One of the most irritating plumbing problems in the average house is that dripping tap that never seems to stop. Not only is it annoying, you can conceivably waste hundreds (or even thousands) of gallons of water if you just let the tap keep on dripping.
You can either call in a plumber, and from San Francisco to Sydney plumbers do see little jobs like this all the time. Or you can get a few tools together and tackle that drip on your own. You just need to understand a bit more about the problem and how to get it fixed.
Though the dripping is at the end of the spout, the problem is actually in the handle(s). That’s where the water source is pinched closed when they are in the off position. If that is not sealed properly, the water isn’t blocked off and the pressure will force it out the spout.
There are rubber washers and O-rings within the mechanics of the faucet handles, and that is the problem. They have either gotten brittle with age and no longer compress properly to seal off the water, or they have been compressed too much and are now too flat to do the job. Either way, you just need to replace them to fix your drip.
Like we said, you can always just call the plumber to take care of this if the idea of dismantling your taps makes you nervous. Even with all the parts, it’s not difficult. Most handles will have a nut holding them in place, though a decorative cap may cover that up. Pry off the cap and just undo the nut. Once that is off, the whole handle will come apart quite easily. Just don’t forget to turn the main water source off before you begin.
After that nut is removed and the main handle body has been taken off, you’ll find a series of nuts, screws, washers all along the main pipe stem that runs down the center. Every faucet is constructed a little differently so there is no single design that we can share with you. Standard tools like an adjustable wrench and possibly a screwdriver are all you’ll need to get things taken apart.
At some point among these parts, you’ll find the rubber washer or O-ring (or both). You might want to take the old ones with you to the hardware store when buying replacements, to make sure you’re getting precisely the right size.
Rubber pieces like washers will eventually wear out and there isn’t too much you can do about that. But if you do twist your faucet handles too tightly when you turn off the water, that will lead to a crushing of the washers, which leads to drips. That is something you can control. Just turn the handles enough to stop the water; they don’t need to be wrenched any further than that.
So next time you notice your taps are dripping, don’t hesitate to take it apart and do some DIY plumbing to fix it.