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How to Fix a Leaky Faucet Like a Pro

Updated on January 12, 2019
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I'm a DIY home repair and renovations expert. I share my knowledge online to help others get the job done and save money at the same time.

Yes You Can Fix Your Own Faucet

A leaky faucet is not the worst thing that can happen with your plumbing system. Unless of course your leak is actually flowing then you have a bigger problem. This article is going to cover how to fix a leaky faucet handle whether it’s a bathroom faucet or kitchen faucet. I will also explain some of the things to look for when trying to fix a bathroom faucet as well as an outdoor faucet used to water your lawn.

So if you have a Delta or a Moen or any other type of tap the components of each faucet no matter who makes it are generally the same. You might have to replace a cartridge in a hot or cold water handle or the cartridge will be found in the body of the tap if it is a single handle. Some varieties just need a seat washer changed out which is very easy to do no matter your skill level.

Leaky Water Faucet

Don't let your money flow down the drain
Don't let your money flow down the drain | Source

Let's Get Started

I have fixed literally hundreds of faucets over the years first working as a plumber and then operating a renovation company and now I am here to help you fix your faucet yourself.

So like a faucet fixing Ninja we are going to go to battle together and get in and out with a fixed faucet at the end of our plumbing mission.

So if you are asking yourself can a leaky faucet be repaired by me who knows nothing about plumbing I would say for 99% of the leaking taps in the world yes you can fix it provided you have some simple tools like a flat head and Phillips screw driver, a couple of crescent wrenches possibly an allen wrench set and of course some replacement o-rings and washers for your model of faucet.

Let’s get started.

What Causes a Leaky Faucet?

A leaky faucet will most likely happen for a few different reasons.

  • The washers and o rings have worn down because of usage and now water seeps past.
  • The seat washer at the bottom of the stem or cartridge has become compressed allowing water to seep past.
  • A build-up of the minerals from the water will build up in your tap like it does on your shower doors and other places where water lurks. When this build-up happens washers and o-rings cannot close properly again allowing water to seep out.

Can a Leaky Faucet Cause Mold?

A leaky faucet can definitely cause mold to form. If water is left unattended without being wiped up and sits for long enough periods there is the potential of mold appearing.

If you are not going to be fixing your faucet ASAP make sure you always wipe around the affected area as much as possible.

Identifying the Brand and Model of Faucet You Need to Repair & Purchasing Parts

Before any repairs can commence you have to purchase replacement washers, o-rings or cartridges.

  • What you need to do first is identify who the manufacturer is on the body of the tap.
  • Identify whether you have a single lever or two handled faucet. Just look at the fixture.
  • If you have a smart phone, take a picture of the taps just in case you need to ask for help at the store. Most places like Home Depot or Lowes will have replacement kits.

Depending on what brand you have will determine if your replacement pack will have just rubber and pvc washers or possibly a replacement cartridge as well. The replacement kit will be most likely hanging alongside of other replacement parts in the plumbing repair section of the store you choose to purchase from. The pack or kit will come with enough parts to fix your tap.

The Main Supply of Water Must be Turned off Before Beginning

Once you have your replacement kit and a few simple tools like a flat head screw driver and maybe a phillips (star head) screwdriver just in case. A couple of crescent wrenches or pliers will be required.

You now have to locate the water supply and shut it off. Check under the sink to see if any of the water lines coming out of the floor or wall have valves on them. If so turn them off.

If you cannot find valves under the sink where the faucet needs to be fixed you will have to turn the water supply off to your whole home. Locate the main water meter running into your home and turn it off. Before you start trying to open up the tap to fix turn the faucet on to make sure the water stops. Leave the handle(s) in the open position until done as this will prevent any water from flowing out and getting everything wet.

The Fixing Part of This Article; Single Handle Faucets

If your tap has a single lever then you only need to be concerned with one cartridge, one o-ring and one washer. Or maybe you are lucky and the cartridge can be replaced completely. You will know this based on the replacement parts you picked up based on the model of tap you are fixing.

