the spout nut so you don't get scratches from the wrench.

Use a wrench to tighten the spout nut

Use a wrench to tighten the spout nut

Replace the Spout O-Ring (Packing)

If tightening the spout nut does not stop the leak, the problem is most likely a worn-out O-ring (or "packing" in some fixtures). The O-ring or packing is located below the spout nut. It is a rubbery disk or a string-like material that helps to create a watertight seal in the base of the spout.

  1. Cover the spout nut to protect the finish. Then twist it (this time turn "lefty loosey") with a wrench until you can lift the spout right off.
  2. Remove the O-ring from the bottom of the spout. It is usually soft, rubbery, black or red, and washer shaped—or it may look like string.
  3. Take the O-ring or packing and your spout to your local hardware store to purchase an exact replacement. Don't be afraid to ask for assistance. It is important to get the right size and fit for your particular faucet.
  4. Reassemble the faucet with your new O-ring, using a bit of Vaseline on it to help hold it in place and create a tight seal. Make sure you firmly tighten the spout nut when you finish.
Faucet handle, packing nut, O-ring and stem.

Faucet handle, packing nut, O-ring and stem.

Replace the Handle O-Ring (Packing)

If your faucet has separate handles (from the spout), the leak may be coming from a worn-out O-ring or packing in the handle. Replacing the packing in the handle(s) is similar to replacing it in the spout.

  1. First you must remove the handles. Usually it will be necessary to remove the decorative cover on top of the handle. Pry it off with a screwdriver. Use a piece of cloth or masking tape to protect the finish on your handles.
  2. Next, remove the screw and then the handle itself.
  3. Now that the handle is off, you should be able to see the packing nut. Remove the packing nut with a wrench.
  4. Remove the whole valve stem (see picture) by twisting and lifting it out of the faucet seat. If it is difficult to turn, try using the handle to turn it.
  5. Take the whole stem, O-ring and all, to your local hardware store. Be sure to get exactly the correct replacement for your worn-out O-ring.
  6. Reassemble your faucet handle and ensure that you tighten the packing nut securely. Your new O-ring should create a watertight seal. Again, using a bit of Vaseline on the new O-ring will help.
  7. Kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet of no leaky faucets. Just one of the rewards of DIY plumbing!
First you must remove the handles.

First you must remove the handles.

In this case, the packing nut is plastic. Use a soft cloth to protect it from the wrench.

In this case, the packing nut is plastic. Use a soft cloth to protect it from the wrench.

Remove the valve stem.

Remove the valve stem.

More DIY Plumbing Guides

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Komron on February 25, 2017:

Thanks this saved me time and money. This site was more helpful to me than the official moen website.

jules on December 29, 2011:

Yea if you have never done this before it can be tough, this also helped

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on September 05, 2011:

I do have a leaky faucet in the bathroom sink and I am going to use this handy guide to try and fix it myself, thanks for the hub.

Om Paramapoonya on September 04, 2011:

Thanks so much for the easy-to-follow instructions. Luckily, we don't have any leaky faucets but I'll certainly bookmark this hub for future reference. Rated up and useful! :)

India Arnold from Northern, California on August 30, 2011:

Mrs. M~ Great Hot to for fixing a leaking faucet...the images and labeling are really helpful and easy to follow. I like your pointers on how to protect the nice decorative surface of the faucet. Thanks for sharing your tips.



Mrs. Menagerie (author) from The Zoo on August 30, 2011:

YFM...thank you, I hope this is a helpful guide.

Simone...those leaks can cost big $$$$ in water bills but are really pretty easy to fix, even if you are not that mechanically inclined (like myself.) It's a bit like taking apart a puzzle and putting it back together again. Go girl, you can do it!

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 29, 2011:

I am indeed suffering from a leaky faucet in my kitchen... and my bathroom too, now that I think of it, so I'm going to have to get the tools and give this a try! Such a useful guide this is- thank you! Your photos are especially useful.

YFM on August 28, 2011:

Broken down into easy to follow steps. Good pics.