For anyone that has ever had to listen to a continual dripping from the bathroom, the sound of a leaky faucet can be annoying at best, and damaging at worst. Left unattended, that constant dripping can signal bigger issues, such as a corroded valve seat, a worn out washer, or a problem with the O ring. Regardless, it’s one of the most basic jobs a homeowner can perform on their house; taking the time to fix it can save as much as 10% on your overall water bill.

To get started, you’ll need a couple of tools: an adjustable wrench, a Phillips screwdriver (or flat-head, depending on the leak), WD-40, and replacement washers and O-rings. Once you have those, follow the steps below.

  1. Turn off the Water – The last thing you want is a water explosion the moment you start tearing open your faucet, so make sure the water to the leaky faucet is turned off. There should be a knob underneath the sink that allows you to turn off the water just to the faucet, but if not, turn off the water to the whole house. Once the water’s off, turn the faucet handles to “on” in order to make sure it’s off and drain the last bit of water out of the faucet head.

  2. Remove the Knob – Next, take your screwdriver and disassemble the knob for the faucet itself, using a flathead screwdriver to pry off any decorative parts that may be in the way. Below the knob, there should be a screw that connects the handle to the stem; unscrew that as well, and remove the handle with your screwdriver also. If necessary, use WD-40 or some other type of penetrating oil to loosen up the parts.

  3. Unscrew the Stem – On most faucets, the stem is connected to the sink with a locknut and a washer. To remove, simply take your wrench and turn the locknut counter-clockwise, and the stem should pop off almost immediately. If it doesn’t, twist the stem to remove it from the valve. Inspect the parts for any kind of damage, and then place them to the side on a dry towel. As with the previous step, if any of the nuts or stems are hard to remove, a light shot of penetrating oil should help make the process easier.

  4. Replace Broken Parts – Assuming everything with the knob and the stem look normal, replace the washer and the O-ring with new ones, sliding them into the seat where the old ones were placed. IMPORTANT: Make sure that the replacement parts are an exact fit for your faucet. If they’re loose, or if they are a different type of part than your old ones, the seal won’t be tight and you’ll create a much bigger problem than previously. If unsure, take the parts down to your local hardware store and ask the attendant for help. Or, if you’re in a pinch, buy a bunch of different sizes. You can always return them, but either way, it should only be a few dollars more.

  5. Reassemble the Faucet – At this point, it’s simply a matter of working backwards. Put the new O-ring and washer in, replace the stem, screw on the packing nut, screw, and handles, then, once you’re sure everything is back where it belongs, turn the water back on to the faucet (or the house). If it’s not leaking anymore, you’re done!

In most cases, a leaky faucet is nothing to worry about, but failure to fix it in a timely manner can cause major problems down the road. If you follow the steps above and the problem still isn’t fixed, call our team of professionals and let us take a look.

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