What to Replace When a Faucet Leaks

Depending on the faucet type, the first step may be to replace O-rings, washers, or valve seats. It is helpful to take the worn parts with you to the hardware store so that you can make sure the new ones are compatible.

Cover the drain with something to keep small pieces from falling down it. Next, remove the handle by unscrewing the screw with a screwdriver or wrench.


A leaky cartridge faucet isn't just an annoyance, it can waste water and lead to expensive water damage. If the cartridge is responsible for the leak, replacing it should resolve the problem. However, other causes of leaking cartridge faucets are more serious and may require disassembling the entire fixture to repair. Leaks in a cartridge-style faucet can be caused by mineral deposits, improper installation of the new part or even corroded parts in the brass body.

Plumbers Bucks County Pa first step in repairing a leaky cartridge faucet is to shut off the water supply. After removing the handle, use a screwdriver or utility knife to remove the decorative cap on the cartridge and expose the mounting screws. If there is a threaded retaining clip holding the cartridge in place, remove it with needle-nose pliers. Then, loosen the handle screw and pull off the handle. If there is a setscrew or hex-head screw on the cartridge, loosen it with a wrench and lift off the escutcheon cap and the cartridge.

Most cartridges have one or two tabs that fit into notches on the faucet body. If these are damaged or not aligned correctly, the cartridge can't seal and it will leak. A ceramic, brass or rubber seat is usually installed in the cartridge opening to ensure a watertight seal. However, this can also become damaged or wear away over time. This is often caused by calcium and other minerals in the water, which can eat away at flaws in the brass. Water can then erode the seat, creating small bumps or soft spots that create leaks when it opens and closes.

After installing a replacement cartridge, install the springs and valve seat washers. You can find these at any hardware store or in a premade kit specific to your faucet brand and model. Next, reinstall the ceramic-disk cylinder, or if it is not cracked or damaged, replace the neoprene seals in the base of the disk cylinder. If the neoprene seals are worn, use distilled white vinegar and a scouring pad to clean the cylinder openings before installing the new ones.


In some cases, you might find that a faucet leaks because it has become corroded or worn down. In that case, it may be more cost-effective to get a new faucet than trying to repair an old one. Depending on the type of faucet you have, the problem can usually be fixed by cleaning and replacing parts. You should always shut off the water supply valves to the house before attempting any repairs. It is also a good idea to turn off the faucet and drain the sink basin of any excess water.

First, look inside the valve body for a small mechanism called the "seats and springs." This is where most leaks start in cartridge-type faucets. Typically, mineral buildup is the cause. Pouring white vinegar over the valve seat and letting it soak for a couple of minutes should remove any minerals and allow you to clean the mechanism. If this doesn't work, it's a good idea to replace the cam and packing.

Ball-type faucets have more components, so you'll need to get a kit from a hardware store that contains replacement washers and O-rings. These are inexpensive and easy to keep on hand. It's also a good idea to have some penetrating oil on hand, such as WD-40. This will help loosen any rust or corrosion that has formed and make it easier to disassemble the faucet.

Next, look at the handle and determine how it is attached to the faucet. Some handles have a small index cover that can be removed with a pocketknife, while others are held on by hex-head screws. You'll need a hex-key wrench to loosen and then remove the handle.

Once the handle is off, you can remove the stem from the packing nut and replace the O-ring, which is often the source of leaks in this type of faucet. These rings range in size from 3/8 to 5/8 inch, so be sure you get the correct replacement. It is also a good idea to coat the new O-ring with nontoxic, heat-resistant plumber's grease.

Finally, install the new cam and packing, and a new seat washer, then put everything back together and reassemble the faucet. When you're done, it should be leak-free!


Cartridge faucets use a ceramic disc to control the flow of water. The disk can crack or wear down, causing the faucet to leak. Fortunately, fixing cartridge-type faucets is relatively easy and inexpensive. The first step is to turn off the water supply. You can usually find the shutoff valves under the sink or behind the wall. Once the water is turned off, you can remove the handle and begin working on the faucet. Before starting, make sure you have all the necessary tools and supplies. These include a flat-head screwdriver, an adjustable wrench and replacement washers and O-rings. A kit containing these items is often available at your local hardware store. You should also have some penetrating oil, such as WD-40.

Disassemble the faucet by removing the handle and unscrewing the decorative cap and handle screw with an Allen wrench. You may need to remove the aerator as well. Place a rag in the sink to protect it from scratches and keep parts from falling down the drain. Once the faucet is disassembled, you can inspect the parts and replace them as needed.

Most leaks in a ceramic-disk faucet come from the rubber seals that line the bottom of the ceramic disk. These seals are usually worn down or layered with grit and mineral deposits. Clean these seals with a soft nylon brush or toothbrush. You can also use a product like Lime-A-Way to dissolve hardwater deposits.

If you cannot repair the leaky seals, you should replace the ceramic disk and neoprene seals in the cartridge. A ceramic-disk faucet can typically be repaired by replacing these parts, unless the stem seat is damaged. The valve seat is where the cartridge sits in the base of the faucet. If this seat is damaged, the faucet will not be watertight, no matter how much you replace the washers and O-rings.

Once the new seals and neoprene seals are in place, you can install the cartridge. You should align the tabs on the cartridge with the notches in the faucet body to ensure a secure fit. You can also reinstall the escutcheon cap and handle screw.


If you have a two-handle faucet and it's leaking from the handle, shut off the water supply valves under the sink. Then, using a flathead screwdriver, remove the decorative cap on each handle to expose an Allen-screw underneath. This screw loosens and lifts the handle off. If the screw is seized or rusted, use penetrating oil to break up any rust or sediment that might be on it and then unscrew the handle completely. Place the handle and screw aside.

Once you've removed the handle, look inside the valve body and at the end of the stem. This is where most leaking occurs. If there's sediment or mineral buildup, this may be causing the leaking. If so, clean it with white vinegar. Also, make sure the valve seat is in good condition — sometimes it's pitted from age or from improperly tightened screws.

At the bottom of the stem is a rubber washer called a seat washer that sits in a round, recessed disk called a retainer. This washer can become worn or damaged and cause a leaky faucet. Replace it with a new one. Before you put the valve stem back in, loosen the packing nut with an adjustable wrench and pull the old one out. Then, use a spanner tool from your repair kit to tighten the adjusting ring and screw the stem back in. Coat the O-ring and seat washer with nontoxic plumber's grease.

If your faucet is still leaking, there's likely a problem with the O-ring or the spout O-ring, which create a seal between the spout and the faucet base. If this is the case, you can get spout O-ring kits from many hardware and plumbing supply stores. These are easy to install and cost much less than replacing the whole spout assembly. Again, remember to coat the O-ring and spout O-ring with plumber's grease to ensure that they'll hold up over time. After installing all the parts, reassemble each handle and test the faucet to see if it's working properly. If you're not satisfied, call a plumber or request a water bill adjustment if you're an income-qualified homeowner.

Depending on the faucet type, the first step may be to replace O-rings, washers, or valve seats. It is helpful to take the worn parts with you to the hardware store so that you can make sure the new ones are compatible. Cover the drain with something to keep small pieces from falling down it.…