What Homeowners Should Do About Leaky Faucets: Causes and Concerns

A leaky faucet

Whether you rent or own your home, it’s only a matter of time before a dripping faucet develops in your bathroom, kitchen, or other part of your home. Faucet parts and water lines can break down over time, creaking cracks in seals that lead to leaks ranging from drips to gushers.

Fortunately, most faucet leaks are minor problems that have an easy fix. The first step is identifying a leaky faucet and determining whether it’s a minor leak or a serious one requiring quick attention—and, in some cases, the help of a professional.

What Causes a Leaky Faucet?

Because faucets are relatively simple in design, the causes for leaks are often easy for a plumber to identify. Most cases of a leaky faucet are caused by one of the following:

  • A faulty O-ring. O-rings play a crucial role in sealing the junction between your faucet and your handle. If you spot a bathroom faucet leaking from the handle, a worn out or faulty O-ring might be the reason.
  • Worn out seals and washers. Similar to an O-ring, other seals and washers used to secure faucet joints and reduce friction can wear down over time—especially as friction and constant water pressure start to get the better of these parts. These seals and washers can be found throughout the faucet and handles.
  • Loose connections. Poorly tightened screws, bolts and other connections can be a prime source for new leaks. Fortunately, loose connections can often be fixed by tightening them.
  • Water pressure issues. Fluctuations in your home’s water pressure can cause leaks to come and go as pressure changes. This is particularly true when water pressure is high and putting pressure on your faucet and handle parts.
  • A faulty cartridge. The valve cartridge is a crucial component of your faucet, and leaks can disrupt your faucet’s functioning, in addition to creating a mess. When these leaks are sprung, the entire cartridge needs to be replaced.

In some cases, you might be able to identify the cause of the leak on your own. In other cases, the cause can be tough to identify, and may require troubleshooting to identify the issue among several different possibilities. If that’s the case, you’re probably better off contacting a plumbing professional to give you an accurate diagnosis.

When to Worry About a Sink Faucet Leaking

While a dripping faucet is never ideal, it also isn’t always an urgent problem to address. While a slow drip coming from your faucet is going to cost you a little bit on your water bill—and might be a source of constant irritation—there’s no additional damage coming from this leak. For this reason, many homeowners are slow to fix a leaky faucet, especially if they don’t know how to go about fixing this leak.

In some cases, though, a severe leak could create big problems if left unaddressed. Leaks can send water underneath your sink to cause damage in the cabinet or other parts of your home. Similarly, unaddressed leaks can accelerate the damage and deterioration suffered by your faucet, shortening its lifespan.

If water is slowly dripping from the head of the faucet, you don’t have to worry about water damage in your home. But when you see water leaking from the faucet handle or leaking from other seams and connections, you should take action quickly.

How to Fix a Sink Handle Leaking

When you have water leaking out of the faucet handle, you can inspect the handle for a busted, loose or worn-out part by removing the handle and all parts within. On some sink handles, you can do this by removing the decorative cap on top of the handle, and then unscrewing the screw holding the entire faucet together.

On other models, you may need to follow the owner’s guide instructions to figure out how to remove handles for inspection. Once removed, visually inspect the parts to identify corroded or obviously damaged parts. You can try replacing these and reassembling the handle to see if this addresses your leaky faucet handle. Be sure to screw the parts tightly together during reassembly.

What to Do When a Faucet is Dripping Water

If your faucet is dripping water, most homeowners should be comfortable taking some basic steps to troubleshoot the possible cause. First, you can look at the clarity of your water to determine mineral discoloration is suggesting that there is mineral build-up in the faucet or pipe. If so, it’s possible that this mineral buildup—rust, for example—is wearing down the internal parts of your faucet.

You can also check the water pressure of your indoor plumbing to determine whether inconsistent or improper water pressure may be a cause of a leaky faucet. You can also unscrew the aerator on your faucet to inspect the rubber seal, and replace it if it seems loose or warped.

For issues such as a leaking cartridge or other leaking faucet part, it can be difficult to diagnose the problem on your own. Instead, you can take the guesswork out of this repair—and reach a resolution to your leaking issue much faster—by calling in a plumbing professional to inspect and fix the leak. With an expert hand leading the repair, you can have full confidence in your faucet’s performance once your leaking faucet is back in working order.

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