How do I fix this dripping tap?
May 5, 2014 10:27 AM   Subscribe

My kitchen tap drips. Should I attempt to fix it myself or call in a plumber?

You gave me excellent help on my previous home improvent question (recaulking in the bathroom) so I'm hoping to try another project. This kitchen tap drips, about once a second when left in the cold position. Less often if towards hot. It's shown in the pic with the cap removed which reveals one cross-head screw.

If I turn the water off and remove the screw what will happen? How complicated will it be to get to whatever I need to stop the dripping, and then to reassemble it? I have a hardware store nearby so can take washers or whatever there to get replacements.

I'dI would rather not spend the money on a plumber but not ending up without water in the kitchen is kind of important as well, so if the chances of me screwing this up are high I'd rather let a pro do it.
posted by valleys to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Last time I had a dripping single lever kitchen faucet, I just went out and bought a new single lever kitchen faucet and installed it.
posted by HuronBob at 10:30 AM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: You probably just need to replace the cartridge
posted by JPD at 10:33 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Look at the brand of faucet, find the shut off valves to stop the water, go to lowes/home depot/ace/local hardware store, find the replacement cartridge.

Follow steps on the internet (eg homedepot or youtube (find specific to your brand).

Best case: You spent $10-20 for the cartridge, and sink doesn't leak any more. Worst case, you're out $20, and then call the expert.

(Our expert did one bathroom shower handle, and I've done 4-5 sinks/showers since once he showed me)

(edit: JPD concurrs. Also, you MAY want to take the cartridge in with you to $STORE to make sure you get the right one - there can be some variation between models/age of the faucet etc.)
posted by k5.user at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: You're going to find a brass spherical valve body down there with some O-rings or rubber seats that need to be replaced.

Step 1: Put some sort of filter or plug in the drain to catch the inevitable springs or screws you will drop.

Step 2: Shut off the water from underneath the sink.

Step 3: Undo that screw and journey onward.

90% sure you're going to find a Delta rebuild kit at the hardware store and be happy with the results. Grab a little tube/pouch of waterproof grease to get everything lubed and sealed while you're at it.

Edit: Definitely take the cartridge or valve body with you, otherwise you're going to be staring at several similar but not quite the same units and will make four trips to the hardware store before you get the right one.
posted by Kakkerlak at 10:36 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 1. Do you have accessible shutoff valves?
2. Do they work?
3. Do you know the brand & model of the faucet?
4. If (3), you can usually order or buy a replacement cartridge for it, often from the manufacturer themselves (Moen, etc).

This is what you probably need to replace, and This Old House explains that step-by-step.
posted by Dashy at 10:36 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This Old House can get you started.

Step one: shut off water.
Step two: close the drain and place a washcloth in the sink so you don't drop all the tiny screws down there.
Steps three through n: See here.
Step n+1: Fixed!
posted by Sunburnt at 10:37 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, you MAY want to take the cartridge in with you to $STORE

No, you always want to take the cartridge in with you to the store or you will be making a second trip. It's really hard to get this right, so it's best to bring it with mad check the match.
posted by plinth at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

you always want to take the cartridge in with you to the store or you will be making a second trip.

Yep. $STORE should have a cartridge identifier thing set up which includes a gauge for measuring it and a big laminated catalogue with all the options listed by manufacturer.

Because it's all pretty much sealed cartridges now, it's a more expensive repair (no 10¢ washer swaps) but it's also a lot simpler. And since it's a single tap, you don't have to worry as much about hot vs cold or left vs right.
posted by holgate at 10:54 AM on May 5, 2014

I spent a year trying to fix a dripping faucet. When I actually went and looked at (cheap) replacements, I realized I could have spent less than $40 or so and installed a new one quite easily and quickly. It was NOT hard.

What I'm saying is that if the easy stuff like the cartridge doesn't work, don't sweat it. Replace it.
posted by idb at 10:55 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

A second (or third) trip back to $STORE is a time-honored tradition. Let's not be leaving that off the list(s).
posted by Dashy at 10:56 AM on May 5, 2014 [7 favorites]

I want to emphasize points 1 and 2 in Dashy's comment above.

I've lived in places where the answer to #2 was "no", in one case with catastrophic results when I tried to turn them just a little harder. If you can't turn them off due to corrosion or anything, call a plumber for sure.

Even if you can turn them off, sometimes they will still let a little trickle of water through, so you should have the means to catch the water while you've got everything taken apart.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:00 AM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: To add to those above: Consider using the main shutoffs for the house, if you can. They are usually beefy ball valves and are less likely to leak than the small valves used under sinks. I have had the unfortunate experience of shutting the water off under the sink, completing the repair, then having to replace the under-sink valves.
posted by Talk To Me Goose at 11:38 AM on May 5, 2014

One more tip: place paper towels beneath the ball-valves that're under your sink. If any water comes out, it's easy to spot drops because of the visual texture change when paper towels. Alternatively, colored tissue paper, because of the way that shows waterspots.

This is also a good time to address your other problems sink, like fixing your pop-up sink stopper (TOH video), or un-gunk the sink trap. You don't have to, but this is the opportunity if you want to and have the time.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:18 PM on May 5, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers everybody. It's a Moen tap. I'll summon the courage to take it apart sometime in the next week or so and see what I can do.
posted by valleys at 3:06 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Many Moen taps have lifetime warranties. If you phone around you might be able to find a store who will supply you with a new cartridge for free. EG: The Home Hardware here will just give me a new Moen cartridge to match the one I brought in, no questions asked. Home Depot charges ~$23. The first year I owned my house I ended up replacing 6 Moen cartridges all free of charge. I'd never been more happy to find out Home Depot didn't have stock for the item I was looking for. If they had I never would have went to the place that provides them for free.

And it's really easy to change. The hardest part is breaking the old cartridge free of the the housing. Make sure not to remove the grease on the new cartridge when you install it.
posted by Mitheral at 5:49 PM on May 5, 2014

Response by poster: Success! It took me about 90 minutes, including a single trip to the hardware store and back.

At first the handle wouldn't come off, but after watching videos again it was clear it was just gummed up with dirt and a bit of firm pulling released it.

The main confusion was that the cartridge looked nothing like any of the ones in the videos, and it wasn't even listed on the hardware store's website. Thankfully the local store had it in stock and, as Mitheral said, it was free because of the lifetime warranty.

I cleaned everything up, used plumbers grease when reassembling it and all is good. Thanks for all the excellent advice!
posted by valleys at 6:49 AM on May 9, 2014

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