One windy night, I hear Drip, drip , drip… The sound that will not stop which keeps me awake all night. The culprit? The faucet from my bathrooms. Drip, drip, drip…
Aside from being annoying, a dripping tap wastes a lot of water and can eventually lead to other plumbing problems. You want to get it fixed rapidly, so put on your Plumbing Detectives’ hat and investigate the root cause of your leak.
Most people will assume that a leaking or dripping tap is the result of a worn washer. This can be the fact and will necessitate a washer replacement, but there might be other causes to your leak. The valve seating might be damaged as well, something that is les obvious for the plumbing amateur.
Other types of faucets, newer ones mostly, have ceramic discs taps. There are holes in the two discs that align to let the water flow when the tap is on and rotate when the tap is off to block the water. This is concealed in a cartridge that will need to be replaced entirely if the discs are damaged. Because there are many styles of cartridges, you may need to take it with you to find an exact match at the hardware store. Another part in the cartridge that may malfunction is the seal. Obviously, a broken seal would lead to a leak.
Another reason for your tap to leak could be a worn O-ring. This ring is at the base of your tap and creates a seal between the faucet and the sink where it is mounted. If the ring is damaged or broken, water will seep through the gap. This can happen if liquid soap came in contact with the seal, washing away the lubricant that protected it. The O-ring can also be damaged if the water source is shared with an outside hose. The pull of the exterior water demand might break the seal of the O-ring.
The water pressure in your house might also be the culprit. If the pressure is too strong, it makes the washer or ceramic disks in a cartridge work harder. These parts then wear out sooner. Similarly, if your water is hard, this means that there are a lot of minerals in your water, they can build up anywhere in your plumbing, causing parts of the faucet system to fail and leading to a drip or leak.
With all the different types of faucets on the market, the cause of a leak can come from many sources. Generally, water will go through a damaged rubber washer or scratched ceramic discs and leak. Interestingly, the more expensive your faucet is, the more complex it might be to find the cause of the leak and, you guessed it, the more expensive the repair will be. Therefore, a bit of prevention will save you dollars and sleep. Check your water pressure to ensure it is not higher than what your taps can sustain. Invest in a water softener, it will protect your taps, but also save your clothes and cost less in soap. Finally, when in doubt, call the expert.