Not only does that nagging dripping sound have the potential to irritate you, but it also presents three significant problems: higher bills, wasted water and an increased risk of developing catastrophic leaks and water damage. Failing to fix a leaky faucet is like throwing money down the drain. Every extra unnecessary drop drives your water bills up higher and higher, with the potential to add anywhere from $20 to $200 or more to your annual bill. If the cost doesn’t give you pause, maybe the prospect of ending up with water damage or a major plumbing problem that costs thousands of dollars to repair in other areas of your home may motivate you to take action to perform a DIY faucet replacement or hire a plumber.
Causes of Leaky Faucets
Unfortunately, faucets don’t stay in working order forever. These mechanical devices are made of many different parts, all of which can become worn out after years of usage. Age, use and deterioration are among the chief causes of leaks. Some causes require a simple fix, while others pose a more complicated problem. Whether your leaking faucet is in the bathroom, kitchen, laundry room or outside, common causes of faucet leaks include:
- Washer Woes: Every time you use your faucet, the washer inside is pressed against the valve seat. Over time, the friction from turning the faucet on and off causes wear on the washer, which inevitably leads to a nagging drip. A washer that’s not sized correctly or installed the right way can also leave your faucet leaking. Replacing it should fix the problem.
- Worn Seals: Sediment accumulates over time inside your faucet, and it can cause wear on the outlet and inlet seals. Regularly cleaning sediment from the inlet and outlet seals can help maintain your faucet. These seals are relatively easy and inexpensive to replace if they’re past the point when a normal cleaning can help.
- O-ring, Oh No: Like washers and seals, O-rings don’t last forever. These small O-shaped discs hold your faucet handle in place and withstand regular friction with repeated faucet use. Over time, the O-ring can wear out or loosen, which causes the faucet to leak near the handle. Replacing it almost always offers a simple fix.
- Loose Parts: Packing nuts and adjusting rings in the stem screw of the faucet are other common components that can cause a faucet to leak from the handle area. Tightening or replacing the packing nut typically fixes this issue.
- Corrosion of the Valve Seat: The valve seat of a faucet connects the faucet to the spout using a compression mechanism. As time passes, water sediment accumulates in this area and corrodes the valve seat, which causes the faucet to leak from the spout. Regular cleaning extends its life.
In rare instances, broken fittings or pipes can cause a leaky faucet by affecting your sink’s water pressure. If you’ve checked all of the other areas and still have a leak, it’s a smart idea to hire a plumber to inspect the pipes. Take a look at some of the common repairs associated with the sinks in different rooms of your home to better anticipate the type of faucet repairs that may be necessary.
Importance of Fixing Leaky Faucets
Without getting to the bottom of the leak’s cause, you run the risk of having an all-out blowout or overflow, which can leave entire rooms soaking wet. That water wreaks havoc on woodwork and floors while leaving surfaces vulnerable to bacteria, mold and mildew growth. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that average household leaks waste upwards of one trillion gallons of water every year in the United States. Water is a precious resource that’s necessary to sustain life for humans and animals, so flushing 10,000 gallons of water away for the sake of leaving a leak alone is not the most environmentally responsible choice you can make.
Bathroom sink faucets come in a variety of styles, from ball-type faucets to compression faucets, which commonly leak because they need new seat washers or O-rings. To fix these faucets, remove the decorative cap, unscrew the handle and unscrew the packing nut. Remove the old seat washer and replace it with a new one. Remove the stem from the packing nut and install a new O-ring before putting the faucet back together.
Many kitchen sinks use ball-type faucets, which contain a number of parts. This makes it difficult to identify where the leak is coming from, so you might be better off buying a replacement kit and installing all new parts. If you decide to fix the leak rather than replace the faucet, follow these basic steps:
- Remove the handle set screw
- Lift off the handle
- Remove the cap and collar
- Loosen the faucet cam and remove the cam washer and rotating ball
- Use needle-nose pliers to remove the springs and inlet seals
- Cut off the O-rings
- Apply plumber’s grease to new O-rings and install them before installing the new springs, valve seats and cam washers
Laundry Room Faucets
Laundry room sinks typically feature simple utility faucets, which commonly leak from the spout or handle areas. Because both repairs require you to take the faucet apart, it makes sense to replace the valve stem O-ring and the faucet washer at the same time. Start by removing the handle. Unscrew the valve by turning it to the left with a wrench. Pull the valve out and remove the screw that secures the valve and washer. Install a new washer and O-ring, replace the screw and reassemble the faucet.
Do You Need to Replace the Faucet?
If you’ve checked all the usual offenders listed above and you still have a leaky faucet, you might be better off installing a new faucet instead of pursuing professional repairs. This is particularly true if you’re working with an older faucet. These fixtures often don’t last much longer than 10 years. Buying a new faucet also has the added benefit of giving your sink an updated look. When you’re shopping for a replacement, measure the existing one and not how many holes are in the sink for the faucet (one, two or three). Also note whether the holes are widespread or centerset so that you choose a faucet that best fits your sink. Other situations in which replacing the faucet might be the most time- and cost-effective option include:
- The leaking faucet was inexpensive and/or it has non-standard parts that are difficult to find
- The faucet leaks from multiple areas, such as the handle and the spout
- The part you need is only carried in one store, and that store is already closed
- The location of the faucet is a cramped area, and once you put in the amount of work necessary to clean it, you might as well just replace it
- The existing faucet has extensive corrosion
If you are looking for an Algonquin Plumber or plumber in the surrounding area, call Euro Plumbing & Sewer today at (224) 678-9966. With our “On Time Guarantee” we will provide the highest quality service on your schedule! We offer emergency 24/7 service to The Greater Chicago area.