One drip per second from a leaky faucet equals 3,000 to 8,000 gallons of wasted water a year, according to Paul Patton, senior product manager for Delta Faucet, and Chuck White, vice president of technical and code services for the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.
Plus, water is big-time corrosive, "more like sand than oil," says White. That leak is corroding the metal parts deep inside your faucet, and that's the aim of your fix-it. May be nothing more than a loose ring that needs tightening, or you may need to ditch the innards, a part called "the seat," or in a newfangled faucet, "the cartridge." That's the part that needs to be swapped out. Either that, or start fresh with a whole new faucet. In which case, you may want to call a plumber.
Here are tips from White and Patton.
Degree of difficulty:
Tricky enough to show why plumbers were invented.
Screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, adjustable wrench, Allen wrench. And depending on your replacement part, the correct "seat removing tool" (with a hexagon fitting, or a square protruding from the end). Without the right removing tool, you're, well, soaked.
1. Turn off the water. Also, plug the sink so you don't lose parts down the drain.
2. Identify the brand and model of the faucet so you buy the right parts. Thirty years ago, most of the market was washer-and-seat, says Patton. Now, many manufacturers have eliminated those two parts for what's known as a cartridge.
3. Faucets come in single- or two-handle varieties; for two-handle you must determine whether the leak is coming from the hot or cold side (put your finger under the drip; you'll know). Stick to the side that's the source of the problem, or, as long as you're at it, replace the innards on both the hot and cold.
4. Remove the faucet handle with a screwdriver or Allen wrench.
5. On a single-handle faucet, you'll now see a metal ring; tighten it with needle-nose pliers. If you're lucky, this will fix the leak; if not, forge on. But because single-handle faucets vary by brand, your best bet is to follow specific instructions that come with the replacement parts.
6. For a two-handle faucet, you'll see a nut. Remove it. See that sticking-up stem? Pull the stem straight out, and with it comes the cartridge. If it's an older seat-and-washer gizmo, just turn the stem open to lift out the stem and washer. Look down into the hole (you may need a flashlight) to see the seat. If it's shiny and smooth, it's OK; if it's not, it's the source of your troubles. Unscrew it with the seat-removing tool.
7. Once the old parts are yanked, replace with either a new cartridge or new, identical seat. And use the proper tool (likely a six-sided Allen wrench or a four-sided wrench); don't forget to replace the washer too.
8. Reinstall the parts in reverse order. Turn on the water; now turn it off. Don't hear that telltale drip? You're a plumbing star.