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Causes of a Dripping or Leaking Faucet (And How to Fix Them)

Whether you’re hearing drops of water falling and hitting a sink, or noticing water ooze out from the base of the spout, you shouldn’t ignore a dripping or leaking faucet. And, the good news is, sometimes you can fix the problem yourself.

In this article, we’ll review a few common causes of dripping and leaky. We’ll also walk you through some basic ways to find the problem and handle it without calling anyone — and let you know when to call in a pro.

But, no matter what the cause, or whether you can handle it on your own, the sooner you address it, the better.

Each drip may be a tiny amount of water. But, they all add up quickly. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, one faucet losing one drop every 20 seconds — five a minute — wastes around a liter of water every day, and 173 gallons a year.

Add in more than one in your house, and it’s a lot of water to waste. So, we’ll help you get to the bottom of things quickly.

Four Reasons Your Faucet May Be Dripping

Four possible causes for dripping faucets are:

  1. Aerator is Damaged or Unseated
  2. Valve Seat is Corroded
  3. O Ring is Loose or Worn Out
  4. Part of the Assembly is Loose

Let’s explore what these parts are, and how they can cause problems.

Aerator is Damaged or Unseated

Faucet filter can cause a leak if it's damaged or unseatedIf you unscrew the end of your faucet, you’ll find the aerator. It’s the little stem piece with a screen on it that shuts off the water circulation.

If it’s damaged, or if it’s not sitting right, it will allow water to pass through.

Valve Seat is Corroded

Next is the valve seat, which is connected to the washer. If the washer wasn’t in place correctly, then it could have ground against the seat. Over time, this damages the valve seat.

The problem could also be corrosion: Over time, the part has worn out, and it’s now allowing water to pass through.

O Ring is Loose or Worn Out

Since the o ring is only a small rubber gasket, it’s a common reason why the faucet is dripping. You’ll find it at the base of the faucet, and it’s there to keep water from coming out where it’s not supposed to.

However, it’s common for the o ring to wear out over time. When it does, you’ll notice a drip.

Part of the Assembly is Loose

So far, we’ve looked at a few small, specific parts. But, the problem could be anywhere in the assembly if something’s out of place.

Even if a part isn’t damaged, over time, it may have become loose or dislodged. It could be the parts we mentioned, or the aerator at the tip of the faucet, the stem itself,

Can I Fix a Leaky Faucet Myself?

Depending on the problem, and how handy you are, there’s a chance you can fix a leaky faucet without calling a professional. But, you do run the risk of making the problem worse.

If it’s a small drip, you can certainly try a few troubleshooting tactics. We’ll walk you through them in a moment.

But, no matter what, your first step should be shutting off the water coming into the faucet. You should find a shutoff valve under the sink on the pipes leading to it. Turn each one clockwise until they close tightly.

Next, make sure you have the right tools for whatever you’re attempting. It’s tempting to make do with what you have. But, you need the right ones for a reason: You’re often dealing with small parts that can break if you handle them carelessly.

If you’re feeling confident, here are some places to start.

Items Near the Tip of the Faucet

A few of the parts we mentioned — particularly the valve seat and washer — are located at the tip of the faucet where the water comes out. They’re easy to access, making it a good place to start.

Remove the Aerator

For this, you usually only need a regular pair of fliers. However, if you have a pair of rubber pliers, these are ideal because they grip the faucet better and won’t scrape or damage anything.

If not, wrap a cloth around the aerator – the round piece at the tip. Hold the entire fixture steady and gently unscrew the part.

Let the water run for a moment to wash out any sediment. And, take care when you’re reinstalling it. If the problem came from this part being loose or dislodged, you’d solve the problem.

Inspect the Washer and Valve Stem

Next, visually inspect the washer and valve stem. You won’t see anything if the problem was something misaligned. But, again, reinstalling everything carefully and properly will take care of things.

Check for damage, especially on the stem. If you see anything scraped, bent, or otherwise broken, you’ve likely found the problem.

However, we don’t recommend dismantling anything if you don’t know what you’re doing. At this point, it’s very easy to make the problem worse — or creating a new one — if something breaks or if you can’t fit things in properly again.

Check the O Ring

To check the o ring, you’ll need to take off the spout at the base. It’s easiest on kitchen sinks with long spouts, versus the smaller, bulkier base on most bathroom sinks.

Either way, this can be tricky, so do it carefully and don’t force anything. If it’s not coming right off, you’re much better off calling in a pro than possibly breaking something.

For a kitchen sink, there’s usually a nut or coupling assembly at the base of the spout. These often slide off easily without using any tools.

Once you’ve disassembled those parts, gently but forcefully twist off the spout.

Then, you can see the o rings. There should be two of the rubber gaskets on the base. If they look worn or damaged, replace them, and see if that solves the problem.

When Should I Call a Professional?

If your faucet is leaking, call a professional if you don’t have the tools or know-how to find the problem. Yes, it’s really that simple.

Part of the reason is, as we said, you don’t want to cause more damage or another problem. The other is that you don’t want to keep flushing money down the drain.

Here in Marmora, Ocean City, Avalon, or any of the towns in Cape May or Atlantic Counties, you can count on Broadley’s to fix any leak or plumbing quickly and efficiently. Call or email us today to set an appointment.