DIY Plumbing: How to Fix a Leaking Faucet

Updated on April 25, 2019
Mrs. Menagerie profile image

I have considerable experience fixing faulty faucets and pipes. Here I'll show you how to address leaky faucets yourself.

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.

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: "tighty righty"), and use a cloth or tape to protect the spout nut so you don't get scratches from the wrench.

First, Try Simply Tightening the Spout Nut

Use a wrench to tighten the spout nut
Use a wrench to tighten the spout nut

Replacing 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. When reassembling the faucet with your new O-ring, use 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.

Removing the Faucet Stem

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.

Replacing 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!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Komron 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      jules 

      7 years ago

      Yea if you have never done this before it can be tough, this also helped http://howtofixstuff.blogspot.com/2011/12/how-to-f...

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      7 years ago from Canada

      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 profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 

      7 years ago

      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! :)

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      7 years ago from Northern, California

      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.

      Cheers~

      K9

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile imageAUTHOR

      Mrs. Menagerie 

      7 years ago from The Zoo

      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 Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      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.

    • profile image

      YFM 

      7 years ago

      Broken down into easy to follow steps. Good pics.

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