How do I repair a leaky stem-type faucet

Repairing a leaky compression type faucet

When an old-school compression type stem springs a leak it is usually because its washer, located at the tip, has worn out, allowing water to seep between it and the faucet's seat. Usually this leak can be stopped by replacing the old washer. Here's the rub. One size washer does not fit all stems. Far from it. There are, or have been hundreds, of faucet makers over the last 150 years, and each one it seems to have specified a different size washer. Today, there are roughly five common sizes that may, or may not, fit your stem. How, exactly, do you know which size washer your stem takes? Simple. You've got to do the heavy twisting to get the blasted thing out of your faucet's housing. Not to worry, though. This operation can be done with a little patience. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Turn off the water at the water-supply valve under the sink or in the wall behind an access panel. If you don't see these shutoffs, you'll have to shut off the main water supply. If you don't know where that is, call a plumber.
  2. Before you start your little stem autopsy, drain the water that is still in the supply lines by opening your faucets.
  3. Note: Compression stems are always removed from the top, so get out from under the sink. Start by taking off the faucet handle. Since most handles are screwed on, you'll have to remove the screw, which may be hiding under a decorative cap. Use a screwdriver to pop this bad boy off. You should then be able to pull the handle off. Put the handle aside after you've gotten it off.
  4. Loosen the locknut inside with a crescent wrench. Once the nut is loosened and removed, pull out the stem. (Note: Some types of faucets may have a stem that screws into/out of the body of the faucet. What's more, it may run counter to the “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty” rule. That is, you'll have to turn it counter-clockwise to get it out.)
  5. Once you get the stem out, look for the rubber washer; the black roundish thing at the end of the stem. If you see a screw, get a screwdriver and take it out.
  6. Now you are ready to take the stem to your local hardware or plumbing supply store in place of the replacement washer that fits your stem.
  7. One final tip: Don't just buy one washer. Get at least two. Generally, where there's one bad washer, there are two. Or will be soon. So, replace both washers at the same time. You'll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation.

Fixtures Frequently Asked Questions

What types of finishes are available for american standard fixtures?

What's the story on brass fixtures?

How do manufacturer protect brass finishes?

What's the story on chrome finishes?

What's the story on nickel finishes?

What are distressed finishes?

What's the story on stainless steel finishes?

What's the story on Oil Rubbed Bronze finishes.

What's the story on Solid bronze

When should plumber's putty not be used.

How do new showerheads conserve water?

How many types of faucets are there?

Which size lavatory faucet do I need?

Why buy a Kohler faucet?

How can I clean my Moen LifeShine faucet?

How do I remove solid copper supply tubes?

How do I install flexible supply lines to my faucet?

How do I attach copper supply tubes?

How do I attach a spray hose?

How do I put in a new faucet?

How do I know when my aerator is kaput?

How do I take out and clean a faucet aerator.

How do I know if I have a washerless faucet?

How to identify stem type from cartridge type faucets?

What if my aerator is dead?

How do I make sure I get the right replacement piece for my faucet?

How do I replace a cartridge faucet

Do I always have to buy a new cartrdige when it leaks?

How do I repair a leaky stem-type faucet

After replacing the washers my faucet still leaks. What now?

How can a new sink reinvigorate my bathroom?

What is a lavatory?

What is a vessel sink?

What about sinks?

How do I keep towels off the floor?

How do I accessorize a guest bathroom?

What paper holder options are there?

How do I de-clutter my bath?

How do I hang towel bars?

Where does the Towel Ring go?

What additional tips do yu have for outfitting a guest bathroom?

How can I jazz up my bathroom's décor.

What tips on bathroom shower curtains?

How do I choose a shower curtain

What are the newestbathroom decorating trends?

Design trends in shower enclosures

What décor tips are there for showers?

What to look for in a showerhead?

What is the difference between a spa, hot tub Jacuzzi and whirlpool?

How do I shop for a Jacuzzi or hot tub?

What kind of faucet goes with a hot tub or spa?

What kinds of faucets are for Jacuzzis?

Besides the faucet what other accessories should I get?

Hot tub and spa? What's the difference?

Why buy Price Pfister?

Why use genuine Price Pfister replacement parts?

What causes faucet leaks?

What's new from Price Pfister kitchen faucets?

How do I choose a kitchen sink?

What are some common sink materails available?

What are the pros and cons of acrylic?

What shapes do kitchen sinks come in?

What kind of bowl depth and options are there?

What's a top-mounted sink?

What is an under mount sink?

What is a farmhouse or apron sink?

Can a porecelain bowl be customized?

What are the décor advantages of a glass sink?

What other materials are used in bath room sinks?

What about wooden sinks and tubs?

What are the advantages of a stainlsess steel sink?

Utility sinks

What's new in kitchen sink faucets?

How easy is it to install new bath fixtures

How do I hire a plumber?

What can I do myself?

How can I save money on a plumber?

What is a standard framed vanity cabinet?

What is a frameless bathroom vanity?

What do I look for in a quality bathroom vanity?

What's a vanity?

What mirrors are there for my bathroom?

Whick kitchen appliance finishes require less attention?

garbage disposal

Can I install a garbage disposal myself?

How do I install an automatic soap dispenser?

What advantages of a hot water dispenser?

What's a hot and cold water dispenser?

What is a rough in and why is it important?

What types of toilets are available?

What makes a toilet work?

How do I install a toilet?

What are the most common mistakes in installing a toilet?

Which type faucet works with a pedestal sink?

What's the latest decorating ideas in bathroom sinks?

How do I mount a pedestal sink?

What are the pros and cons of a pedestal sink?

What are the pros and cons of a porcelain sink?

Not finding the advice and tips you need on this Fixtures Tip Site? Request a Tip Now!

Guru Spotlight
Phyllis Serbes