August 10, 2022

HGTV's Home Inspector Joe: Common Causes of a Leaky Faucet

When to Fix the Problem Yourself, When to Hire a Professional, and When to Get a New Faucet

Uh oh. Your faucet has been leaking for the last week, and the steady “drip...drip...drip” has slowly but surely invaded your sanity. What was once a slight annoyance is now an unbearable problem. Don’t worry; I got your back.

I’m Joe Mazza, of HGTV’s Home Inspector Joe, and I’ve partnered with Gerber® to help you figure out why your faucet might be leaking, and what to do to fix it.

What type of faucet do I have?

First, you need to figure out what type of faucet you currently have. Be sure to keep in mind that not every faucet is built the same. Older faucets might use ball valves, compression cartridges or washerless cartridges with seats and springs, and newer faucets might use ceramic disc cartridges or washerless cartridges that no longer use seats and springs. Be sure to identify the faucet model and manufacturer, as this will help when finding the correct replacement parts and potential warranty coverage.

Why is my faucet leaking?

The location of the drip is indicative of the issue. For example, dripping from the spout of the faucet is often an issue of either the cartridge or washers/valve seats, while a drip from the handle is usually related to o-rings.

A Faulty or Damaged Cartridge: Cartridges are valves connected to faucet handles that control water flow to the spout. If you need to replace your cartridge, you can find spare parts on the support page on most company websites, or by contacting the manufacturers’ customer support.

Seats and springs used with washerless cartridges and ball valves can wear over time. Located under the washerless cartridge or ball valve, they use a rotation seal to control the flow of water. Replacing old seats and springs with new ones usually resolves a drip at the spout.

Worn or Damaged Washers: Washers open and close as you turn the water on and off, compressing against the valve seat, which causes friction and wears the washer down. The valve seat is located at the base of the valve body and functions to control the water on and off.

Sediment on the Valve Seat: Another cause of spout leaks is a deteriorated valve seat. Sediment can build up, corroding the seat and causing leaks.

The O-Ring: There are o-rings and gaskets within the faucet structure at various points, including faucet cartridges. Over time, these parts can wear, or have sediment build up that can impact their ability to form a tight seal. Inspecting, cleaning, and potentially replacing gaskets and o-rings may solve your problem if your leak is from the body or the handle area of the faucet.

How do I fix my leaky faucet?

If you are able to take your faucet apart by turning off your water supply, and removing the handles and valve stem, you’re doing great! Inspect your faucet for signs of wear and tear, and replace any damaged parts. To know exactly what you need, you can start by checking out the product’s diagram, also known as a specification sheet or “spec sheet.” When you are ready to get the parts, you could either take the used ones to your local hardware store and ask for assistance, or talk through it with a technical support expert from the faucet manufacturer. For example, replacing the washer is cost-effective and relatively simple, if you feel confident doing so.

Of course, this all depends on your comfort level. If it’s your first rodeo, utilize all tools available to you. Watch a YouTube video, phone a friend, or find a how-to article. If you still don’t feel comfortable approaching the issue yourself, call a plumber.

When should I hire a plumber to fix my leaky faucet?

If you can’t find any visible signs of worn parts or simply don’t feel confident to address the problem by yourself, call in some professional help! Not only will a plumber likely be able to do the job faster and have spare parts readily available, but you’ll probably learn a thing or two for next time.

When should I replace my Faucet?

You can get a new faucet for a few reasons. If neither you nor your plumber is able to fix the leak or you find yourself fixing your faucet multiple times, it’s probably time to start shopping for a new faucet. Not only are leaks irritating, but constant leakiness wastes water and can lead to mold growth if the leak is severe enough to impact your cabinetry or surrounding surfaces. The lifespan of a faucet varies depending on the quality of the faucet and factors such as what type of water you have, how frequently it is used, and how well it has been maintained.

Or, maybe that leak was simply the wakeup call for a mini home renovation or an upgrade! Many older faucets use a higher water consumption, so looking at a new faucet can help save water and reduce your utility bills. If you are ready to change up the look in your kitchen or bathroom, check out Gerber’s full selection of faucets here for equal parts great quality, value, and style.