How to Fix a Leaky Kitchen Faucet by Yourself

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Leaky kitchen faucet

You may have been putting off fixing a drippy faucet because you think it’s too hard, but the repair of a single-lever kitchen faucet is easy and can be accomplished in about an hour. Usually, the hardest step is finding the right replacement parts.

Once you learn the basics, modern faucets are pretty easy to fix. There are three main types of single-lever faucets:

  • Rotary ball
  • Cartridge
  • Ceramic disc

You can fix most single-lever bath faucets using the same procedures.

Tools Needed

You’ll save time and frustration is you gather the tools needed before you start. A set of small Allen wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers and large slip-joint pliers are all the tools you’ll need to handle any faucet repair. The Allen wrench will be used to remove the handle.

Faucet Repair Basics

First, you’ll need to examine the faucet closely to see where the water is coming from. If the leak is coming from around the base of the spout, it will require a different repair than a drip from the end of the spout.

Next, turn off the water supply to the faucet. There should be a shutoff valve under the sink, but if there isn’t or the valve doesn’t work, you’ll have to close the main water valve to the whole house.

After the water is shut off, open the faucet in the centre position to relieve water pressure and to make sure that the water is shut off. Put a strainer basket or a rag in the sink’s drain hole to avoid losing small parts down the drain.

You’ll need to pay close attention to the order and placement of the parts as you remove them. A digital camera comes in handy for making a record of each step. Set the parts aside in the order in which they were removed to make reassembly easier.

After all the parts are out, inspect the interior of the valve for bits of deteriorated gaskets or mineral deposits. Mineral deposits can be loosened by soaking them in vinegar. Then use a cloth or fine nylon abrasive pad to clean the interior of the valve.

Plugged holes in the faucet body can cause slow water flow. Use a small screwdriver or penknife to clean them out. Before you replace parts and reassemble the faucet, hold a rag over the faucet and open the water shutoff valve slightly to flush out debris that may have been loosened during the cleaning.

When the faucet is reassembled, open the faucet to the middle position and gradually open the shutoff valve to turn the water on. Leave the faucet open until all the air is out of the pipes and water flows freely. If water flow is slow, the aerator may be plugged. Unscrew the aerator and clean it.

How to Find Replacement Parts

Often, the brand name of the faucet is stamped right on it. This information helps when it comes time to find replacement parts. However, in most cases, it’s best to take the worn parts with you to the store.

Delta or other rotary ball faucet repair kits are available in most hardware stores and home centres. The same is true for most cartridge type faucets, such as Moen. For other brands and disc-type faucets, you may have to order parts, as there are too many variations for most stores to keep in stock. Knowing the faucet’s model name or number helps when searching for a replacement cartridge. Take the old cartridge to the store with you so you can match it to a picture in the parts catalogue.

Plumbing supply specialists are good sources for repair parts. Call the manufacturer of your faucet for help if you’re having trouble finding parts.

Repairing a Rotary Ball Faucet

In a rotary ball faucet, water flow and temperature are controlled by a hollow ball that rotates in a socket. Two of the major brands are Delta and Peerless. Your faucet may have a brass or plastic ball, both of which work well, but a long-lasting stainless steel ball comes with most repair kits. It’s recommended that you buy a repair kit that includes the ball, springs, seats and O-rings for the spout, along with a small repair tool. This kit will see you prepared for almost any repair.

You may be able to fix a leak at the base of the handle by removing the handle and tightening the adjusting ring slightly. Turn it clockwise with the spanner tool included in the repair kit. If the drip is from the end of the spout, replace the seats and springs.

To reassemble, drop the springs in the recesses and press the rubber seats over the top with your fingertip. Next, align the groove in the ball with the pin in the socket and drop the ball in. Then align the lug on the plastic cam with the notch in the valve body and set it over the ball. Align the lug on the plastic cam with the notch in the valve body and set it over the ball. Thread the cap on with the adjusting ring and tighten it with the slip-joint pliers.

Turn on the water and check for leaks. If water leaks from around the ball stem, use the spanner tool to tighten the adjusting ring until the leak stops. Finish by replacing the handle.

Repairing a Cartridge Faucet

Remove the cartridge and either replace the O-rings on the cartridge if they’re worn or replace the entire cartridge. This will stop drips at the spout or correct problems with hot and cold mixing. Most Moen replacement cartridges include a plastic spanner cap that allows you to twist and loosen and cartridge and make it easier to pull out. The cartridge may seem stuck and may take considerable effort to remove. Very stubborn cartridges may need a special cartridge-pulling tool.

To reassemble, pull the stem up before inserting the cartridge. You may have to twist the cartridge a little to line it up with the brass retainer clip. Use the tip of needle-nose pliers or the plastic spanner cap to rotate the cartridge. To hold the cartridge in place, slide the brass clip into the slots in the valve body.

There’s a small notch on top of the stem. Rotate the stem until the notch faces you, then install the remaining parts and reattach the handle. There are directions that come with the stem that will help you. Test the faucet. If the hot and cold water are reversed, just remove the handle, dome assembly and handle adapter and rotate the stem 180 degrees.

Repairing a Ceramic Disc Faucet

Ceramic disc valves control water flow by discs inside the cartridge. These faucets are sturdy, reliable and rarely needs repair. Many manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee on the cartridge.

Leaks can result from a cracked disc inside the cartridge or faulty rubber seals. Since these cartridges are expensive, try replacing the seals and reassembling the faucet. If that doesn’t work, the cartridge will need to be replaced.

Remove the handle and cartridge. To remove the spout and expose the O-rings, twist and pull up on it. Worn O-rings under the spout are the cause of leaks around the base of the spout. To access the O-rings for replacement, wiggle and pull up on the spout to remove it. 

Depending on the faucet, you may also have to remove the handle and other parts to access the spout. You’ll have to be persistent as the spout may be a little stubborn. Spout O-ring kits are available for many faucets but you’re best to take the old O-rings to the store to be sure you get the right ones.

In order not to crack the ceramic disc, leave the faucet open as you turn the water back on to allow trapped air in the lines to escape. When water runs smoothly, it’s safe to turn the faucet off.

Have a leaky faucet in your kitchen or bathroom? Call WaterWorks Plumbing & Drains now at (416) 489-0000 to have our reliable and qualified team quickly and efficiently repair the leak so you can get back to your routine with the least disruption possible.