  • First thing to do is locate a cap on the top of the tap most likely near where the handle connects to the body. Pop off that cap with a sharp knife.
  • If there is no cap on the top then there will be a small cap somewhere on the body covering up a screw, find it and pop it off.
  • There should be a screw inside you can unscrew.
  • If your tap isn’t coming apart then you probably have to turn the top part of the body of the tap whether it is chrome or whatever your finish is made of.
  • Once you have that off you will have the cartridge in hand.
  • If you are not replacing the whole cartridge locate the o ring on the body of the cartridge taking it off and replacing it with a similar o ring in your kit.
  • Check the bottom of the cartridge for a washer that has a screw in the middle of it. That is a seat washer. Unscrew that and replace it.
  • That’s it you are ready to put your faucet back together. Just reverse what you did when taking everything a part. Make sure not to cross thread anything or over tighten.
  • After everything is put back together turn your water valve on slowly as well as turn off your faucet.
  • After a while if you see no leaks turn your water valve on all the way.

You are done. Great job.

How to Fix a Leaky Single Handle Bathroom Faucet

A Single Handle Faucet

The stem can be found in the handle and body of this faucet. Take off the handle then the stem can be taken out of the faucet.
The stem can be found in the handle and body of this faucet. Take off the handle then the stem can be taken out of the faucet. | Source

Two Handle Faucets

Two handle faucets are almost identical to the previous explanation except for these differences. Instead of taking the cartridge out of the body of the tap you are going into each handle of the tap.

  • Assuming the water is turned off. Locate the caps on the tops of the handles and pop them off with a sharp knife or object.
  • Unscrew the screws.
  • You might need to use your wrench to take the body of the handle off or maybe your model is the style where the cartridge pops right out.
  • Replace the o-rings and seat washers as explained above.
  • Screw cartridge back into handles and put handles back together.
  • Turn main water source on slowly ensuring no leaks.
  • Turn water main or valve on all the way.
  • Try taps and enjoy no more leaking.

As you can tell by this last explanation it really doesn’t change much from tap to tap until you get to the next replacement which is a shower faucet.

A Two Handle Kitchen Faucet

The stems for this faucet will be found in the handles.
The stems for this faucet will be found in the handles.

Shower Faucets Repair

If your shower head is dripping then there is a good chance you need to change some o-rings and maybe a washer or two. With a shower faucet it is basically the same as fixing a single lever tap or two handle tap as found above. The main difference here is the faucets are on the wall most of the time.

You will most likely have to take off a faceplate or two depending on what style you own. For that you will use a screw driver and pop the cover off. Then attack the stems as previously described.

The other difference here is the shut off valves might not exist for your shower so you will have to shut the main valve to the house off.

Shower Faucet with Two handles

This shower faucet has the stems in the two handles. The screw will be covered on the end of the handle. unscrew it then take handles off. Then take body cover off to expose the stems which can then be taken off with a crescent wrench.
This shower faucet has the stems in the two handles. The screw will be covered on the end of the handle. unscrew it then take handles off. Then take body cover off to expose the stems which can then be taken off with a crescent wrench. | Source

Laundry Tubs and Outside Faucets

These types of taps are the easiest to fix as they are mostly just pulling out the stem and replacing the seat washer.

  • Turn the water supply off.
  • On the handle there should be an exposed screw, unscrew it.
  • Take off the handle then with a wrench take off the stem turning counter clock wise.
  • Replace the washer on the bottom of the stem and replace all parts.
  • You’re done. Turn the water back on.

Outside Faucet


What if it Still Leaks? Don't Worry - Faucet Seats

If by chance you replace everything and you still have a drip.

Most likely your Faucet Seat is worn down a bit and the way to fix that is to get a seat wrench and replace them. The faucet seat sits in the body of the tap right underneath where your stem sits when it is screwed in. the faucet seat is what the bottom washer pushes up against when you turn the tap off.

If the seat wears down then obviously the water will seep through. All you do is stick the seat wrench in until it stops and turn counter clockwise to take it out. You might have to purchase seats separately than the faucet repair kit however some manufacturers include them in the package.

What you would be missing is the seat wrench as it is a specialized tool but can be purchased at the same please as the replacement parts. Buying the wrench is still cheaper than hiring a plumber.

Good luck with your project and please let me know how you do.


That is it for fixing your taps. I didn’t go into any detail on ceramic cartridges or ball faucets as I don’t really feel you need to know those things unless you’re going to start explaining it to others, even then if you are helping someone else just give them the same directions as you have found here.

The fact of the matter is you are replacing washers, o-rings and maybe a cartridge or two. There is no need to complicate the issue, just keep it simple.


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