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Photo: Quality Bath

There are few things more daunting than a leaky faucet. Not only is it a massive waste of precious resources, but the sound alone is enough to drive a grown woman batty. Luckily, we've got some super simple steps for fixing that faucet leak -- forever. Ready?:

1. Shut the water off under the sink.
2. Close the sink drain and cover with a rag to catch any loose parts that may fall below.
Note: It's also a good idea to prepare your wrench with a layer of duct tape to prevent scratches on your fixture.
3. Find the culprit. Most leaky faucets are a result of a failed part, and the exact part can be easily located depending on which part is leaking. Although replacing your faucet is a simple task, it's important to identify the type of faucet, whether it be compression, cartridge (sleeve), ceramic disc and ball. Here, we break it down for you:

If your faucet is a compression: The most common culprit in a leaky compression faucet is the seat washer.

1. Pry off the decorative cap on the faucet's handle, remove the handle screw, pull off the handle and use a crescent wrench to unscrew the packing nut.

2. After unscrewing the stem, remove and replace the seat washer held in place by a brass screw. Coat the washers with nontoxic, heat-proof plumber's grease.

3. Pop the stem out of the packing nut and replace the O-ring, the culprit for leaky handles.
O-rings range in size from 3/8 to 5/8 in., so it's crucial to exactly match the size on your faucet. Coat the new O-ring with plumber's grease. Reassemble the faucet and tighten the packing nut. (Click here for more on compression faucets.)

If your faucet is a cartridge (sleeve):
1. Remove the faucet handles. Most are held on by retaining screws under the caps on the top of the handles. Then unscrew the large nut that holds the cartridge in.

2. Pull straight up on the cartridge to remove it. Use pliers if you have to, but be sure to protect the cartridge with tape or a rag. Note the orientation of the cartridge to the notches in the faucet so you can reinstall it the same way. Remove the old seat and spring with a small screwdriver.

3. Drop the new spring into the recess and push the new seat in with your finger. Spread a thin layer of plumber's grease around the cartridge. Push the cartridge into the faucet, aligning it with the notches. Then tighten the large retaining nut with the wrench and replace the handles.

If your faucet is a ceramic disc: Disc faucets leak when the inlet and outlet seals wear or when sediment builds up in the faucet inlets. Disc assemblies don't often wear out, but sometimes the inlet and outlet seals fail. Replace the worn seals with duplicates of the original ones (take the faulty ones with you when you buy replacements). Be sure to realign the seals on the bottom of the cartridge with the holes in the faucet.

If your faucet is a ball type: This type of faucet contains a lot of parts, and that often makes it difficult to find the cause of the leak. You can avoid the aggravation by buying a replacement kit and putting in all new parts.

1. First, remove the handle set screw and lift off the handle. Use adjustable pliers to remove the cap and collar.

2. Using the special tool included in the faucet-repair kit, loosen the faucet cam and lift it out along with the cam washer and the rotating ball. Reach into the faucet body with needle-nose pliers and remove the inlet seals and springs.

3. Next, cut off the O-rings, coat the new ones in nontoxic, heat-proof plumber's grease and roll them on.

4. Install new springs, valve seats and cam washers as you reassemble the faucet.

Another more expensive option for an older faucet is to replace the entire fixture. You'll need a basin wrench to do this.

Happy fixing!


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