A leaky faucet is one of the most common plumbing issues homeowners face. Even a minor drip can waste hundreds of gallons of water per year and lead to higher water bills. Catching and fixing leaky faucets early is key to preventing water waste and damage. Follow this guide to detect, diagnose, and repair leaky faucets in your home.
Detecting a Leak
The first step is identifying that you even have a leak. Here are some telltale signs of a leaky faucet:
- Visible water drops or drips – Check under sinks and around faucet hardware for water droplets.
- Condensation buildup – Leaks often cause wetness or condensation to collect around sink basins and faucet fixtures.
- Spiking water bills – An increase in your water usage likely means a leak somewhere. Track bills to compare.
- Musty odors – Water leaks can breed mold and mildew which gives off a distinct musty smell.
- Sounds – Listen closely for any sputtering or dripping sounds coming from faucet hardware, even if no leak is visible.
Once you’ve detected a leak, identifying the exact source is crucial for proper repairs.
Diagnosing the Leak
To find where the leak is originating, do the following:
Check all connections at water supply lines, shutoff valves below the sink, flexible riser tubes, faucet head nuts, and pull-out sprayer hoses. Tighten any loose connections with pliers or a wrench. Replace worn washers or gaskets as needed.
Isolate the Faucet
If connections are tight, turn on the hot and cold handles of the leaky faucet one at a time to isolate whether the leak is coming from the hot or cold side. Also, check if leaks occur when handles are open or closed. This will help pinpoint the issue area.
Remove the Faucet Handle
Take off the decorative handle to inspect internal hardware. Look for corrosion, cracks, and damage. Test water flow. A steady drip when handles are closed indicates worn valve seats or faulty washers that require replacement.
Assess Visible Pipes
Inspect exposed pipes and supply lines for drips, rust, mineral deposits, and corrosion – signs they may need replacing. Check areas hidden from view by cabinets or walls as well. Even small pinhole leaks in supply lines can lead to big problems over time.
Fixing a Leaky Faucet
Once you’ve diagnosed the source, make appropriate repairs:
Replace Washers and O-rings
If the leak is coming from around an older faucet’s valves, replacing the rubber washers and O-rings is often an easy fix. First, shut off the water supply lines and remove the faucet handle. Unscrew the valve seat to access washers and O-rings. Use replacement kits matching your faucet make and model.
Change Supply Lines
For drips and leaks coming from supply lines, these pipes need replacing. Flexible braided stainless steel lines are usually the easiest to install. Make sure to use liquid pipe thread sealant for a watertight connection.
Update Worn Faucet Seats
Leaky water flow with closed handles indicates worn seats. Replace these plastic or brass valves in the faucet body using exact match components to remedy leaks. This may require faucet disassembly.
Replace Faucet Cartridge
Many modern faucets use cartridge systems. Damaged or faulty cartridges can cause drips and flow issues. Replace old cartridges with new ones meeting your faucet brand specifications.
Call a Plumber
For stubborn leaks, complex faucet repairs, or if replacing valves, washers and O-rings does not resolve drips, it’s best to call a professional plumber. Plumbing Works can assess your situation, troubleshoot the cause and make all necessary repairs.
Preventing Leaky Faucets
Proper faucet care helps avoid leaks down the road:
- Replace washers and O-rings routinely before they wear out
- Upgrade worn parts like valves and supply lines as needed
- Select drip-free faucets with durable, drip-proof cartridges
- Address any drips immediately so small problems don’t become big leaks
- Insulate pipes in unheated areas like basements to prevent freezing cracks
- Hire a qualified plumber annually for preventative faucet maintenance
Leaks don’t improve over time. At the first sign your faucet is leaking, take action to diagnose the cause and make repairs. Ignoring the issue will lead to wasted water and potentially expensive plumbing headaches. With some basic DIY troubleshooting and replacement parts, you may be able to stop those annoying drips. When in doubt, contact the experienced professionals at Plumbing Works to inspect and fix any persistently leaky faucets.
Tips for Fixing Common Leaks
- Drips at base of spout – Replace worn O-rings around the spout base
- Leaks around the handle – Replace rubber valve seat washers
- Leaks at the end of the spout – Clean or replace the aerator screen
- Drips from sprayer hose – Replace faulty nylon hose washers
- Leaks at handle base – Tighten adjusting ring or replace cartridge
Signs You Should Call a Plumber
- Leak persists after all DIY fixes attempted
- Leak worsens over time
- Mineral deposits or corrosion present
- Dripping from multiple spots on the faucet
- Complex faucet disassembly needed
- No shutoff valves present under the sink
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some top causes of leaky faucets?
The most common causes are worn washers and O-rings, faulty or torn cartridges, cracked valve seats, damaged supply line hoses, and loose connections. Mineral buildup and freeze damage can also lead to leaks over time.
How much water can a leak waste?
Even small drips can waste dozens of gallons per day and hundreds per month. A leak of just 1 drip per second adds up to over 3,000 gallons per year of wasted water.
How do I stop a tub faucet from dripping?
For tub/shower combo faucets, switch the diverter so water flows from the tub spout. Then follow standard steps for replacing seats and washers in the leaky faucet handle. Adjusting the knob stop screws can also help control drips.
Why does my faucet drip after turning off?
Water remaining in pipes creates residual drips after shutting faucets off. This is common, especially with older plumbing. But consistent, heavy dripping after closing the valve likely indicates worn washers or seats that need replacing.
How much does it cost to repair a leaky faucet?
Simple washer or O-ring replacements cost just a few dollars. Cartridge or valve seat repairs run $15-30. Complete faucet replacement averages $120-350. Hiring a plumber ranges from $45 to 150 per hour. DIY when possible to minimize costs.
How long should a faucet last?
With proper care and maintenance, most high-quality kitchen and bathroom faucets will last 15-20 years. Less expensive faucets may last only 5-10 years before requiring repairs. Signs like frequent drips indicate it’s time to replace the entire faucet.
So don’t tolerate the wasted water and annoyance of leaky faucets. Address any drips right away before they lead to bigger plumbing headaches. In most cases, DIY troubleshooting and repairs can stop leaks in their tracks. But for any faucet issues that persist, rely on the expertise of the professional plumbers at Plumbing Works.