A dripping faucet is one of the more vexing problems that can afflict a house’s plumbing. The steady drip drip drip looks innocuous, but it isn’t.
By the end of the year the household would have lost hundreds of gallons of water and have the water bills to prove it. The good news is that what’s wrong with a dripping faucet is usually simple to repair. Nearly every faucet drip can be fixed by a homeowner with fairly moderate plumbing skills.
How to Fix the Drip
A leaky sink is almost always the fault of a worn or broken washer, a ring made out of a material that spreads out the pressure of a threaded fixture.
First, the worker needs to turn off the water at the source. This may mean finding the shut-off valve under the sink or behind the tub and closing it. If the shut-off valve is not accessible, the worker should close the main valve that controls all the fresh water that comes into the building.
Then, they should open the faucet and let the remaining water drain before starting to work. If there are faucets upstairs, a good idea is to open them up as well.
Replacing a Seat Washer
In some types of faucets, the seat washer will need to be replaced to fix the drip. After the water has been shut off, take off the handle screws. Work on them one at a time so not to mix up the hot and cold water lines. Take off the index cap with a small but sharp pry tool. and put it aside. Then, take out the screw, and pull out the handle from the first stem.
After the handle is removed, find the hexagonal head bonnet nut that secures the stem to the faucet. Loosen it with an adjustable wrench by turning the stem counter-clockwise. When it’s been removed it will expose the seat washer and the screw. Take the washer off with the tip of a sharp knife.
Check the valve seat to judge the right washer type and size. If the faucet has a raised rim, use a flat washer. If the seat doesn’t have a raised rim and is concave, use a beveled washer. If the homeowner doesn’t know what size washer will fit, they should take the stem to the hardware store. The washer must fit the stem perfectly or the faucet will keep dripping with a brand new, wrong-sized washer.
After the right washer has been found, it should be pressed into the stem retainer. Tighten the screw through the washer, and lubricate the washer with plumber’s grease. This is important, for grease can greatly extend the life of a washer. Also grease the stem threads and the top of the stem, but avoid greasing the threads of the washer screw.
After that, thread the stem half-way into its port, then thread the bonnet nut into the faucet. If it starts to bind, jiggle it a bit until it becomes easy to move. Tighten the bonnet nut until it’s snug and the stem can turn easily, then replace the faucet handle and its index cap. Then, do the other handle.
Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Longmont, CO heating repair.
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