A leaky sink can be a minor (but constant!) annoyance and a small drain on your water bill. This is one plumbing job that might not require professional assistance, though! Try out this simple washer-changing procedure to see if you can take care of your leaky faucet on your own.
The first thing you want to do is to shut off the sink’s water supply. This calls for a quick trip underneath the countertop. There will be a stop valve there that controls the water lines which feed your sink. This is usually an oblong, oval-shaped knob. Turning it clockwise will close the water lines and let you work on the leaking faucet. (If the stop valve refuses to turn, do not force it; a broken valve is a much more serious – and urgent – problem than a leaking faucet!)
Once the water is shut off, you are almost ready to get to work on the faucet. You should be able to handle the job with common household tools. A screwdriver or two and a wrench will be sufficient. You can use a pair of pliers as a substitute for the wrench in a pinch. The final preparatory step is to plug the sink’s drain. You don’t want important screws and nuts slipping down the drain while you’re working! Use a rag if the drain doesn’t have a built-in stopper.
You are going to remove the faucet’s handle or handles. This is where the design of your faucet set can cause a little trouble. On some models, the screw which holds the handle on is very prominent. Others hide it underneath a cap or cover. If your faucet is one of these, you should be able to pry off the cap with your screwdriver. Do not use excessive pressure; try shifting the angle and position of the screwdriver instead of applying more force. Once you have access to the handle’s screw, unscrew it and remove it. You should now be looking at the guts of the faucet.
There is some variation in the way that different faucets are built, but in all cases there is a post which the faucet handle turns. You will see a nut and (probably) a washer on this post. Most sink leaks start when the meeting between the nut and the post starts to wear down. A good washer should fix this problem. Take off the nut with your wrench (or pliers) to get at the washer. Install a replacement, or an appropriately-sized new one.
Re-assemble the handle with the new washer in place. When you screw the handle back on, you do not need to tighten it down too much. It needs to be “hand-tight” – in other words, tighten until you would have to strain to go further. Once the handle is back together, turn the stop valve on again (counter-clockwise) and see if your repair job is a success. Your leak will most likely be gone!
If all goes well, you will find that this simple repair job can solve most dripping sinks. If you follow the procedure properly and are still left with a leaky faucet, it may be time to call a plumber. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try your own hand at it before resorting to an expensive service call!