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Leaky Faucets: Why They Happen & What to Do About Them

Jul 26, 2010

Flooded Home

Leaky faucets aren’t just annoying—they can also cost you money. Running water always shows up on your bills, even when it’s just dripping down the drain. That’s why, when you have a leaky faucet, it’s important that you address the issue right away. First, it’s a good idea to understand why and how leaky faucets occur. This can help you prevent new leaks from occurring, as well as quickly stop minor leaks when they occur. If you’re dealing with an incessant drip in your bathroom sink or your kitchen faucet simply won’t turn off, knowing how to solve the problem can save you a ton of money.

What Causes Faucet Leaks?

The most common leaks in the average home occur in toilets, pipe joints, and faucets. When a bathroom or kitchen faucet starts leaking, the most likely culprit is a worn-out O-ring (or washer). An O-ring is a small disc-shaped mechanism, most commonly made of rubber and sometimes metal, that restricts the flow of water and seals the faucet when it’s turned off. Over time and with repeated use, O-rings can become cracked or damaged, resulting in a slow leak.

Replacing a worn-out O-ring is, thankfully, a relatively simple process. First, turn off the main water shut-off valve to stop the water flow throughout your home. Next, remove the decorative cap from your faucet, either by unscrewing it or simply pulling it off, depending on the design of your faucet. Then, remove the packing nut that keeps the valve in place. Do this by unscrewing the packing nut in a counterclockwise direction. Because O-rings come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, it’s a good idea to take your old, worn-out one to a hardware store in order to find a new one that matches its shape and size. Once purchased, fit the new O-ring into the faucet, reattach the packing nut and replace the decorative cap. If your faucet continues to leak after replacing the O-ring, it’s possible that the valve seat may have been damaged.

How to Fix a Damaged Valve Seat

When a worn-out O-ring is not replaced, it can sometimes lead to valve seat damage, thanks to the metal parts repeatedly grinding against one another. This can also lead to mineral deposits and other particles becoming trapped between the O-ring and the valve seat. Every time the faucet is turned on or off, these particles will grind inside the faucet, damaging the seal to such an extent that replacing the O-ring may not be enough to stop a leak.

If you replaced a worn-out O-ring but you’re still dealing with a leaky faucet, it’s likely that you have a damaged valve seat. You can typically find seat-grinding tools at local hardware stores that allow you to repair the valve seat. You’ll find simple, step-by-step instructions on how to reshape the damaged valve seat with the seat-grinding tool.

Fixing a Pipe Joint Leak

Sometimes, a leak can occur along a pipe joint. These are usually fairly easy to locate and relatively simple to fix. Most hardware stores sell pipe joint leak repair kits that come with pipe clamps. Pipe clamps, which consist of a neoprene sleeve and screw hinge, offer a great temporary fix (anywhere from 5 to 10 years, according to manufacturers) to a leaking pipe joint.

To fix a pipe joint leak with a standard repair kit, insert the rubber gasket provided in the kit between the leaking pipe and the clamp. Slowly tighten the screws until the pipe joint is no longer leaking.

You can also fix a leaky pipe joint with plumbers’ two-part epoxy putty applied around the leaking joint. This method, though more affordable, is much less effective than repair with a standard pipe joint leak repair kit. Additionally, the putty will likely not adhere properly if the pipe is rusty.

More than a Drippy Faucet: When to Call a Plumber

If your bathroom or kitchen faucet is leaking, or you have signs of a more serious water leak, it might be time to call a professional plumber in San Diego who can help you correctly diagnose the problem and make the required repairs. If you’ve replaced the O-ring, fixed the damaged valve seat, or repaired a leaking pipe joint and you’re still dealing with a leak, it’s wise to call Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air. Letting a leak go unaddressed or improperly repaired can ultimately cost you big time, as water leaks can result in serious damage to your home over time.

Call us at (866) 374-0402 to request plumbing service in San Diego. Our highly trained team can quickly and accurately assess your leaky faucet situation.

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