How to Fix the Different Types of Faucets

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In some places, the sound of dripping water is a form of torture, and that translates to sleepless nights at home when the faucets begin to leak. Leaky faucets not only cause a loss of sleep, they also cause a loss of income as the dollars go down the same drain as the water.

Leaky faucets are not a difficult problem to solve for amateur do-it-yourselfers if they have a little know-how and follow some simple steps. Faucets may have numerous parts, but their mechanisms are fairly simple.


Before attempting any repairs to a sink, there are a few precautions that should be followed to make sure everything goes smoothly. First, shut off the water to the sink by turning the valve under the sink. Cover the sink drain as the parts for the faucet are small and can fall down the drain.

Any tools used to grab the sink parts, like a wrench, should be wrapped in duct tape to make sure they don't scratch the faucet. A chrome faucet or even more exotic metal can be ruined with a slip of a wrench. Create a space to place all parts after removal, this keeps parts from getting lost or knocked over during repairs.

Determine the Faucet Type

There are four types of faucets on the market: compression, cartridge, ceramic disk and ball. Compression faucets use rubber washers as seals for the water, and make up the bulk of the faucets on the market.

Ball faucets have a single handle and a rotating ball that controls the amount of hot and cold water that comes through the faucet. A cartridge faucet uses a small plastic cartridge to control the water. A ceramic disk faucet has a similar look to a cartridge faucet, but uses a ceramic cylinder and seals.

Compression Faucet

If the bathroom has a compression faucet and it is leaking, then the problem is with the O-ring washers. Remove the decorative handle cover, and remove the screw that connects the handle. Remove the handle and unscrew the packing nut to get to the main stem. After removing the stem, take out the washer and replace it with a new one.

The new washer must be covered in plumber's grease to insure a proper seal. Replace the washer and reassemble the compression faucet.

Ball Faucet

The ball faucet has several small parts that must fit together perfectly to create a proper seal. Rather than dealing with the individual parts, it is more efficient to simply replace it with a new replacement kit. The kit doesn't replace the outer faucet, just the inner parts.

Remove the handle screw and take off the handle. Pliers are best used to take out the cap and collar, but the next step is tricky. The replacement kit should include a special tool designed specifically for the main faucet cam. The cam has the washer and rotating ball. Needle nose pliers are best for taking out the other seals and springs under the ball. The final step is to remove the O-rings.

Replace the parts in the reverse order, making sure to cover the O-rings in plumber's grease.

Cartridge Faucet

A Cartridge faucet has a cap on the handle that needs to be pried off, which allows the handle to be removed. The cartridge is the leak problem, and can simply be pulled out of the handle. Due to the cartridge length of various models being different, when going to the hardware store for a replacement, either take the model number of the faucet or the actual cartridge and match up the length. Pop in the new cartridge and replace the parts in the reverse order of taking them out.

Ceramic Disk Faucets

Push back the handle to show the main screw. Remove the screw and take out the handle and cap. There is a ceramic cylinder with three mounting screws. Remove the screws and take out the cylinder. There are three seals under the cylinder that should be removed. Clean the cylinder with distilled vinegar and a scouring pad to remove any deposits.

Put in new seals and replace all the parts in reverse order. The ceramic cylinder is fragile, so slowly turn the water back on to prevent a sudden rush of water from damaging the cylinder.

Finishing Touches

With everything secure on the faucet, turn the water back on, and make sure water is flowing as it should be and the leak is fixed.

Last Updated: January 28, 2012
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About Brock Cooper Brock Cooper is a freelance writer for 

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