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How To Fix a Leaky Faucet Handle: A Step-by-Step Guide

A leaky faucet handle drips water into a sink.

The drip of a leaky faucet is just one of the many leaks that can develop in your home or business. If your bathroom or kitchen has a leaky faucet handle, don’t ignore it! Just one drip per second wastes over 3,000 gallons of water per year. That means you’re paying for an additional 3,000 gallons of water a year that you never use.

Spotting a water leak can be annoying, but before you attempt to fix a leaky bathroom or kitchen faucet, turn off the water by twisting the water shut-off valve mounted below the sink. After twisting the shut-off value, test the faucet to ensure the water is not still flowing. Then, plug the drain with a stopper or rag to prevent small parts from falling down the drain. Now you’re ready to begin taking care of that leaky faucet.

If you’re not comfortable with DIY projects (even relatively small ones) or you lack the tools needed to do the job, contact a professional to handle it. If the leak has resulted in water damage, request an appointment online or call (855) 724-6269 to begin repairs and recovery.

 A graphic lists the five steps for how to fix a leaky faucet handle.

1. Turn Off the Water Supply

Before beginning any repair work on your faucet, it's essential to turn off the water supply to prevent any accidental water flow or spillage that could result in water damage. This step ensures a safe and dry work environment. To do so, simply locate the water supply valve under the sink and turn it off. Once that valve has been shut off, open the faucet to confirm water is not flowing.

Pro tip: Be sure to have tools and materials on hand, like an adjustable wrench, screwdriver, replacement parts (washer or O-ring), a towel, and protective gloves for safety.

2. Remove the Faucet Handle

The next step in addressing the leak is to remove the faucet handle. This will give you access to the internal parts where the leak could be originating. Do the following:

  1. Pry off the decorative cap on the faucet handle to expose the screw.
  2. Use a screwdriver to remove the screw.
  3. Gently lift off the handle, use a handle puller, or tap gently if it's stuck.

3. Find the Source of the Leak

Once the handle is removed, you can inspect the internal components to find the source of the leak. Common culprits include worn-out washers or O-rings.

  1. Inspect the O-ring, washer, and other components inside for wear or damage.
  2. Identify signs of wear, such as cracking or misshaping.

4. Replace the Worn or Broken Part

After identifying the faulty part, replacing it is usually straightforward. A trip to the hardware store might be necessary to find an exact match for the replacement.

Obtain a replacement for the faulty part from a hardware store. Install the new part, ensuring correct alignment and seating.

5. Reassemble the Faucet

With the new part installed, the final step is to reassemble the faucet. This is critical to ensure everything is put back together correctly to avoid further issues.

  1. Place the handle back on the stem and secure it with the screw.
  2. Replace the decorative cap if applicable.
  3. Turn the water supply back on and check for leaks.
  4. Repeat the process or consult a professional if the leak persists. 

An illustration of the four types of faucets, including compression, cartridge, ball, and ceramic disk faucets.

Types of Faucets

While the above steps cover most faucets, different types of faucets require specific approaches and parts. Find the various types of faucets below and how to handle repairs based on their specifications.

Leaky Compression Faucets

All compression faucets have two handles. Here’s general guidance on how to fix a leaky bathroom sink faucet with a double handle.

To disassemble the faucet:

  1. First, remove any decorative caps and unscrew the handles.
  2. Then, remove the now-exposed nut with a wrench and remove the stem.
  3. Lift out the seat washer and replace it with one coated in plumber’s grease.
  4. Replace the O-ring as well.
  5. Reassemble the handles, and the leak should be fixed.

Leaky Ball Faucets

Ball faucets are usually found in kitchen sinks. They have one handle with a ball at the base that rotates around. Here’s how to fix a leak:

  1. To disassemble the faucet, first remove the decorative cover and unscrew the handle.
  2. Then, remove the cap, cam, and seal with pliers.
  3. Remove the inlet seals and springs within the mechanism with needle-nose pliers.
  4. Install new O-rings, springs, valve seats, and cam washers from a ball faucet repair kit. Reassemble the handle, and the leak should be fixed.

Cartridge Faucets

Most cartridge faucets are one-handled. The water pressure adjusts by pulling the handle up and down, while the temperature adjusts from left to right. Here’s how to fix a leaky cartridge faucet:

  1. To disassemble the faucet, first unscrew the handle.
  2. If you see a retaining clip holding the cartridge in place, remove it with pliers.
  3. Remove the faucet spout and the O-rings underneath.
  4. Install new O-rings coated with plumber’s grease. Reassemble the handle, and the leak should be fixed.

