How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

Few things can drive you quite as crazy as the interminable dripping of a leaky faucet. And even if you’re somehow not bothered by the drip, drip, dripping of a faucet that won’t turn off all the way, there’s the money to consider. Each drop of water that escapes a leaky faucet is money that’s literally going down the drain. You could waste hundreds of dollars per year in unnecessary water costs, and that’s not even considering the environmental effects of all that wasted water.


You don’t need to learn to live with a leaky faucet -- a dripping faucet is one of the easiest DIY home repairs you can make. Follow this step-by-step guide for how to make the fix yourself. You can lower your water bill, use less water and feel less stressed without that steady dripping noise constantly going on in the background. 


Assemble Your Tools

Before you start your leaky faucet repair, get together your tools. You could need some or all of the following: 

  • Spray lube 
  • Allen wrenches 
  • Flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers 
  • Channel lock pliers 
  • An adjustable wrench
  • White vinegar and a scouring pad
  • A new faucet cartridge
  • New washers and seals for your faucet 

Not sure what kind of faucet you have or what parts you need to fix it? In a pinch, you can always take the old faucet, along with the washers, seals, and cartridges, into your local hardware store to ask for exact replacements. 


Turn Off the Water

Always shut off the water to any fixture before you start taking it apart, this will save you the trouble of having to clean up water messes later on. To shut off the water to your sink, look for the shutoff valves on the water lines under the sink. There should be two -- one for hot and one for cold. Turn both valves clockwise to shut off the water. Then open the taps to relieve pressure in the lines -- and to verify that the water is completely off. 

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Take Off the Handle

Now it’s time to remove your faucet handle. If there’s a piece of trim on top of your faucet handle, pop it off with your flathead screwdriver -- you should find the screw beneath it. If you have a single-handle faucet, there should be a hex screw set into the back of it that you can loosen to pull the handle off vertically. 

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Inspect All the Parts That Can Be Removed

Most modern cartridge faucets start leaking when the seals in the cartridge go bad. It’s easier to replace the entire cartridge than to replace the seals -- just take the old one out and plop a new one in. There might be a brass retaining clip or collar nut that you need to remove to free the cartridge. If you no longer have the owner’s manual for your faucet, you can probably find the manual online.

As you remove parts from your faucet, set them down in the order you removed them. Pro Tip: write down what you’re doing as you do it, or take pictures, or both, so you can be sure to get the faucet back together again. 

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Replace What Needs to Be Replaced

Usually, it’s the cartridge, but there are several other components that you should inspect and possibly replace. If you have an older, compression faucet, it’s usually the stem washer that needs to be replaced -- you can remove the stem by unscrewing it from the valve body. There might also be O-rings or other ring-shaped rubber seals, rubber washers or other springs or seals in your faucet that need replacing. For example, on a single-handle faucet, you might need to replace the large O-ring around the body of the faucet. 

You should also take this opportunity to clean away any mineral scale or other residue from internal components, using the white vinegar and 

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Reassemble the Faucet

Once you’ve replaced any inner components that look worn and cleaned any components that are dirty, you can put the faucet back together, open the water valves and get back to your life. 

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Know When It’s Time for a New Faucet

Faucets don’t last forever, but how do you know when it’s time to replace, rather than repair, your dripping faucet? If you have an older, compression faucet, you may want to replace it with a modern cartridge faucet. You might also want to replace your faucet if it has multiple leaks, is visibly damaged, or requires a part you can’t find.

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Please be sure to take the appropriate safety precautions and ensure your project complies with any applicable federal, state, or local laws and regulations. 

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.