Whether it is a slow drip or a small stream, a leaky faucet is annoying and can be costly. Most leaks occur on the hot water side of the faucet. This means that it is costing you money for water and for the heating bill. Like anything else, it is usually easier to fix a leaky faucet when you first notice it than to wait until it gets worse. By repairing it quickly, you can avoid the guilt of letting something easy to fix go for too long and keep mineral deposits from building up and making the problem bigger.
As do-it-yourself projects go, this is about as easy as they get. You may be unlucky enough for this to be tough to fix, but most of the time you need to allot about 30 minutes to do this job. If you live several miles from the nearest hardware or home center, it could easily take you longer to go pick up the part than to do the work.
Turn off the water that supplies the faulty faucet. Hopefully, the builder or a former owner installed a cutoff valve under the sink or near the fixture. If it is on the hot water side, there is almost always a cutoff valve just above the hot water heater. If you have a basement, you should have a valve where the water enters the house. If all else fails, you may have to go to the meter and shut it off there. For those who use a well, if there are not shutoff valves, turn off the breaker that supplies electricity to the pump.
Once the water is turned off, open the faucet and let the pressure and water flow out of the line where you are going to make the repair. Using a screw driver, gently remove the cap from the top of the water faucet if there is one. If not, just use that screw driver to remove the screw that fastens the handle to the faucet works. Ease the handle off of the spline that holds it.
Using an appropriate wrench, loosen the nut at the bottom of the faucet. You can use an adjustable wrench if you prefer. Lift the nut off of the faucet and slip the handle back into place. You should now be able to unscrew the inside of the faucet out of its seat. When it is out, inspect the black, brown, or red rubber washer at the bottom of the works that you have just pulled out. If it looks frayed, torn, or badly scarred, it needs to be replaced.
Remove the screw that holds it in place. You now need to locate a similar rubber washer to replace it. Often these are sold in kits that have about 8 or 10 different washers. Find the one that matches and attach it to the works with the screw that you removed. Above the area where this washer was, there may be a rubber “o” ring. These do not usually give you a problem, but while you have it off, inspect it and replace it if necessary.
Before replacing the works into the faucet, look down into pipe. You will see a brass seat that the washer snugs up to when the faucet is turned off. Your little finger should fit into the opening. Feel the seat and see if it feels smooth. If it is rough and bumpy, talk to your home center and get a small tool that has a grinding stone made for smoothing this surface. It takes about a minute to smooth the seat.
Now, you need to screw the faucet back into the tube. When it feels tight, replace the nut that holds it in place. Put the handle back on with the screw and if there was one, replace the cap that hides the screw. Turn the water back on. Open the faucet until the water runs smoothly. When you turn the faucet off, your leak should be fixed. Sometimes, you need to turn the water on and off a couple of time to clear out debris from the grinding.