Repairing Your Noisy Faucet
Picture this — only moments ago the Johnson’s retired for an evening of blissful rest. And already Mr. Johnson is tossing and turning at a feverish pace. His normally dull sense of hearing has peaked and is telling him that the noise coming from the bathroom will make it impossible for him to get any sleep at all……..as the bathroom sink croons — drip, drip, drip!
If Mr. Johnson knew that he could immediately stop the drip — even if only for the evening — he could get his rest and then fix the problem permanently the following day.
Something that most of us tend to forget is that every bathroom sink has two sets of controls. The faucet at the sink and the valves below the sink. To stop the drip simply turn off the valves under the sink. Sometimes these valves also are in need of repair. So, if the drip continues tie a rag around the end of the faucet and let it hang so that one end lays in the sink. The drip will become a quiet flow of water running down the rag and into the drain. Make sure the end of the rag that lays in the sink completely covers the drain. This will help muffle any drain noise.
After a good nights rest you will have stored up more than enough energy to repair the noisy faucet. Most of the time you can stop a faucet leak for under a dollar and in less than an hour. The process is simple and requires the replacement of two washers — one at the top of the valve stem and one at the bottom of the valve stem. When a faucet is leaking from the spout it indicates that the rubber gasket at the bottom of the valve stem needs replacement. When the leak emanates from the handle it indicates that the gasket at the top of the valve stem needs to be replaced. In either case both gaskets should be replaced. By the way, it is wise to replace both gaskets in both valves (hot and cold) even if only one is leaking.
For simplicity sake we will detail the repair of one faucet. Both are repaired in exactly the same fashion. Make sure the water is off before attempting a repair. First, the faucet handle must be removed. Normally, the screw that holds the handle in place can be found either at the top of the handle or immediately below a cover that caps the top of the handle. Caps usually indicate H or C (hot or cold) and can be pried loose with a knife blade or a small screw driver. This should be done carefully. Handle covers are usually made of soft metal or plastic and can be easily damaged. Once the handle is removed the valve and valve stem will be exposed. The valve stem is connected to the valve body with a threaded nut or cap screw. Sometimes a larger nut exists that surrounds the valve at sink level. Do not loosen this nut. It holds the valve in place and has nothing to do with the disassembly required to stop a leak. Hold the valve body with a pipe wrench or vise grip and with a second wrench turn the nut at the top of the valve counter-clock-wise. This will remove the valve stem from the valve and expose both gaskets.
At this point remove the bottom gasket (usually with a Phillips screwdriver — save the screw). With the bottom gasket off, slide the gasket at the top down the shaft or cut it away with a knife. If you elect to use a knife use caution. With the gaskets removed, cleaning the valve stem with scouring powder and pad will eliminate mineral salt build-up and corrosion.
Next, you will need replacement gaskets. There are two ways to find the right gasket: 1) Before removing the gaskets from the valve stem take it to the store for a match up, or 2) Before starting your project purchase a box of assorted gaskets (make sure there are two of each size in the box if you intend to work on both valves).
Even though you are installing new gaskets, it is wise to lubricate them before reinstalling the valve stem. The lubricant will help to keep them soft and reduce the chance for damage during reinstallation. Do not use just any lubricant. A special rubber lubricant MUST be used.
Slide the top gasket into place, screw in the bottom gasket, apply the lubricant and reverse the removal process to return the faucet to normal operation. Be sure to check for leaks at the top of the valve stem before permanently reinstalling the handles.
A caution: Do not over-tighten the nut at the top of the valve stem. Doing so can damage the gasket and make turning the handle very difficult. The nut should be just tight enough to prevent a water leak. At first a slightly loose adjustment is in order — then tighten as needed.
And have a nice rest tonight!