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Common Causes For Faucet Drips and How to Fix Them

A dripping faucet is always an unwelcome occurrence. The annoying noise can quickly become considerably disruptive, and even if the faucet only sends one drop of water down the drain at a time, across an entire day this can easily add up to gallons of unnecessary additional water consumption. When considering disruptions and wasteful consumption across days and even on a weekly scale, the true cost is incalculable. 

While at first, a dripping faucet may seem like a minor inconvenience, it’s wise to take on these problems as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there can be a variety of causes for a dripping faucet, and as one of the most reputable plumbing companies in Harrisburg, the experts at WM Buffington are happy to share some of our professional insight into common causes for faucet drips and how to fix them right away. 

Common Causes of Faucet Leaks and Drips 

If you have a dripping faucet, there are several different potential causes, including: 

Damaged Cartridge

Tap cartridges control the flow and temperature of water coming out of the faucet, and they are, therefore, one of the most important components. Cartridges are highly durable but they can become worn out over time or damaged by a buildup of sediment (which then creates leaks). If you know which size cartridge you need, you may be able to replace it yourself, but you’ll need some specialist tools and knowledge of how taps work. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to call in a professional. 

Broken Washers and O-rings

Over time, the washer at the base of the valve can wear out, crack, or become misshapen. This wear and tear can lead to a leak when the tap is turned off. Similarly, if your tap has O-rings, they can deteriorate and lose their elasticity, causing a leak. An O-ring is located in the sink’s faucet. It is a small disc that is attached to the stem screw to hold the handle of the faucet in place - so if the faucet’s handle is leaking, this may be the cause. 

High Water Pressure Issues

Water pressure could also be the cause of your leak. If you notice that the faucet only drips water during certain times of the day or when the handles move in a certain way, this could be an indication there is an imbalance of water pressure. High water pressure can cause leaks at many different points around the faucet, including the valve, cartridge, and handles. 

Corroded or Damaged Parts

Kitchen taps have several components that can corrode or become damaged due to age or exposure to harsh water conditions. When these components degrade, they may lead to leaks. Identifying and replacing these parts is key to stopping the leak at its source.

A leaking tap can be caused by issues with your pipes, including cracks, corrosion, or damage from tree roots. Damaged pipes can lead to fluctuations in water pressure, which then causes your taps to drip. However, pipe damage is serious and it’s unlikely that this alone would cause a dripping tap. If you do have damaged pipes you’ll probably notice other issues, such as unpleasant smells, discolored water and much larger leaks.

DIY Installation Errors

If you recently installed the faucet yourself, it is possible that installation error is the cause of the leaks. Minor mistakes such as over or under-tightening components are enough to cause leaks, so it’s important to be careful during the installation process or hire the help of professionals. 

How to Fix a Dripping Faucet

With all of the different problems that could be causing your faucet to leak, there may not be one solution to fix them all. To begin make sure you have the following tools: 

  • Adjustable wrench or spanner
  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement washer (make sure it's the correct size)
  • Replacement O-ring (if applicable)
  • Plumber's tape

With these essential tools in hand, take these steps in order to fix your faucet. Be aware that this is a general guide to fixing faucets - all faucets, however, are unique and your faucet design may differ from what is described in this guide. If this is the case, consider contacting the plumbing experts at WM Buffington with the know-how to deal with every make, model, and faucet design. 

1. Deactivate the Water

Before you attempt any fixes, always make sure to turn off the water. If you don’t turn off the water before making adjustments or removing the faucet, you could end up flooding your bathroom or kitchen. To shut off the water, look for the fixture shutoff valves below the sink and turn the handles clockwise. If your faucet doesn’t have any shutoff valves, turn off the main water supply for the house. Finally, be sure to double-check that the water really is off by turning on the faucet before getting started - if no water comes out, you were successful in this first step! 

2. Disassemble the Faucet Handle(s)

To gain access to the inner workings of your faucet, you’ll need to remove the handles. It can obviously vary depending on the type of faucet, but you can usually use a flathead screwdriver to remove the caps on top of the handle which will reveal handle screws underneath. Unscrew these and pull the handles off the sink. 

3. Detach the Valve Stem

After removing the handle, you'll see the valve mechanism. Use an adjustable wrench to loosen and remove it. Be sure to wrap a cloth around the faucet to prevent any scratches. Compression faucets have a brass valve stem which you can unscrew, and cartridge faucets can be pulled straight out after removing the handles. 

4. Check All Sink Components

With the handles and the valve stem removed, carefully inspect all the different sink components including washers, O-rings, and seals. If you see that any of these components are worn, damaged, or have limescale accumulation, be sure to replace them with new ones as they were likely the cause of your dripping faucet. 

5. Reassemble and Test the Water

Reassemble your faucet in the reverse order in which you disassembled it - carefully reattach the valve and tighten it with a wrench, reattach the faucet handles and secure them with a screw, and replace the decorative cap back onto the handle. Once you have successfully reassembled your faucet, you can turn back on the water - be sure to give the repaired faucet a test, and if there is no more dripping, then you were likely successful. 

6. Adjust Water Pressure

If you reassemble your faucet and the dripping is still happening, you will need to try to adjust your water pressure. Lower the water pressure by installing a pressure regulator, thereby reducing the force of water entering your home. 

Seek Professional Assistance

While these DIY fixes can resolve many of the different issues that may cause your faucet to leak, there are instances where calling a professional plumber is the best course of action. If it is a complex issue that you can’t seem to fix, if there is potential for water damage, or if there is anything that you feel uncomfortable about or feel to be unsafe, never hesitate to contact experts. WM Buffington is one of the most reputable plumbing companies in Harrisburg - contact us today for prompt and professional assistance.

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