8 Causes for a Leaky Faucet

Tired of hearing drip, drip, drip? Then learn how to find the causes of a leaky faucet and the best way to fix it with the steps below.

leaky faucet

Drip, drip, drip — it’s the all-too-common sound of a leaky faucet. Even a small leak can send three gallons of water down the drain a day. Leave it that way for a year, and you'll have wasted enough water to fill a swimming pool, or add a couple hundred bucks to your annual water costs. And that’s just a small leak. A bigger faucet leak could waste more than 30 gallons of water a day. 

There are many reasons your faucet might be leaking, but depending on the issue, you may be able to fix a leaky faucet yourself instead of having to call in a repairman.

Let's look at some of the most common causes of a leaky faucet and how you can fix them. 

1. Bad O-Ring

Got a leaky cartridge faucet? A cartridge is a valve that controls the flow of water into the faucet spout. One problem that occurs in cartridge faucets is a loose or worn-out O-ring. This is the small disc that's attached to the stem screw that holds the handle of the faucet in place. If your sink handle is leaking, this is the likely cause.

2. Worn-Out Cartridge

A leak in a cartridge faucet could also be due to the cartridge itself, which may need to be replaced. You'll need to make sure you have a matching replacement cartridge to swap it with.

3. Corroded Valve Seat

If the leak appears to be originating from the spout, it could be an issue with the valve seat, which connects the faucet and the spout. A buildup of water sediments can corrode the valve seat, causing a leak. You can avoid this by regularly cleaning the valve seat, generally with the help of a pro.

4. Worn-Out Washers

Another common cause of spout leakage is problems with the washer that rests against the valve seat. Over time, the friction between these two parts can cause the washer to wear out. Faucet leaks can also occur if the washer is installed incorrectly or is the wrong size. This mainly occurs in compression faucets.

5. Worn-Out Seals

Much like the valve seats, inlet and outlet seals can become corroded by the accumulation of water sediments. 

6. Water Pressure

If the faucet only tends to drip during certain times of the day, or when you move the handles a certain way, your home’s water pressure could be the culprit.

7. Loose Parts

The adjusting ring and packing nuts in the stream screw can become loose over time, causing your sink handle to start leaking. Tightening the packing nut or replacing it will usually do the trick to fix the leaky faucet.

8. Broken Parts

If the leak is coming from the pipes underneath the sink, the cause is most likely a broken pipe or fitting. That's when you know it's time to call in a professional plumber.

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How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

Once you have identified the cause of your leaky faucet, you’ll be able to repair it — unless it’s an issue that requires professional assistance. Follow these steps to fix a leaky faucet yourself: 

Step 1: Determine what type of faucet you have. The most common types are ball faucets, cartridge faucets and ceramic disk faucets. 

Step 2: Turn off the water supply to the leaking faucet. Look at the pipes under the sink for the water shut-off valves. There should be two — one for hot and one for cold. Turn them clockwise with your hands until they are closed.

Step 3: Plug the drain with a sink plug or rag so you don’t lose any small parts in it.

Step 4: Remove any decorative parts from the handle knobs. Under them, there should be a screw that attaches the handle onto the stem. Unscrew and remove the handle.

Step 5: Use a wrench to loosen the packing nut and then the stem. Check these parts for any damage. If they are damaged, replace them.

Step 6: Next, check out the O-ring and washer within the valve seat. Replace the washer and O-ring, and see if that fixes the issue.

Step 7: Reassemble your sink and test it for leaks.

Step 8: If steps 1-7 don't work, it might be in your best interest to call a plumber to come inspect the issue.

If you'd like to stay protected from the cost of plumbing issues, like leaky faucets and blockages, in the future, American Home Shield® offers home warranties with flexible coverage. Go online or call today to find out what plan will best meet your needs.

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