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What Causes a Leaking Faucet?

Leaking FaucetLeaky faucets around the country waste almost 1 trillion gallons of water each year. For a single household, a single leaky faucet can waste up to 10,000 gallons of water per year, which is a lot of wasted water and money.

The problem is, many homeowners ignore a leaking faucet, thinking it’s “no big deal” or no reason to call a plumber. However, when a faucet leaks, there’s an underlying cause, and figuring out that cause can be more challenging than many people think.

The most common cause for a leaking faucet include a bad o-ring, loose parts, a corroded valve set, water pressure issues, and broken parts. Any of these issues can contribute to a leaking faucet.

A Bad O-Ring

One issue that occurs on cartridge faucets is a worn-out or loose O-ring. This is the small disc that’s attached to the faucet’s stem screw. It’s responsible Faucet O-ringsfor holding the faucet’s handle in place.

If the O-ring is bad, it will cause the faucet to drip close to the handle. Usually, replacing the O-ring will fix this problem.

Loose Parts

Modern faucets have an array of small parts that work together to deliver seamless water flow. After years of use, the parts can wear out and no longer work efficiently.

If the faucet has started to leak close to the base, it may be that the packing nut or adjusting ring is loose. If you have a rotary ball faucet, all you have to do is remove the handle and tighten up the adjusting ring. If there’s still a leak coming from the base, it may be time to replace the seals or springs.

Corroded Valve Set

If the leak originates from the faucet’s spout, it may be a problem with the valve seat. This is responsible for connecting the spout and the faucet.

Sometimes, water sediments can build up, corroding the valve seat and resulting in a leak. This can be avoided if you clean the valve seat regularly but take note – a professional’s help may be needed to do this.

Problems with the Washers

Fixing a faucetWhile the O-ring and other parts can get worn out, so can the washers. The washers in your faucet are metal or rubber pieces that seal gaps in the pipe to help prevent leaks. These can also wear out with use, as the washers begin to rub against the parts they are placed between.

Sometimes, a leak may also occur if the washer was not installed properly, or if the wrong size of washer was installed, to begin with. If you plan to replace the washer on your own, be sure you are using the right size.

Water Pressure Problems

Does the faucet only drip during certain times of the day? Or does it tend to drip more if the handle is moved certain ways? If so, the problem may be with the home’ water pressure, so it’s a good idea to have a professional evaluate the plumbing system and determine if this is the underlying cause of a leak.

Broken Parts

If the leak is coming from the pipes that are under your sink, the most likely issue is a broken fitting or pipe. If this is the case, it’s best to call a plumber, Broken pipeas they will fix the broken pipe problem and ensure no other issues are present.

Taking the DIY Approach

If you want to try to handle a leaking faucet on your own, there are several steps you can use. These include:

Step 1: Determine the Type of Faucet You Have

You need to first determine the type of faucet you have. This will dictate the direction of the repair. The three most common types of faucets include:

  • Ceramic disk faucets
  • Ball faucets
  • Cartridge faucets

Once you know what type of faucet you are working with, move on to the next step.

Step 2: Prep Your Work Area

Before doing any work on your sink or faucet, make sure to turn off the water supply. If you're not sure how, check out our Mr. Rooter how-to video on shutting off your main water supply:

You also need to plug the drain with a rag or some other barrier to prevent losing anything down the drain. You don’t want to lose any of the parts! It’s also necessary to remove the decorative part from the handles. There should also be a screw that connects the faucet’s handle to the stem that needs to be unscrewed, and the handle removed.

Step 3: Checking the Parts and Components

Once you have removed the handle, you can use your wrench to loosen the packing nut and the stem and inspect these parts for damage. Also, check the washer and O-ring in the valve seat. Try replacing the washer to see if that fixes the leak.

If none of these steps work, it’s time to call in a plumber. They can quickly and easily identify the underlying issue.

Call a Plumber for Quality Repairs

If you have a leaking faucet, you can try to fix it on your own. However, if the tips listed above aren’t effective, the best thing you can do is to call a plumber. Nationally, the average for fixing a dripping faucet ranges from $65 to $150, depending on the ease of the repair. For example, replacing a washer is simple enough and can take less than an hour. However, if your leaking faucet is caused by severe pipe damage, it might take a plumber longer to fix the leaking pipe issue, which increases the cost. The best way to find out how much you're looking at is to give us a call!

An Austin plumber will inspect the faucet and determine the underlying cause of the leak. A plumber can also check the rest of the faucet to ensure there are no other issues present.

If you need plumbing repair services, for a leaky faucet or another component of your plumbing system, contact our team right away. We can evaluate the issue you are having and ensure it is fixed properly.

Mr. Rooter iconAbout the Author: Brett Bidwell, Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Austin

Brett has been a trusted Mr. Rooter owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Austin since 2012. With over 8 years to back him, Brett has experience with a wide range of plumbing related solutions and systems. He and his team specialize in emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, and more.

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