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The Guide to Dripping Faucets: What Causes a Leaky Faucet and How to Fix It For Good

The Short Answer Is: A dripping faucet is typically caused by a worn-out or damaged washer or seal inside the faucet assembly, which fails to create a watertight seal, allowing water to leak out. The amount of water wasted from a dripping faucet can vary depending on the severity of the drip, but it can range from a few gallons to several gallons per day, potentially leading to hundreds of gallons wasted over time. To fix a dripping water faucet, a homeowner can turn off the water supply to the faucet, disassemble it, replace the damaged washer or seal with a matching replacement, and then reassemble the faucet.

A dripping faucet is a significant source of water waste among Louisville, KY households. The repercussions of a dripping faucet impact more than just the amount of water loss – it also raises water bills and makes your plumbing vulnerable to larger problems. When your faucet leaks, your entire home suffers.

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling has the information Louisville homeowners need to know about this important issue. Our trained plumbers know how to repair your dripping faucet, and we understand some homeowners’ desire to fix this problem themselves. Luckily, drippy faucets have practical solutions for homeowners of every skill level. Plus, learn all the benefits of fixing your faucet fast.

What Causes a Dripping Faucet?

Dripping faucets are a common problem, which means there are multiple reasons they occur. Some of these issues are easy to handle on your own, but some are more complicated and require professional help. Below are the most common components responsible for a dripping faucet.

  • Seals. Inlet and outlet seals on a faucet become worn out over time. Water sediments and other debris wear down the seals to increase the likelihood of leaks. Water sediments are unavoidable, and they corrode many parts of the faucet after long periods of time. Clean the whole faucet regularly to help prevent this issue.

  • Valve seat. Additionally, the valve seat faces the same type of corrosion. The valve seat is important because it connects the faucet to the spout. When drips happen as a result of a bad valve seat, water mostly comes from around the spout.

  • O-ring. These pieces of equipment are small discs that help the handle stay in place. O-rings loosen and wear out over time, which allow drops of water to slip through. Drips near the handles indicate an O-ring problem.

  • Loose or broken parts. When parts of the faucet are broken or loose, drips are more likely to happen. A dripping faucet from loose parts are easy to fix, though sometimes require a plumber’s assistance if the part is difficult to locate.

  • Cartridge. Cartridge faucets use a cartridge to control the amount of water flowing through the faucet. When this loosens or wears, water gets through the cracks.

  • Washers. A faucet leak also happens when the washer is worn away. Because the washer rubs directly against the valve seat, it wears down faster than other parts of the faucet. Additionally, if the washer isn’t installed correctly, leaks are more likely to happen.

  • Water pressure. Dripping faucets due to water pressure problems is one of the more complicated causes of a drip. If you notice the dripping faucet happens when other water fixtures are in use, the water pressure is probably the issue. For these problems, the expertise of a plumber is needed.

What a Dripping Faucet Does

Your faucet drips cause more than just frustration at the sound of dripping water. The problems associated with a dripping faucet are much larger than you think. In fact, it impacts household costs while causing waste and damage.

  • Wasted water. Dripping water accounts for 3,000 gallons of wasted water each year according to the EPA. Not only does this negatively impact the environment, but it also causes the local water supply to deplete. When this happens, water restrictions may be put in place to control water usage.

  • Higher water bills. In addition to water waste, your money is also wasted with a dripping faucet. Over time, small drips of water add up on the water bill. For every gallon of water used, your payment increases. With 3,000 extra gallons of water consumed wastefully, many dollars come out of your pocket over the course of a year.

  • Water damage. Water damage is also possible when there are dripping faucets. Though most dripping faucets are caused by simple, surface-level issues, some are more complicated. If these complicated issues are left untreated for extended periods of time, the plumbing becomes more vulnerable to leaks in other places, which may result in water damage to various areas of the home.

  • Mold and mildew growth. Lastly, mold and mildew growth are possible wherever water collects. Because of this, dripping faucets create a perfect scenario for mold and mildew to grow. Water leaks create the potential for damaging mold and mildew to spread throughout your home, including in hidden areas.

