There is nothing more annoying than the “drip, drip, drip” of a leaky faucet in the middle of the night.
Nowadays more and more people are attempting to repair their own leaky faucets and other such household problems. Though nothing beats the assistance and advice of a professional plumber, what follows is some basic information about repairing a leaky compression style faucet.
Types of Faucets
There are two main types of faucets on the market today, compression and non-compression. The main difference between the two types is that a compression faucet has separate controls for the hot and cold water whereas a non-compression faucet does not. The non-compression faucet has one handle that generally pivots to the left for hot water dispensing and to the right for cold water dispensing.
Compression faucet handles tend to rotate on a threaded stem. The handle also contains a washer that works in combination with a valve seat to control the flow of water.
On the other hand, the non-compression faucet handle rotates on a cartridge or ball system that controls the flow of water. Compression faucets, due to the nature of their parts, tend to break down more often than a single handled non-compression faucet.
As such this article will attempt to explain how to perform a basic repair on a compression style faucet.
It is important to note that this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional advice. No warranties or guarantees of a successful repair are expressed or implied.
To repair a leaky compression style faucet you will need to assemble together an adjustable wrench, flashlight, screwdrivers (flat and Phillips head), valve seat dressing tool, faucet washer, O-ring, rag, steel wool and plumber’s tape or packing string.
To assure that the proper faucet fixtures are purchased, be sure to take the model numbers from the fixtures to the hardware store for comparison.
Step One: Pay Attention to the Parts
Before beginning a plumbing repair it is important for those not well versed in home repair to make careful note of the order in which the faucet is assembled and disassembled. Doing so makes re-assembly go more smoothly.
It is also imperative that the repair person turn off the water supply at the intake valve before attempting any dis-assembly of the faucet.
Disassemble the faucet by first removing the screw on the top of the faucet handle. If the screw is not readily seen it may be hidden under a decorative cap. If that is the case, carefully remove the decorative cap using a small screwdriver as leverage and then remove the screw.
Once the screw is removed take the adjustable wrench and proceed to remove the packing nut. Most packing nuts are removed by turning the wrench counterclockwise. Be sure to use caution as to not scratch the fixture with the wrench.
With the packing nut removed, unscrew the stem with your hand. The stem should loosen fairly easy if turned in a counterclockwise motion.
Next inspect the rubber washer for damage. A good washer will display no signs of cracks, frays, pits or grooves. If the washer appears to be in satisfactory condition move on to inspect the valve seat. To do this take the flashlight and shine it down into the faucet body. A good valve seat should show no signs of grooves or pits.
The results of the inspection will determine whether the faucet needs a new washer, new valve seat, O-ring or packing. Normal wear and tear of those items is usually the cause of most minor leaks. The following steps suggest how to repair those items. Depending on the faucet’s problems either one, two or all three steps will need to be completed to stop the leak.
Step Two: Replacing the Washer
If a damaged washer is the cause behind the leaky faucet a new washer and a piece of steel wool will be needed to complete the repair.
Begin by turning the screw counterclockwise. This will free up the damaged washer. Once the damaged washer is removed, lightly rub the washer seat and stem with steel wool and then wipe off any residual materials.
Next, place the new washer where the old one once was. Note that the new washer must be the exact same size of the old washer in order for it to work properly.
After the new washer is securely in place reassemble the faucet. This should correct the problem unless there are also issues with the o-ring, valve seat and packing as well.
Step Three: Replacing the O-Ring
If a damaged O-ring is the problem you will need a screwdriver and a new O-ring that is exactly the same size as the old O-ring.
Remove the old O-ring by pinching it first and then sliding a screwdriver under the O-ring. Once the screwdriver is in place, use it to gently pry off the old O-ring.
Next take the new O-ring and roll it onto one end of the stem. Once the O-ring is properly in place reassemble the faucet. This should correct the problem unless there are also issues with the valve seat and packing.
Step Four: Dressing a Valve Seat
If the valve seat is in need of repair you will need a valve seat dressing tool with retaining nut. The valve seat dressing tool is designed to rub out any imperfections in the valve seat.
Begin by inserting the valve seat into the faucet’s housing and lower the retaining nut to ensure that the dressing tool remains straight up.
Next, turn the handle of the dressing tool in a clockwise motion while applying light downward pressure. Turn the tool slowly and meticulously so that you do not in essence “strip” the valve seat completely.
Once a few turns of the dressing tool have been completed, remove the tool and inspect the valve seat again.
If the valve seat appears to be smooth, reassemble the faucet. If it does not yet appear to be smooth, repeat the above actions with the dressing tool until the valve seat is once again smooth.
Step Five: Changing the Packing
If the faucet’s packing needs to be replaced a screwdriver and some new packing string, also known as plumber’s tape, will be needed for the repair.
Begin by removing the packing nut from the faucet’s stem. Doing so will expose the faucet’s packing washer. Remove the packing washer from the packing nut by using the screwdriver. Be careful not to damage the packing washer while doing it.
Next, remove the old plumber’s tape from the stem and apply new tape. Proceed by reassembling the faucet making sure to properly tighten the packing nut.
The compression of the packing nut against the packing tape is what helps form the seal that prevents leaks. Thus failing to tighten the nut properly could cause the faucet to continue to leak.
Once again, the previously given information is meant to serve as general information only and is not meant to take the place of a licensed plumber. Those do-it-yourself repair people who have questions about completing a leaky faucet repair or other plumbing problems should seek out the advice and assistance of a professional. No warranties or repair success are guaranteed herein. Those attempting to complete this or any other home repair without professional assistance will be doing so at their own risk.