A leaky faucet is the most common home plumbing problem. Fortunately, repair parts are available for almost every type of faucet, from the oldest to the newest, and installing these parts is usually easy. But if you don’t know your make and model, the hardest part of fixing a leak may be identifying your faucet and finding the right parts. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that any similar-looking parts will do the job; you’ve got to get exact replacements.
There are so many faucet types that even experts have trouble classifying them into neat categories. Two-handle faucets are either compression (stem) or washerless two-handle. Single-handle faucets are classified as mixing cartridge; ball; disc; or disc/cartridge.
A single-handle faucet with a rounded, domeshaped cap is often a ball type. If a single-handle faucet has a flat top, it is likely a cartridge or a ceramic disc type. An older two-handle faucet is likely of the compression type; newer two-handle models use washerless cartridges. Shut off the water, and test to verify that the water is off. Dismantle the faucet carefully. Look for a brand name: it may be clearly visible on the baseplate, or may be printed on an inner part, or it may not be printed anywhere. Put all the parts into a reliable plastic bag and take them to your home center or plumbing supply store. A knowledgeable salesperson can help you identify the parts you need.
A compression faucet has a stem assembly that includes a retaining nut, threaded spindle, O-ring, stem washer, and stem screw. Dripping at the spout occurs when the washer becomes worn. Leaks around the handle are caused by a worn O-ring.
Pry off the cap on top of the handle and remove the screw that holds the cap onto the stem. Pull the handle up and out. Use an adjustable wrench or pliers to unscrew the stem and pull it out.
If the handle is stuck, try applying mineral cleaner from above. If that doesn’t work, you may need to buy a handle puller. With the cap and the hold-down screw removed, position the wings of the puller under the handle and tighten the puller to slowly pull the handle up.
If washers wear out quickly, the seat is likely worn. Use a seat wrench to unscrew the seat from inside the faucet. Replace it with an exact duplicate. If replacing the washer and O-ring doesn’t solve the problem, you may need to replace the entire stem.
Remove the screw that holds the rubber washer in place, and pry out the washer. Replace a worn washer with an exact replacement – one that is the same diameter, thickness, and shape.
Washerless Two-handle Faucet
Almost all two-handle faucets made today are “washerless”. Instead of an older-type compression stem, there is a cartridge, usually with a plastic casing. Many of these cartridges contain ceramic discs, while others have metal or plastic pathways. No matter the type of cartridge, the repair is the same; instead of replacing small parts, you simply replace the entire cartridge.
Remove the faucet handle and withdraw the old cartridge. Make a note of how the cartridge is oriented before you remove it. Purchase a replacement cartridge.
Install the replacement cartridge. Clean the valve seat first and coat the valve seat and O-rings with faucet grease. Be sure the new cartridge is in the correct position, with its tabs seated in the slotted body of the faucet. Re-assemble the valve and handles.
One-handle Cartridge Faucets
Single-handle cartridge faucets like this work by moving the cartridge up and down and side to side, which opens up pathways to direct varying amounts of hot and cold water to the spout. Moen, Price-Pfister, Delta, Peerless, Kohler, and others make many types of cartridges, some of which look very different from this one.
To remove the spout, pry off the handle’s cap and remove the screw below it. Pull the handle up and off. Use a crescent wrench to remove the pivot nut.
Lift out the spout. If the faucet has a diverter valve, remove it as well. Use a screwdriver to pry out the retainer clip, which holds the cartridge in place.
Remove the cartridge. If you simply pull up with pliers, you may leave part of the stem in the faucet body. If that happens, replace the cartridge and buy a stem puller made for your model.
Gently pry out and replace all O-rings on the faucet body. Smear plumber’s grease onto the new replacement cartridge and the new O-rings, and reassemble the faucet.