Save Money by Replacing a Leaky Faucet Yourself

Parma Plumber is a skilled professional who installs, repairs and maintains plumbing systems. Their work can involve a variety of projects, including repairing leaky faucets, installing new pipes and fixtures, and connecting gas lines.


A career as a plumber offers many benefits, including stability and the chance to solve problems. However, there are some important things to consider before starting a plumbing apprenticeship.

The drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet can drive you crazy—not to mention add up to a significant water bill. But unlike a clogged toilet, you can often fix a leaky faucet yourself. You just need the right tools and some patience. If you’re handy, you can even save money by replacing a faucet yourself instead of calling in a plumber.

Before you start working, turn off the water supply valve under your sink. This is usually a valve with a red handle (shown below). It’s important to turn off the water supply before starting any repairs, otherwise you may spray water everywhere—including on yourself and any objects in the room.

Once the water is off, remove the faucet handles by unscrewing them. If the handle screw is stuck, try using penetrating oil or another degreaser to break up rust or sediment. Once the screw is removed, gently pry or twist the handle off. Be careful not to break any parts or make any other damage to the handle.

Once you have the handle off, you can see the stem and the stem nut that holds it in place. This nut can be very tight, so you’ll likely need a wrench to loosen it. Be careful not to over-tighten, as this can damage the faucet.

A good rule of thumb is to tighten the nut about halfway, then stop. Once the nut is loose, you can remove it and replace the washer or O-ring. You can also use this opportunity to clean the aerator at the end of the faucet spout, which is a common source of leaking.

After the O-ring or washer is replaced, you can reassemble the faucet. If you have a cartridge, ball or ceramic-disk faucet, the process is slightly different, but still fairly straightforward. After reassembling the faucet, you should have no trouble getting it to work correctly. However, if you have any problems, don’t hesitate to call a plumber or try another solution.

Repairing a Faucet with a Cartridge

Cartridge faucets are a type of washerless fixture that uses a special cartridge to control the flow of hot and cold water. If yours is leaking or the handle won’t turn off, you may need to replace the cartridge. If a single-handle cartridge faucet is dripping continuously, it’s a good idea to replace the seat and springs as well. In addition, if you notice a difference in water temperature or have trouble turning the handle, this is also a sign that your cartridge is worn out.

First, shut off the water to the faucet by turning the stop valves under the sink. Then, remove the faucet handle using a screwdriver or Allen wrench. If there is a decorative cap or escutcheon covering the handle hole, unscrew or pry off the cap. You might need a spanner tool, which is sometimes included in a cartridge repair kit, to loosen the Allen screw that holds the handle to the stem.

Next, unscrew the setscrew or screw that holds the cartridge to the faucet body using a Phillips screwdriver or an Allen wrench. Then, pull straight up on the handle to remove it from the faucet. Remove the decorative escutcheon or chrome sleeve, if present. You should also remove the decorative collar, which may have a set of screws holding it in place. Now you can get at the cartridge retaining nut. If it is rusted or dirty, use a rag to wipe off the old rust and grime.

Once you’ve removed the cartridge retaining nut, replace it with a new one and then insert the cartridge. If the cartridge is not a perfect fit, you may need to sand it down or grind it flat in order to make it sit properly in the faucet seat. If the seat is pitted or damaged, you’ll need to replace it as well.

Before you install the new cartridge, coat it in plumber’s grease to help it slide into the faucet. Also, remember to note the cartridge’s orientation when you remove it so you can reinstall it in the same orientation. The cartridge tabs should line up precisely with the retaining clip notches or slots.

Repairing a Faucet with a Ball

One of the most common plumbing issues is a drippy faucet. Whether it’s a single handle or double, the annoying dripping can add up to water wastage and damage. While it’s tempting to call in a plumber, a little patience and some basic tools can save you the cost of an emergency visit.

Start by shutting off the water supply lines under the sink. Close the main valve, then turn off each handle. Stuff a rag into the drain to keep water from flowing while you work.

Most ball faucets have a removable handle that allows you to inspect and replace internal components. If yours is a screw-in type, remove the handle by unscrewing the set screw. Then, pry off the decorative cap on the handle with a knife or screwdriver and pull off the handle. Often, this is all it takes to fix a leaky faucet.

For more advanced models, remove the cam nut and plastic handle cam by turning counterclockwise with large slip-joint pliers. This can be a bit tricky, and you’ll probably need to jiggle the handle to get it off. You’ll then see the plastic cam and ball assembly, which you can lift out and inspect for signs of wear. You may need to replace the ball itself or the valve seat seals if they’re cracked or pitted.

If you still have a leaking faucet, the problem is likely with the spout O-rings, which are located under the spout. They usually need to be replaced if they’re worn or cracked, but you can also try squeezing and wiggling the spout to try to force it off. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to remove the handle and other parts to access them.

Purchase replacement O-rings at a hardware store or plumbing supply specialist. Make sure you buy the same size as your originals and coat them with nontoxic, heat-proof plumber’s grease before installing them. Once the O-rings are in place, screw the spout back on and turn on the water to test for any leaks. If you’re satisfied that the problem is solved, you can wave goodbye to those irritating drips for good.

Repairing a Faucet with a Ceramic-Disk

A ceramic disk valve faucet, also called a cartridge or cartridge-and-ball faucet, is one of the most durable and long-lasting types of faucets. However, it can still suffer from leaks or other problems that may require repair or replacement parts. The good news is that these types of faucets are relatively easy to fix and don’t typically require a professional plumber to do the job. If you’re faced with a leaking faucet, start by turning off the water supply valve by twisting it to the “Off” position. Then cover the drain with a rag or stopper to prevent small parts from falling down the drain.

Next, remove the handle by unscrewing the screw under it. You should be able to see the lever post behind it, which you can unscrew using a screwdriver or wrench. Once the handle and decorative cap are removed, you can unscrew the screw holding the escutcheon cap, which should allow you to lift it off and expose the cartridge underneath. You may want to clean the cartridge seals and cylinder openings at this point to get rid of mineral buildup. A scouring pad and distilled white vinegar work well for this task. If the cartridge seat is damaged, you’ll need to replace it as well. Once you’ve cleaned the cylinder, screw it back into place and insert the new seals. If you’re not comfortable replacing the seals yourself, a repair kit that includes them should be available at your local hardware or plumbing store.

Once you’ve replaced the seals and washer, reassemble the faucet by replacing the escutcheon cap. Use a screwdriver to loosen the set screw, then pull off the handle. You’ll need to reassemble the stem, which should be easy with a wrench or adjustable screwdriver. You may need to replace the O-ring on the stem, which is often the cause of leaks. Once again, you can purchase replacement O-rings at your local hardware or plumbing supply store and should coat the new one with plumber’s grease before putting it in place.

The most durable and long-lasting types of faucets are those that have ceramic disk valves, which feature two perfectly flat, fire-hardened ceramic discs with matching holes to control water flow. This type of faucet is expensive to buy and install, but its high performance usually pays for itself by avoiding repairs and extending the life of the fixture.