In the grand scheme of problems faced by homeowners, leaky faucets probably don't even make the top ten. While an annoying leak from your kitchen sink can be frustrating, it doesn't have much on burst pipes, failed furnaces, or other potentially catastrophic (and costly) disasters. Still, trivial problems can sometimes be the ones that cause the most pain, and living with a leaky faucet is no fun. Thankfully, you may not have to start thinking about the cost of replacement just because of a small leak. Failing faucets are not necessarily on their last legs, and repair is often possible.
Why Do They Leak?
They might look simple on the surface, but the faucets scattered around your home integrate several internal components. The handles that control the flow of water are the user interface for one or more valves contained within the unit. When you twist the handle, a valve opens or closes to allow hot or cold water through. If you have a single-handle faucet, then the decorative outside of the unit most likely conceals a ball valve that blends hot and cold water to provide the desired temperature.
Valves of this type can fail for several reasons, and most of them are relatively straightforward to fix. Leaks underneath your sink or behind the faucet may be the result of failed gaskets, which can wear out over time or from extensive exposure to high mineral content water. Springs beneath the faucet seat compress the seals against the faucet, ultimately providing a watertight fit. These springs can corrode and wear out, as well, leading to similar failures.
Determining If Your Faucet Is Toast
Believe it or not, replacing an entire faucet is rarely necessary. If a faucet in your home is leaking, then a quick inspection can provide you with a solid idea of its overall condition. Look carefully around the base of the faucet and the spout. Is the outer portion of the faucet corroding away or covered in prominent mineral deposits? If not, then the problem is likely to be internal and repairable. Since the majority of a faucet's function parts are replaceable, repairs are typically possible on even very old faucets.
Stopping the Leak
Most handy do-it-yourselfers can tackle a faucet repair. If you want to give it a shot, then you'll need to determine your faucet's model so that you can purchase a repair kit or individual parts. Most kits include replacement springs and seals since these are the most common points of failure. Individual components are cheap, so it's often a good idea to buy a whole kit rather than repeatedly running to the store for additional parts. If you feel that tearing down a faucet is beyond your ability, most plumbers can complete the faucet repair for you.