How to fix your dripping faucet

How to fix your dripping faucet

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  1. So you think you can fix that annoying drip all by yourself?

    Let me tell you, Plumbing repair is not for the faint of heart, it is not as simple as it appears.

    For starters, be aware of these rules:


      Never attempt a repair when your local hardware store is not open. You WILL need other parts.

    Rule #2

      If you touch it, it will break. (see Rule #1)

    Rule #3

      A leaking pipe cannot be fixed as easily as you think.(remember: BP)

    Rule #4

      No, there is no "standard" size, shape or thread type in plumbing parts.

    Rule #5

      If you live in a rental, call a plumber.

    Rule #6

      If you own your own home, call a plumber.

    Okay, Ready?

    Consider this all too common scenario.

    For months you have been finessing your kitchen faucet lever handle into that sweet spot where the stream of water stops and with some work, there is no residual drip.

    Well, now, the sweet spot is harder and harder to find and rather spend an inordinate amount of time in front of your sink pleading, you get on with your life and let it drip.

    A slow drip at first, but eventually, an insistent (*drip*) incessant (*drip*)  reminder (*drip*) that you (*drip*) begin to (*drip*) not be able (*drip*) to ignore (*drip*) and (*drip*) something (*drip*) must be done(*drip*) right now(*drip*) (*drip*).

    So. you think, " How hard could it be?"

    First you must ask yourself:

    "Am I insane?’

    "Am I drunk?"

    " Did I skip my daily meds?"

    "Am I a glutton for punishment?"

    "Do I have the patience of Job?"

    "Do I have the next 12 to 48 hours open?"

    "Have I ever successfully repaired anything?"

    "Could I recognize a tool were it set in front of me?"

    If you answered YES! to any of these, you’re good to go.

    If you are sure and you really have your heart set on trying to do this plumbing project yourself, you must follow these instuctions and not waiver. Once you get the thing taken apart, if you decide then to call a plumber, be prepared for ridicule and an additional fee for trying to "help". Just like many car repair garages will tell you.

    But, ok, here we go.

    With any faucet dripping from the spout, whether it is a lavatory or a kitchen faucet, these first steps are the same.

    Carefully search the entire faucet surface for a brand name. Write it down. No brand visible? Take a picture of the faucet with your cell or digital camera. Drive to your local hardware store. Do NOT call. Go in person. For a hands-on job you must use a hands-on approach. (Do not call a big box store, they will put you on hold, call the local hardware store and ask them what to tell you. It’s true. I’ve been there.)

    So. Now you are in the plumbing aisle . Look at all those billions of shiny small metal objects! FOCUS!

    Find the old guy who looks like a retired plumber, he probably is.

    Or better, find the female sales clerk – she wouldn’t be there in plumbing if she wanted to sell tchochkes in Housewares. And the amount of grief she has to take from all the guys, she is probably the most patient and most knowledgeable, too. Let’s call her Zoe.

    Describe for Zoe the problem, the brand name and  show her the photo. Depending on the type and  brand of faucet, there will be different parts you will need to replace ( see Rule # 4).

    Armed with a small  packet of little pieces parts for your faucet repair, and Zoe’s department phone number, you cheerfully return home.


    Just to the faucet you will be working on – not the whole house.

    Unless you find something weird going on with the under- the- sink- plumbing. Let’s take a look , shall we? Remove all the rags and cleaning products, plungers, old sponges and that silver cleaner you’ve yet to use. 

    Under a single basin sink, here is what you might see: a pipe from the bottom of the sink leading to a curved piece that then connects to a straight pipe that disappears into the wall . This is the sink drain.

    Try not to bump it. (Rule # 2)

     Kitchen sinks may have a loop of (often white) plastic hose leading from underneath the faucet to the countertop. It is for the sprayer. Leave it alone.

    From under the faucet, you will see two hoses that extend down and connect to two little valves with oval handles on top.

    These are the shut-off valves to your faucet from the water piped through your house (one is hot, one is cold). The hoses are supply tubes. They may be copper tubing, flexible plastic or woven stainless.

     Observe the valves and their handles carefully. Do they look corroded? Are the connections to the hoses  looking solid or as if they are leaking slightly?( See Rule #2)

    Ask yourself, "What would Zoe do?"(WWZD)

    If you decide that touching these parts would require further plumbing repairs, and you know how to shut off the water to the whole house or just to the area where this sink is located, DO IT.

    Everybody still with us? If the shut-off valves look good and sturdy, turn each one to the right to stop the flow of water.

    Remember this rhyme: Lefty Loosie, Righty Tighty. It will serve you well MOST of the time. There are exceptions. This information to be supplied on a need-to-know- basis. (You really don’t want to need to know)

    WATER OFF? Try it. Ok. Good.

    Cover the drain so nothing can fall into it and disappear forever. (Or we can learn to remove the p-trap later…)

    Place a bowl next to where you are working to hold all the parts you may be removing. 

    Now is where we need to differentiate.

     For faucets with two handles, pop off the water indicator piece (H or C), unscrew the handle and remove it. The repair can include removing from each side, the "stem" a metal piece that has a black rubber washer on it. The rubber has probably just worn out.

    Remembering Rule #4, place all wet sink and faucet parts in a plastic bag, go see Zoe.

    For a single lever handle lav (bathroom) or kitchen faucet:

    Gently lift the lever up until you find the little round hole. This  usually needs a small allen wrench.(Rule# 4)  

    Unscrew this bolt that holds the handle on. Place in bowl. 

    Lift the handle off, upward motion.

    What do you see?

    If it is a Delta or Delex, you are home free.

    You will be looking at metal rod connected to a metal or plastic ball which you can get to by unthreading the metal piece holding it in.  Easy to replace, user friendly. Zoe will have sold you all the pieces you need in the Delta repair bag. Pull out the ball and find under it find the "seats and springs" obvious and easy to replace. 

    Put it all back the reverse of how you took it apart and VOILA!  You are DONE!

    Turn the water back on …GOOD JOB! Treat yourself to some chocolate and a nap. You deserve it!

    Hello, you other people. Sorry, I was getting carried away.

    If you see a cartridge looking thing, pull it out, put it in a plastic bag, bring it to Zoe.

    If it is in the handle portion, bring that (Always in a plastic bag) .

    If it is an obscure brand or ancient or just plain wonky,  


     Let Zoe show you new Delta or Delex faucets.

    And next time we will replace a FAUCET!!!!

    You can do it. I’ll help.

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