Repair a Sink Faucet

How to Replace Faucet Cartridges, Washers, O-Rings, and Diaphragms

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

A pedestal sink with typical faucet
A pedestal sink with typical faucet
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Sink faucets are found in laundry rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and elsewhere. Because they’re just there, they usually aren’t given a thought until they fail. Some say that indoor running water is the single most impressive event that altered domestic society resulting in our present state of comfort.

In all homes, sink faucets, like toilets, will eventually fail. When this happens to you, first determine what kind of faucet you need to repair and replace cartridges, washers, O-rings, and diaphragms. This is why you should keep all documentation that comes with any appliance or part.

Faucets are an essential and fundamental part of our homes as well as businesses and the hotel industry. But when things do go south, as we know they will, the primary concept to understand is that there are a wide array of sink faucets available. Without identifying the faucet manufacturer and model, repairing a sink faucet is impossible.



Repairing Different Types of Faucets

Compression Faucets — This type is always doubled handled; look for this first in your identification process. These are fairly simple, while still functional and reliable; an internal washer raises to allow the water to flow. For this reason, they are also called washer-type faucets or stem faucets.

  • Repair tip: For a dripping spout, replace your stem washer.
  • Repair tip: For a leaking handle, replace your stem-packing and/or O-ring.

Diaphragm Faucets — These are also double handled.

  • Repair tip: If only your handle is leaking, replace your O-ring.
  • Repair tip: If your handle and spout are leaking, replace your diaphragm.

Disc Faucets — This type may have either one or two handles. It uses a pair of plastic or ceramic discs that regulates both the temperature and volume of water that reaches you, the customer.

  • Repair tip: When it begins to act up, replace the seals and ensure that your inlet ports are unclogged. The discs themselves are sturdy, so rarely an issue.

Rotating Ball Faucets — Now we’re dealing with one that is always a single-handled faucet. It gets the name because of the design of a slotted plastic or brass ball that perches on top of a spring-loaded plastic seat. The handle causes the ball to rotate; this is what adjusts your temperature as well as your flow volume.

  • Repair tip: If your handle is leaking, replace your O-rings and adjusting your adjusting ring. If the spout and handle are leaking, replace your diaphragm.
  • Repair tip: If only your spout is leaking, replace your springs and seats as a set.

Cartridge Faucets — This model is a single lever faucet; it utilizes a cartridge that controls your water flow.

  • Repair tip: Because of its simplicity, repair is easy. First try replacing your O-rings. If it is still acting up, change your cartridge. Always take the old one to the plumbing store to make sure you come home with the correct replacement.

Tools and Materials for Plumbing Repair

  • Slip-joint pliers. Two are better than one for many plumbing projects.
  • Teflon tape. Use either the paste or the tape; I find the tape easier to work with.
  • Screwdrivers. Keep an assortment on hand, as we all should.
  • Rags and a small plastic bucket. Because spills are going to happen.
  • A set of nut-drivers. Many plumbing applications use automotive style connections.


There’s your basics on repairing bathroom or kitchen sink faucets. The main frustration I find is that there so many brands and models that you will often have to do a disassembly before trekking to Home Depot or Lowes or ordering from 4 Types of Sink Faucets

  • Fixing Common Toilet Problems
  • How to Repair a Toilet Flange
  • Tankless Water Heater Maintenance Tips

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    About the Author:

    Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

    4 Types of Sink Faucets

    by Kelly R. Smith

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    Disassembling a sink faucet for repair
    Disassembling a sink faucet for repair

    Sink faucets — are they functional or decorative? A bit of both actually. But keep in mind that when purchasing a new one, don’t scrimp on the price. For one thing, if you want real long-lasting brass components, you are going to have to pay for it. Secondly, you want a big name brand so that replacement parts are easily accessible. There are 4 types of sink faucets to consider. If you are also installing a new sink/s, the drain may not match up with the sewage pipe. Here’s how I fixed a misaligned sink.

