My Faucets Drip Occasionally. Should I Replace Them?

Not all plumbing problems are huge disasters. Sometimes there are small things that just happen now and again that can be frustrating to deal with. One example is the occasionally dripping faucet. It’s not an issue all the time so what do you do?

Chances are pretty good that the problem is a warped or otherwise defective washer, which is something you can easily replace yourself without having to actually replace the entire fixture. Some people may call a professional, like the Plumbing Detectives, but you should be able to tackle this small chore on your own.

Here is the basic procedure for replacing washers in your faucets.

First of all, we’re talking about the washers that seal off the water flow inside each of the tap handles (one for hot and one for cold). When the handle is turned to off, it screws down to close off the water with a washer to complete the seal. Without a seal, water leaks out.

Turn off the water before you begin. Pry off the decorative button or cap at the top of the handle. Underneath you’ll find a screw. Undo that, and the handle should come loose. Once you have it apart, you’ll find a nut inside along with a stem that the nut was attached to. Below that should be a washer and possibly a second rubber “o-ring”. Even if the o-ring and the washer look fine, try to replace them anyway. A little change in their shape or flexibility can cause the leaks but not be noticeable to look at them.

Put everything back together in the same order, and replace the faucet handle. Go through the same procedure for the other handle. If you want to test it after doing just one, feel free to do so. But since it wasn’t dripping constantly in the first place, it may not give you an accurate indication that things have been fixed just because it’s not dripping now. It’s better to replace both handles at the same time, just to be sure.


But why does it only drip sometimes?

The inconsistency of the dripping shouldn’t be a concern. The issue with washers is that if it’s gotten deformed, it will sometimes make a proper seal and sometimes it won’t. That leads to occasional dripping. As time goes on, the washers will get worse and the dripping will become a more regular thing.


Why Bother?

If the dripping is really infrequent, you might be inclined to ignore it. Just remember that all those drips can add up. According to the EPA, an average household can lose more than 10,000 gallons of water to leaks every year. That’s a lot of wasted water that you are likely paying for every month. It’s definitely worth a few dollars to get a packet of new washers and o-rings to get it fixed.

Another thing to consider is that small problems now almost always become bigger problems later. That warped washer may get worse, and you might suddenly find yourself unable to turn the water off at all.