Home Improvement – How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

A popular form of torture in the Chinese Middle Ages was to strap somebody down and keep them immobilised and drip water on them one drop at a time. The process itself wasn’t painful or even discomforting but the endless repetition of the drip drove people insane. Anybody who has ever had a leaky faucet in their home can empathise. Well, worry not! Thanks to this handy guide you’ll no longer need to wear ear plugs at night to avoid the sound of that dreaded drip. So pick up your tools because it’s time to learn how to fix a leaky faucet!



You won’t need to say a prayer or even a zen koan in order to prepare yourself for this feat of engineering. What you will need is a wrench, some duct tape and some household items like Vaseline and WD-40 (You do have WD-40 in your house, don’t you?). You’ll also need to be patient and careful lest you cause a disaster and require the assistance of a professional plumber. Turn off the water under the sink, plug down or cover the drain to avoid losing small parts and duct tape your wrench jaws to avoid scratching your faucet. Put down a cloth that you can lay and clean your faucet parts on and we’re all set.

Getting started

Identify the type of faucet that you have. Generally speaking Faucets can be divided into four different types – the classic compression faucet which uses rubber washers to seal the water valve and the three washer-less faucets – ceramic dish ones, ball-type and cartridge faucets. Let’s start with the classic faucet type.

Classic Faucets

The most likely problem with a classic Compression faucet is a broken rubber washer. In this case you need to remove the top of the faucet, unscrew the column screw keeping it together, take out the screw and the handle and unscrew the nut with your wrench. Take out the nut and change the washer beneath and coat it in Vaseline. Assemble the  thing back together taking care to properly tighten the nut with your wrench. If the faucet still leaks the valve seat might be pitted. You can fix it yourself with a valve-seat dresser but by this point you might as well replace the faucet. Unless it’s particularly fancy it should cost under 15$.

Ceramic Disk Faucets

Ceramic disk faucets should also be fixable. Pull back the handle and unscrew the set screw then remove it and take off the handle. Remove the cap, unscrew the disk cylinder screws and lift the cylinder. Lift the neoprene seals and replace them if necessary then thoroughly clean the deposits on the cylinder opening with vinegar. Rinse, replace the seals and reassemble then move the handle up ( or set it to on) and slowly turn the water back on. If you turn it onn too quickly the force of the water can tear the ceramic disk apart.

Ball Faucets

You know ball faucets, they’re the adjustable left-right lever once. Well, they’re hard to fix as they have a lot of parts. You’re better off buying a replacement kit and replacing the whole insides of the thing. Simply unscrew the handle, remove the cap and collar and loosen the faucet cam with the tool in the kit. Next, remove everything inside: Cam, washer and ball and remove the seals and springs in the mechanism with some pliers. Cut off the old O-rings and coat the new ones in grease and install them in their place. Then put the new parts in. Voila, instant fix! Don’t worry, it isn’t cheating. Ball faucets are insanely hard to fix otherwise.

Cartridge Faucets

Cartridge faucets are very similar to Ball faucets in outward appearance but work differently and are easy to replace. Make sure you have the right length cartridge though!. To fix them, pry off the decorative cap, remove the handle screw, tilt the handle back and pull it off. Detach the clip holding the cartridge in place and pull out the cartridge. Replace the o-ring and spout and reassemble the thing with a new o-ring or replace the cartridge entirely.

There you have it – an easy and fool-proof guide to fixing leaky faucets. Remember to call a plumber if at any point you feel out of your league but if you can pull it off on your own congratulations!