    4 Types of Faucets to Consider

    • Ball faucets. This is considered a washerless faucet because of the absence of rubber or neoprene washers in its construction. It has a single handle that moves over a rounded ball-shaped cap that is right above the base of the faucet’s spout. The faucet has a single handle that controls a special plastic or metal ball inside the body of the faucet. The ball has chambers or slots in it, as well as rubber O-rings and spring-loaded rubber seals. Depending upon the ball’s position, the ball/lever assembly controls the flow and mixing temperature of the water coming out of the faucet. Because of the number of parts which make up this type of faucet, ball faucets tend to leak more than other washerless faucets such as the cartridge faucet or disc faucet. See my faucet repair article.
    • Disc (or disk, if you prefer) faucets. Another washerless type, ceramic disk faucets are the most recent development in emerging faucet technology. They are known by their single lever lording over a wide cylindrical body. This faucet mixes hot and cold water inside a mixing chamber that is referred to as a pressure balance cartridge. 2 ceramic disks located at the bottom of the chamber are engineered to raise and lower to control the volume of the water flow. The temperature is controlled by a side-to-side rotation of the handle. These faucets are known to be high-quality, very reliable, and do not need to be repaired often. That’s a good thing.
    • Cartridge faucet with 2 handles. Yet another washerless faucet, this one looks quite like a compression washer faucet. But, you can tell the difference by how the handles feel when they are operated. The compression faucet requires tightening down (or compress) the washer in order to staunch the water flow. With a cartridge faucet, the action is very smooth and consistent. With just a half turn, the handle goes from the off to the on position. It turns off without added pressure being required as with a compression faucet.
    • Compression washer faucet. This type has been with us since the beginning of on-demand indoor plumbing. You will find them in older properties, and updated versions are still found installed in utility sinks in newer homes to this very day. They are typically the cheapest to purchase but are the most prone to leaks and maintenance. Compression washer faucets are identified by their separate hot and cold water handles (H and C) and their action requiring you to tighten the handles down to close off the water flow. They work using a compression stem. This is a type of glorified screw with a washer at the end of it pressing against a valve seat.

    So those are your choices of the 4 types of sink faucets. This article has described their functionality; it is up to you to choose the wow factor of the style. For the kitchen, I prefer a gooseneck style with a spray attachment, but hey, that’s just me.



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    Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

    How to Repair a Toilet Flange

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    A toilet flange being set
    A toilet flange being set

    The toilet flange is the interface between your sewer line and your toilet. It serves a double purpose:

    • It is slotted to secure the bolts that hold your toilet down securely.
    • It accepts the toilet wax ring to form a waterproof barrier and a means of keeping those sewer gasses out of your bathroom.

    Like anything else, they will go bad at some point. Flanges, and the sewer lines they go into, are available in two different materials — modern plastic and old-style cast iron. How you repair a toilet flange depends on what what material you are working with. The first thing you will have to do, you guessed it, is pull the toilet to diagnose the problem. While you are at it, it doesn’t matter if it is an old commode or a newer low-flow toilet, this is a good time to replace other parts like the tank-to-bowl gasket and the filling mechanism.

    Repairing Plastic Toilet Flanges

    • Eared Reinforcement Ring. If you have a plywood subfloor that has some rot around the flange and one or more of the securing flange-to-subfloor screws won’t hold because of it, this may be your solution. The “ears” simply extend further. This is also a viable solution for concrete slabs if part has chipped away.
    • Two-Part Repair Ring. Some flanges are composed of plastic with the outer ring (with the bolt slots and screw holes) made of steel. Eventually, this steel will rust. A repair ring is a good solution. Two versions are available — hinged or two-part. Your choice.
    • Stainless Steel Repair Ring. Solid plastic flanges (as opposed to the steel ring above) work well until they happen to break or bend. The easy fix is to screw a repair ring over your plastic flange.

    Repairing Cast Iron Toilet Flanges

    • Repair Brackets. Older cast iron flanges often break. This can occur on one or both sides. If the broken area contains a bolt slot, slipping a repair bracket under the cast iron lip will do the trick.
    • Repair Flange. If the flange is too badly damaged to use repair brackets, a repair flange is your best bet. This is a plastic flange that is inserted into the mouth of the old cast iron flange. You may need to clean up and break away remaining parts of the old flange with a hammer and cold chisel.

    These tips on how to repair a toilet flange will cover most situations. In addition to the repair materials here, you may find additional ones on the market. New ones are being invented all the time, which is a good thing for us. In fact, plumbing innovations are popping up all the time, driven by style, materials, and the effort to conserve water.

    Toilet trivia: When you heard some one say, “I’ve got to go spend a penny,” when going to the bathroom, did you ever wonder where that came from? Well, when public toilets became popular in the Victorian days, they cost a penny to use.

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    Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

    About the Author:

    Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.