How to Repair Faucets
Learn how to fix common problems with kitchen and bathroom faucets.
Although the anatomy of a faucet may seem complex, most problems are caused by worn washers or cartridges, or a worn valve seat in the body of the faucet (the part at the base where the valve sits). Below are other areas in which leaks may occur. Spout O-rings can cause leaks, as well as O-rings on valve bodies. In certain cases, faucet reseating may also be necessary.
Most modern faucets do not have gland packing; inside the valve there is a threaded section with an O-ring. This creates the gland seal. To replace gland O-rings, see below. If your faucets do have gland packing, use teflon and follow the technique shown opposite for replacing packing in a stop valve.
When gaining access to gland O-rings it may be necessary to remove a circlip (a type of seal) positioned around the spindle of the valve. It is normally a case of trying to remove the washer unit first, without removing the circlip.
If this doesn't work, try removing the circlip to see if that allows the washer unit to be unscrewed. On a traditional gland, plumber’s putty can be used to seal leaks, although teflon works best.
If you are replacing an O-ring at the base of the spout, remove the grub screw at the back of the spout, then twist the spout to release (Image 1).
Lifting the spout off allows you to gain access to the O-ring at the base of the spout (Image 2).
Identify the worn-out O-ring, then cut it off or pry it off with a screwdriver (Image 3).
Roll on a replacement O-ring to renew the seal. Align the marker with the groove in the faucet body for reassembly (Image 4).
Remove the valve. Damaged O-rings on the visible part of the valve can simply be cut away and replaced (Image 1).
To gain access to gland O-rings, turn the spindle and valve body in opposite directions. This should allow the washer unit to unscrew (Image 2).
On the washer unit there will be a further O-ring or O-rings that may need replacing. Cut away damaged rings with a utility knife or break loose with a screwdriver. Roll on a replacement and reassemble the valve. Put the valve back in the faucet body and reassemble the faucet (Image 3).
Remove the valve. If you can, remove the seat, using a valve-seat wrench. Replace with a new one (Image 1).
In many cases, seat replacement is not possible, so screw a reseating tool into the thread of the faucet body (Image 2). Be sure to insert the faucet reseater carefully so that you do not damage the thread for the valve (Image 3).
Slowly turn the handle of the reseating tool to grind until the surface is smooth. Replace the valve and reassemble the faucet (Image 4).
Valves: Operations and Repair
There are a number of different types of valves found in domestic pipe runs. They are used to control water movement around the house, isolating areas as required for maintenance, or as an emergency mechanism to stop water flow. The most important valve is the stop valve, which controls the main water supply into the home. It is important that you know where to locate the stop valve in case of emergency. Others include gate valves and the various types of non-return and isolating valves.
All homes should have one main stop valve that controls the flow of the main water supply into the home. On large systems, a number of stop valves may be used to isolate various areas of a supply or system. If installing a stop valve, be aware that it must be installed correctly in relation to the directional flow of the water. This is indicated by an arrow on the outer casing. Stop valves are normally installed in a pipe run with compression hardware. Typically, they have a handle with a traditional shape.
Used as shutoff valves for the smaller areas of a plumbing system, isolating valves come in a number of different designs and should be located throughout a plumbing system. For example, an isolating valve may be installed close to a faucet. If the faucet needs replacing, it is then only necessary to turn off the water supply to that faucet rather than shut down a larger part of the water system. Isolating valves normally have an arrow on their outer casing to show that they must be installed in the same direction as the directional flow of the water. They may have a handle, or be closed and opened using a screwdriver.
The valve is open when the orientation of the groove in the grub screw that opens the valve is in line with the pipe. A quarter turn is all that is required to close down the water supply. Many plastic valves are only suitable to hold water up to a certain temperature. This should be indicated on the side of the valve along with the directional arrow.
Plastic push-fit/threaded isolating valve with handle (Image 1); Compression fit isolating valve (Image 2); Vacuum breakers (Image 3); Temperature and pressure release valve (Image 4)
Similar to stop valves, gate valves are used to isolate areas. However, they should only be used in low-pressure pipe runs. Gate valves do not have a right or wrong way around in terms of installation in relation to the directional flow of water. They are identified easily by their wheel handles.
Drain valves are positioned on a pipe run as the point to attach a hose when an area of plumbing requires draining. Use a drain valve key to operate the valve.
Toilets are made with vacuum breakers integrated into their design. The vacuum breaker can also be added on, to help prevent air locks. Vacuum breakers are available in a few different designs. They are internally spring loaded, so that they can sense any pressure backing up.
Temperature and Pressure Release Valve
When pressure and temperature build up inside a water boiler, a temperature and pressure release valve releases water to remove some of the pressure. Water heaters can explode if they are not relieved of pressure build up. Check your boiler or water heater to be sure you have one installed.
Pressure Reduction Valve
Proximity to your municipality’s water source can affect the water pressure you receive. If you are close to the source, you may want to install a pressure reduction valve. Having high water pressure may be a benefit in the shower, but it will cost you more money every time you run your sink.
A benefit if installed on outdoor faucets, a stop-and-waste valve allows you to drain water after you turn off the water.
If you are connecting a dishwasher and the kitchen faucet to hot water piping, you may need a dual stop. They operate like compression stops that connect water pipes to supply tubes, but they have the benefit of offering two outlet ports.
Check valves or non-return valves allow water to flow only in one direction. They are used mainly on outside faucets and mixer faucets/valves and are usually built into the design. Their function is to prevent the back siphonage of water down a supply pipe, which would contaminate the water supply.