Ceramic Disk Faucets

You can tell a disk faucet from a ball faucet once you disassemble it. If you find two disks inside the mechanism instead of a ball, you have a disk faucet. Here’s how to perform a leak repair:

  1. To disassemble the faucet, first remove the escutcheon cap.
  2. Unscrew the faucet handle and disk cylinder to expose several neoprene seals.
  3. Pry out the seals, and if they’re worth saving, soak them in white vinegar.
  4. If the seals are worn out, replace them.
  5. Reassemble the handle, and the leak should be fixed. When you turn on the water for the first time, do so slowly to prevent cracking the ceramic disk.

Single-Handle Faucets

Single-handle faucets use various mechanisms like balls, cartridges, or disks. Here’s how to fix them if they’re leaking:

Turn off the water supply.

  1. Remove the handle to expose the inner parts. This usually involves unscrewing a set screw and lifting off the handle.
  2. Access the mechanism:
    • For a ball type, remove the cap and collar to access the ball assembly.
    • For a cartridge type, pull out the retaining clip and remove the cartridge.
    • For a disk type, unscrew and remove the disk cylinder.
  3. Check the O-rings, seals, and other components for wear or damage.
  4. Replace any faulty parts, such as the entire ball assembly, cartridge, or ceramic disks.
  5. Reassemble the faucet, turn on the water supply, and test for leaks.

Double-Handle Faucets (Non-Compression)

To fix a double-handle faucet leak, do the following:

  1. Turn off the water supply.
  2. Remove each handle. This may involve unscrewing a set screw or removing a decorative cap and then unscrewing.
  3. Access the mechanism:
    • For compression faucets, remove the valve stem to access the washer.
    • For a cartridge or disk type, remove the retaining nut or clip to access the cartridge or disk.
  4. In cartridge or disk faucets, replace the cartridge or clean and inspect the ceramic disks.
  5. Put the handles back, turn on the water supply, and test each handle for leaks.

Clickable graphic directing to Rainbow Restoration's blog Classes and Categories of Water Damage (+6 Water Damage Tips).

Common Causes of Leaky Faucet Handles

Leaky faucet handles are a frequent and bothersome issue in many households and can lead to a flooded home if left unaddressed. Here are some common reasons for leaky faucets.

Common reasons for leaks:

  • Worn-out washers
  • Damaged O-rings
  • Faulty seals
  • Loose parts
  • Water pressure variations
  • Age of faucets

Tips To Prevent Faucet Leaks

Maintaining a leak-free faucet is essential for both water conservation and the longevity of your plumbing fixtures. By adopting a proactive approach, property owners  can prevent many common issues that lead to faucet leaks. Following the tips below can help you keep your faucet leak-free.

Inspect Regularly

Property owners should ideally inspect their faucets every three to six months. These regular check-ups can help spot early signs of wear and tear or corrosion. Pay attention to any drips, unusual noises, or corrosion. Check both the faucet and under the sink for signs of leaking.

Consider Regular Cleaning and Care

Regularly clean your faucets with a gentle cleaner and soft cloth to avoid mineral and grime buildup. Harsh chemicals can damage the finish and components of the faucet. Use mild soap and water or vinegar for tougher deposits. Periodically remove and clean the aerator to prevent clogging and ensure steady water flow.

Address Minor Issues

Occasionally, leaks are simply due to loose components. Tightening any loose nuts or screws can often fix a leak. Small parts like washers and O-rings wear out over time, and replacing them as soon as you notice wear can prevent bigger leaks.

Manage Water Pressure

High water pressure can strain your plumbing. Ideally your water pressure should be between 40 and 60 psi. If your water pressure is consistently high, consider installing a pressure regulator to protect your plumbing system. Sudden changes in water temperature can also stress your plumbing. Moderate and steady temperature settings are preferable.

Know Who To Call To Fix a Leaky Faucet

Sometimes, it’s best to let a professional fix your leaky faucet handle.

Whatever you do, don’t let a small leak become a big leak, or you could face extensive water damage. If you need help recovering from a water-damaged property, Rainbow Restoration® is here for you.

We hope your efforts to fix a leaky faucet go smoothly, but if you need our services, please contact us today.

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and may not be applicable to every situation. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property. Services should be performed by licensed and experienced professionals. Rainbow Restoration is not responsible for any damages that occur as a result of this blog content or your actions. For the most accurate guidance, contact a Rainbow Restoration professional for a custom, on-site assessment.

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