How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

Save water and decrease your water bill with this simple DIY fix

If the sound of a dripping faucet, and the thought of how much water you’re wasting, keeps you up at night, you’re in luck. Fixing a leaky faucet is a quick, inexpensive fix that even the most amateur DIYer can tackle.

Note: This guide will help you fix ball-type faucets, which is the most common type of faucet. Ball-type faucets have a knob directly above the spout that controls water flow and temperature depending upon the direction it’s twisted.

Sinks with two knobs or levers – one each for hot and cold – are compression faucets. Learn how to fix leaky compression faucets in this guide.

If your faucet has a lever on top of the spout that uses an up/down motion to regulate water flow and left/right motion to control temperature, you’re working with a cartridge sink faucet. Check out this guide for repair information for cartridge sink faucets.

Tools & Materials

Tools and Materials needed: 
  

Tools and Materials needed

Fix a Leaky Faucet

Shut off water
  • Twist the valve under your sink to turn off the water supply valve or valves. If there aren’t individual shutoff valves under the sink, shut off the water supply for the house.
  • Turn on the faucet and leave open, allowing the remaining water in the line to empty into the sink.


Tip: Insert a sink stopper or cover the sink opening with a towel to prevent any tools from falling down the drain as you make your repairs.

Remove the set screw and handle
  • Take off the screw cover using a screwdriver or Allen wrench. 
  • The screw cover is usually decorative and indicates which side is hot or cold.  
  • Once the cover is removed, you should be able to reach the set screw.  
  • Remove the set screw using a screwdriver of hex wrench. 
  • This will loosen the handle.  
  • Pull the handle free.


Tip: Insert a sink stopper or cover the sink opening with a towel to prevent any tools from falling down the drain as you make your repairs.

Check the Adjusting Ring
  • If the adjusting ring looks loose, tighten with needle-nose pliers and test your faucet again. 
  • If this quick fix doesn’t help, or if the adjusting ring was already tight, you’ll have to continue to replacing the seats and springs.
Remove the Handle Cap and Packing Nut

Wrap a cloth around the dome-shaped housing to protect the finish and use tongue-and-groove pliers to loosen and remove. Take care not to apply too much pressure and damage the housing.


Tip: If the dome is still stuck after trying to loosen with pliers, soak the cloth covering the finish in vinegar and allow it to soak into the dome for a few minutes before trying again. The vinegar helps to break down any deposits that may have built up over time.

Remove the Cartridge or Existing Packing
  • Pull out the round metal stem, which will reveal a rubber and plastic insert (called the “cam”) and the ball assembly.   
  • Make careful note of the position of the holes on the ball when you remove it, as you’ll want to return it to this exact position when reassembling the faucet.  
  • Inspect the cam and packing – if your faucet is leaking from under the handle, replace these parts.


Tip: The exact replacement parts you need should be indicated with the original packaging for your faucet. If you no longer have the packaging, simply bring the cam and packaging into your local Home Depot store and an associate will help you match your faulty part with the correct replacement.

Pat Dry and Replace the Seat and Springs
  • After you’ve removed the ball, cam and packing, you’ll see small circles inside your faucet’s valve known as the “seat and springs.” The seats are the circles themselves, and the springs are hidden under the seats.  
  • Use an Allen wrench or flat head screwdriver to pry out both sets of seats and springs, and replace.


Tip: Again, the exact replacement parts you need should be indicated with the original packaging for your faucet. If you no longer have the packaging, simply bring the seat and springs into your local Home Depot store and an associate will help you match your faulty part with the correct replacement.

Install the New Cartridge
  • Replace the ball assembly in its original position, then place the cam and packing over the ball. 
  • Slide the tab on the side of the cam into the slot of the faucet body. 
  • Inspect the O-ring for damage and replace if necessary. Replace the O-ring on top of the cam.
Reattach the Packing Nut and Handle Cap
  • Reattach the metal dome cover the faucet parts and hand-tighten. 
  • Do not use pliers to reattach, as hand-tightening should make the parts snug enough.  
  • Replace the adjusting ring and tighten with needle-nose pliers until the ball feels snug in the faucet when you move the rod back and forth.  
  • Attach the handle. 
  • Turn your water line back on, remove any debris or towels from your sink, and test out your faucet. 
  • Run both hot and cold water through your faucet few for a few minutes to ensure your aerator isn’t clogged.  
  • If you find that your faucet is still leaking, it may be time to call an expert. Speak to an associate at your local Home Depot or call your local plumber.


Tip: The aerator is the piece that screws onto the end of the faucet spout. It can be easily removed and cleaned if buildup is hindering continuous water flow.

Next Steps


Now that you know how to fix a leaky faucet, let's tackle some projects: