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Ask a Portland Plumber How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

leaky faucet repair in Portland

One of the most common types of calls Portland and Lake Oswego plumbing professionals receive is for stopping leaky faucet problems. If a leaky faucet is driving you crazy to the point where you’re wondering whether you need to begin contacting Portland or Lake Oswego plumbers, read the steps below to get an idea of whether you’re up for solving this problem on your own.

Steps Involved in Fixing a Leaky Faucet

1. Prepare your work space.

As Hillsboro and Lake Oswego plumbers will tell you, a successful plumbing project starts with carefully preparing the space and gathering the tools you will need. Prepare an area to lay out parts. Gather the essential tools – usually a crescent wrench, several screwdrivers and plumber’s grease, as a minimum.

To avoid scratching sink fixtures, apply duct tape to the jaws of your wrenches. You will also need a container with distilled white vinegar and a soft scouring pad to remove any mineral buildup on the faucet parts. Finally, turn off the water under the sink. To make sure you don’t lose any faucet parts, lay a rag over the drain.

2. Identify the faucet type.

In general, there are four types of faucets: ball-type, ceramic disk, cartridge or sleeve, and compression faucets. The first three types of faucets look very similar on the outside; they have a single handle that lifts to open the water valve and can be pushed right or left to adjust water temperature.

Ball-type faucets may be distinguished by a ball-shaped piece that is just under the handle, while ceramic disc faucets have a ceramic cylinder mounted under the handle. Cartridge faucets have a long, thin cartridge where the ball would be in a ball-type faucet; sometimes these faucets are also called sleeve faucets. In order to distinguish between ball-type, ceramic disc and cartridge faucets, you may need to take off the decorative handle cap.

Compression faucets are different from the other three in that they have two handles; the handle on the left controls hot water, while the handle on the controls cold water.

3. Conduct appropriate repairs according to the type of faucet.

How you proceed from here will depend on what type of faucet you have. Here’s a look at the different repair techniques by faucet type:

Compression Faucets

The culprits of most leaks in compression faucets are worn-out seat washers or o-rings. To replace seat washers, begin by prying off the decorative cap on the top of each faucet. Then, remove the underlying handle screw using a Phillips screwdriver. Pull off the handle and go to work with your crescent wrench, unscrewing the packing nut underneath the handle. The next thing you’ll see is the stem, which you’ll also need to unscrew. This will allow you to access and replace the seat washer, which is usually held in place by a brass screw. Use heat-proof, nontoxic plumber’s grease to coat the new seat washers.

Because o-rings are inexpensive and prone to disintegration over time, it’s smart to replace them when you replace the seat washers. To do this, remove the stem from the packing unit, take out the old o-ring and replace it with the new one. Keep in mind that o-rings are available in several sizes, so you’ll need to make sure you find the perfect match for your faucet.

Once you’ve replaced the rubber seat washers and the o-rings, reassemble each faucet and see if it is still leaking. If so, the seat may be pitted. This problem requires a special tool called a valve-seat dresser. It is smart to arrange for professional Portland or Lake Oswego plumbing help if your compression faucet continues to leak after you’ve replaced the rubber parts inside.

Ball-Type Faucets

This type of faucet contains many complex parts. Rather than pull their hair out trying to identify the problematic parts, many homeowners simply replace the entire faucet assembly, which can usually be purchased at a home improvement store. The process for replacing the assembly is similar to the process for compression faucets described above, except for the fact that you will need needle-nosed pliers to take apart a ball-type faucet.

Ceramic Disc Faucets

While it is rarely necessary to replace the entire ceramic cylinder in a ceramic disc faucet, you will probably need to replace the neoprene seals from time to time. First, tilt back the faucet to access the set screw that holds it to the base. Remove the faucet after taking off the set screw, and take off the underlying cap (the escutcheon cap). At this point, you should see three screws holding the ceramic cylinder in place; take these screws out to remove the cylinder and access the underlying neoprene seals. Remember to clean all parts with white vinegar and your scrubbing pad prior to reassembly. Once you’re ready to test your work, turn the water back on very slowly. If you turn on the water too quickly, you risk damaging the ceramic disc.

Cartridge Faucets

Again, the process for replacing just the rubber o-rings is similar to that for ball-type and compression faucets; you will need to disassemble the faucet until you can get to the o-rings. Remember to apply plumber’s grease to the o-rings. You will need needle-nosed pliers and a utility knife to cut off the old o-rings. Generally speaking, it’s better to just replace the entire cartridge; just be sure you bring the old cartridge to the hardware store so you can find the perfect match.

Stopping leaky faucet problems is not something that every homeowner can accomplish on his or her own. Lake Oswego plumbing may be antique, unusual or provide other challenges that should only be handled by Lake Oswego plumbers. Moreover, stopping leaky faucet predicaments is a task that could take hours to complete, including several trips to the hardware store to find the right replacement parts. Many homeowners just don’t have the time for such home improvement projects.

A leaky faucet can represent hundreds of gallons of wasted water over a month or two, so rather than procrastinating on stopping leaky faucet drips yourself, it may be worthwhile to arrange for Lake Oswego plumbers to finish the task for you quickly and masterfully.

For help with your repair, give 3 Mountains Plumbing a call today!

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