Dripping faucets are often easy to fix, but have detrimental consequences if left untreated. To ensure no long-term damage, take care of leaks in the faucet as soon as you first detect the issue. Assess the cause of the drip and follow the steps listed in the next section to fix it. If those methods don’t work, call a plumber to get the problem fixed fast.

Fix Your Dripping Faucet At Home

Homeowners with a little plumbing experience are able to fix most dripping faucet problems on their own. Faucet replacement parts are available at most hardware stores, which makes simple replacements easy. Most loose parts are easy to access and do not require extensive plumbing knowledge to replace.

  • Water supply needs to be off. Before anything else, be sure to turn off the water line. When you skip this step, water gushes through the faucet as soon as you remove the first part. Unless you want to attempt the repair or replacement with a snorkel, turn off the water supply to avoid any water damage to the area around the faucet.

  • Sink drain cover. It’s a good idea to cover your sink drain before you begin working because the small parts easily fall down the drain. Use a rag or something similar to cover the drain before you remove smaller parts on the faucet.

  • Handles, packing nut, and stem. Next, remove the handles, the packing nut, and the stem. In most cases, these parts aren’t the issue. A dripping faucet usually occurs because of parts a little deeper in the fixture. However, clean these pieces off to ensure no water sediments cake up on them and open up the opportunity for more leaks. 

  • Clean with white vinegar. Finally, clean all the parts with white vinegar as you remove them. The white vinegar removes water sediment collection and helps reduce the chance of future drips.

  • O-ring, washer, and valve seat. The O-ring, washer, and valve seat are the most likely causes of a dripping faucet. Remove these parts carefully and check if they are worn or have excessive water sediment buildup. Worn pieces need to be replaced with exact matches. Dirty parts need to be thoroughly cleaned.

  • Replace parts. When you notice corrosion, wear, and tear, or other problems, replace the part. You must have an exact replacement part for the one you remove. Ill-fitted parts open up the possibility for future drips or leaks. When you finish replacing the parts, put them back in this order—washer, O-ring, stem, packing nut, screw, handle.

When You Need a Plumber for a Dripping Faucet

Sometimes, the at-home methods are not enough to stop the dripping faucet. When this happens, call an experienced plumber to fix the issue. The leaks often have a superficial cause, but if you cannot locate it or a deeper issue is to blame, you need the help of a plumber. Because of this, it’s always good to have a plumber at the ready for faucet leaks.

  • Broken plumbing pipes or fixtures. Plumbing issues deep in the system always need the help of a plumber. Broken pipes cause a dripping faucet in extreme circumstances, and those need the expertise of a professional. Plus, having a plumber take a look at your whole system benefits you in the long run, as inspection can catch other potential problems.

  • Valve seat corrosion. When the valve seat causes dripping, the problem must be fixed by a plumber because removal of the valve seat requires a special wrench called the seat wrench. The average homeowner doesn’t have this tool, which means a plumber is needed to remove the valve seat and give it a good cleaning.

  • Loose parts. Some loose parts are farther down in the pipes than homeowners are able to reach. When this occurs, a professional comes in to tighten those hard-to-locate parts. Additionally, they diagnose the reason for the drip if it turns out loose parts aren’t the problem.

  • Worn seals. Having a plumber replace worn seals ensures accuracy. When installed incorrectly, the seals keep letting water through the faucet. The dripping faucet needs to have well-fitted seals in order to prevent future leaks. The plumber replaces both the inlet and the outlet seal during the visit.

Jarboe’s Helps Fix Your Dripping Faucet

Though a drip in the faucet causes homeowners stress, the solutions are easy to manage and quick to complete. Most homeowners are able to fix the drip on their own, but there are plumbers ready to help if the problem gets out of hand. No matter what, your dripping faucet is fixed fast.

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling’s plumbers in Louisville, Kentucky, are ready to tackle your dripping faucets whenever you need a hand. With years of experience under their toolbelts, our plumbers fix your leaks no matter the cause. For more information on our Louisville plumbing services, give us a call today. We are happy to speak with you about a dripping faucet or any other plumbing issue.

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