Fix-It Friday: The Dreaded Dripping Faucet

dripping faucet
Fix-It FridayHome Improvement 5 Comments

Welcome to my inaugural WYSK Fix-it Friday column! You asked the questions and I’m ready to answer. So strap on your toolbelts and get ready for some fierce fixing tips!

Today, I’m tackling a burning issue – a burning, dripping issue – and while it may sound like symptoms of a social disease, ain’t no antibiotic in the world strong enough to fix it. I’m talking about the dreaded dripping faucet. That audibly annoying, water wasting, sink staining drip that won’t go away no matter how tight you turn the handle, or how hard you curse at it to stop!

First thing you need to know is this…

The dripping doesn’t come from a problem with the faucet spout, but rather, the faucet handle.

The faucet valve (working parts) is housed in the handle and controls the on/off, volume, and temperature control. Over time, a faucet valve can lose its ability to make a water-tight seal, so water will drip out even in the off position.

Stopping the drip comes with repairing/replacing that valve, which leads to the second thing you need to know…

The type of valve determines how to fix that particular faucet.

So how do you know what kind of faucet valve you have? Look at the owner’s manual, contact the manufacturer, or – and here’s the exciting part – take apart the handle to see what’s inside! Think of this step as an exploratory procedure… because until you find out what kind of valve you have, you won’t know how to fix the faucet. Just remember, when taking anything apart, place the pieces down in the order they’re removed so you’ll easily know how to put them all back together!

But wait! Before dropping the axe on that drip know this…

Do not attempt to access the faucet valve until you have shut off the water from the shut-off valves under the sink.

Closing Shut-off Valves(That said, if you’d like to experience a hilarious I Love Lucy moment, leave them on.)

When closing the shut-off valves, remember, righty tight, lefty loosey… oh, and old shut-off valves may be very stubborn to turn, so be prepared to use some elbow grease.

Let me valve-talk ya for a moment because once you understand the value of the valve, you’ll look at plumbing from a totally different perspective…

ALL plumbing fixtures use some kind of valve.

The K.I.S.S. (keep-it-simple-stupid) breakdown of how water functions in your home is this: it enters through a water main, flows through pipes and water-supply lines, is constantly under pressure, always ready for action… then, with a simple spin of a handle (faucet), push of a button (dishwasher), or press of a lever (toilet), it will flow its little heart out, and shut off on command, hopefully with no leaks, right?

All this is made possible through VALVES. Without valves there would be no way of controlling any aspect of plumbing in any part of your home. Think of a plumbing valve as a heart valve – they both control flow. As with the heart, if one of its valves leaks, gets clogged, or stops working all together, you better have defib paddles ready! Shut-off valves, faucet valves, flush valves, fill valves, pressure valves, etc. are all critical plumbing components in your home, so understanding how they work and when to replace them is imperative to prevent anything from an irritating drip to a devastating deluge.

removing cap from handle to access working partsGetting back to our leaky faucet fix… with water shut-offs closed, turn the faucet handle(s) “on” to empty remaining water in the lines. Now you’re ready to go after that valve!

In order to get to the guts inside the handle you’ll first have to remove a decorative plate or cap to expose a setscrew that holds the handle in place.

Once that’s unscrewed, you can lift off the handle, which will now expose all the working parts and give you access to the valve.

Here’s more crucial valve info you need to know…

There are several different types of faucet valves – compression valves, ball valves, ceramic-disks, and cartridges. Ugh, I know, so many!

In an effort to not make you valve vexed, I’m going to address the most common faucet valve we see these days – the cartridge. Here is a video (starring lil ol’ me) that shows you step-by-step how to fix a leaky cartridge-type faucet. This video will give you a solid understanding of all basic steps involved in fixing ANY type of dripping faucet.

A heads up about your shut-off valves…

In the event there’s still a small stream of water from your faucet with the shut-off valves closed, you’ll likely need to replace them, as this is a telltale sign they’re leaking too.

See what I mean about the importance of valves! In this case, if your shut-off valves are leaking, replacing them will involve shutting down water to the house from the water main (or a dedicated shut-off valve to that part of the house). Not to underestimate one’s power of fixing, let me also keep it real… unless you’re a seasoned do-it-yourselfer, replacing a shut-off valve is a project better left to a pro. If something were to go wrong you could be looking at having your water shut down to the entire house until the issue is corrected. No running water, no flushing toilets, yikes!

It’s important to know when to call in a pro.

But hey, doesn’t it feel better calling in a pro when you can understand what the problem is, where the real dangers lie, and what the solutions are before he/she gets there? Knowledge is power, so even if it’s someone else turning the pipe wrench, you’re still the one in charge and in the know on how to get your faucet (or valves) fixed, and fixed for good… to the last (annoying) drop!

Keep the questions coming and know that no question is too big or small for this column – the Toolbelt Diva will always lead you down a path to DIY nirvana!

Have fun fixing!

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of next week’s Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.


Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.


  • 1Chick-76

    Holy crap I love this… I definitely envision me being “Lucy.”

    I honestly have to say this altered the scary prism of how I viewed a project like this. While I’m still a bit intimidated, this helps tremendously with understanding the process.

    • Norma

      Knowledge is power! As we shed light on subjects we’re “in the dark” about, the intimidation, (which is really just fear of the unknown) fades away. Reminds me of when I was a kid, scared in bed, turning the lights on would reveal that the scary monster crouching in the corner was really just a pile of dirty laundry. Now piles of laundry are monsters in a whole different way, lol, but at least if the washer stops working we won’t be afraid to check if the fix is as simple as cleaning out the screens in the water-lines!

  • gargouille

    Toolbelt Diva, you rock. Never again with I let that “Honey, only men should touch faucets” look on a plumber’s face intimidate me. Oh, I’ll touch it alright!

    • Norma

      Thanks gargouille! And thanks for your questions! Touch it, fix it, LOVE it!

  • Pingback: Instructions and Tips on Shutting Off the Water in Your Home()