Everybody has experienced dripping faucets before. You walk into the room and see it dripping and think “I really need to get that fixed” and then you forget about it and it keeps dripping. You know you’re wasting water and money, but you don’t want to call a plumber because it will be too much of a hassle. So you ask yourself, “Can I fix it?”
If you ask a plumber like myself that question, the simple, short answer would be that I have no idea.
But I CAN give a few pointers that can help you determine if it seems like something you want to tackle or not.
A faucet will drip for one of two reasons…
Sometimes residual water is held up in the spout or the shower head. This is more common in the shower heads or the gooseneck style kitchen faucets. What will happen is that after a while there can be a buildup of materials inside the spout or shower head that will retain water and slowly drip out over the next few minutes or in some cases hours.
In these cases it is not an actual leak, it is only residual water dripping for a time. The best way to test of it is a leak or simply residual water is to turn the suspected faucet off and let it sit overnight. In the morning check and see if it is still dripping. If it is still dripping in the morning you have an actual leak. If not, you are good to go!
The cartridge or stem that is designed to hold the water back is not longer doing its job. In most cases it is better to replace the whole cartridge than to try to replace a rubber washer.
The first step you will have to take is to find out the brand of the faucet. It is often printed somewhere on the spout or handle. Sometimes it is on a tag on the water supply under the sink. Once you find the brand you can see what parts are available, or call tech support and they will walk you through the steps.
Some faucets are not branded. These become drastically harder to repair as it is difficult to know where to look for the parts. You may even have to remove the cartridge and sift through thousands of pictures of cartridges to see what looks like the right fit. At this point, unless you are bored, it is probably best to call a plumber. They often have at least a general idea of the direction to look in, even if they do not know exactly what it is.
Assuming you can find the brand and the cartridge, it is time to do the actual repair.
Turn the water off. In almost all situations the cartridge is under the handle so the handle(s) needs to be removed. Handles are attached with a set screw, or the “bonnet” is threaded on, or it pulls off.
With the handle removed you should see the tip of the cartridge. There will be a retaining nut or device of some kind, or the cartridge itself will be threaded in. If you have not removed any kind of retaining device and it is not threaded, do not try to remove the cartridge or you will create more work for yourself or the plumber. Once the retaining device is removed you can proceed to remove the cartridge.
With the cartridge removed look inside with a flashlight and visually inspect for any bits of calcium or rubber that is loose in there. Remove any bits you can, but don’t scrape the edges as that can cause leaks.
Insert the new cartridge and follow the disassembly steps in reverse order. Then turn the water back on. Check for leaks, and you are good to go!