DIY Plumbing: How to Fix a Leaking Faucet
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Removing the Faucet 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.
- 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.
- Next, remove the screw and then the handle itself.
- Now that the handle is off, you should be able to see the packing nut. Remove the packing nut with a wrench.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet of no leaky faucets. Just one of the rewards of DIY plumbing!
More DIY Plumbing Guides
- DIY Plumbing: No Hot Water!
No hot water? Go through this simple checklist before you call the plumber.
- DIY Plumbing: Frozen Water Pipes and Main Shutoff Valves
How to stop pipes from freezing and what to do if they already have.
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.