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Repair a Leaky Two-Handled Faucet

Learn how to repair three types of double-handle faucets: ceramic disc, compression/reverse-compression and cartridge.

Keep in mind that some cartridge bodies and ceramic disc bodies/cylinders can look similar. In most cases, the cartridge body doesn't have moving parts. The ceramic disc body/cylinder does have moving parts that pivot to open the ports on the bottom.

These instructions work for sink faucets in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as bathtubs and showers.

Tools & Materials

Product costs, availability, and item numbers may vary online or by market.

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Locate the Leak

Hot and cold water supply lines that feed the leaky faucet.

Determine which side of your faucet is leaking by shutting off the water supply valves one at a time. If the leak doesn’t stop after the first valve is turned off, it’s the other line that’s leaking.

Once you determine which side is leaking, turn off both supply valves.

If your valves are stuck, shut off the water main. You will have to replace hardware for both sides since you won’t be able to identify whether the hot or cold side is leaking.

Disassemble the Old Faucet

Step 1

Towel placed in sink basin to protect the finish and catch plumbing parts.

Turn faucet handles to the “on” position to release any residual water. Close the drain and place a towel in the sink to protect the surface and catch any dropped parts.

Step 2

Vinegar soaked towel wrapped around aerator and secured with rubber band.

Remove the aerator and inspect it for damage. If it’s stuck, soak a towel in vinegar and wrap it around the aerator to help loosen mineral deposits. After an hour, gently twist the aerator with a towel and pliers.

Step 3

Towel with organized faucet parts.

As you disassemble the old faucet, lay the parts in order on a flat surface and snap a picture for reference. Then, put those parts in a plastic bag and take them to the store with you when shopping. You may only require one part, but it may be best to buy a kit and replace everything, including a new aerator if yours is damaged.

Ceramic Disc Faucets

This type of faucet uses a cylinder with tiny discs on the bottom that control water flow. The most successful repair typically replaces the entire cylinder.

Step 1

Removing the set screw to remove the faucet handle.

Loosen the set screw and remove the handle.

Step 2

Using pliers to gently remove the cylinder.

Unscrew the retainer nut or mounting screw and pull out the cylinder.

Step 3

Tightening the retainer nut after replacing a cylinder.

Set a new cylinder into place and reassemble the faucet.

Step 4

With the faucet knobs in the “on” position, slowly turn on the water supply. Too much initial pressure can damage the new hardware.

Compression & Reverse-compression Faucets

Valve Stem and O-ring.

In this repair, you’ll replace the washer and O-ring or gasket on the valve stem, as well as the valve seat in the faucet.

Step 1

Removing the set screw that holds the faucet handle in place.

Remove handles or knobs by prying off the temperature indicator cap and removing the screw. Pull the handles off the base. Some handles are removed by backing out a set screw.

Step 2

Removing the valve stem.

Loosen the retaining screw with a wrench and take out the valve stem.

Step 3

Removing screw from stem.

On the stem, remove the screw, washer and old O-ring.

Step 4

New o-ring with valve.

Add plumber’s grease to the stem and install a new O-ring and washer. Replace the screw.

Step 5

Hex wrench removing the valve seat.

Remove the valve seat with a seat or hex wrench and insert a new one.

Step 6

Reassemble your faucet.

With the faucet knobs in the “on” position, slowly turn on the water supply. Too much initial pressure can damage the new hardware.

Cartridge Faucet

Step 1

Removing the set screw.

Unscrew the set screw to remove the handle. Remove the retaining clip or nut.

Step 2

Removing the cartridge.

Gently pull out the cartridge and replace it with a new one

Step 3

Reassemble the faucet. With the faucet knobs in the “on” position, slowly turn on the water supply. Too much initial pressure can damage the new hardware.

Good to Know

While you have the faucet disassembled, it's a good idea to replace the seats and springs below the cartridge.  They're inexpensive and adding new ones should ensure your repair is complete. 

Aerator

After reassembling your faucet, run the water for a few minutes to clear debris from the new parts. Replace the aerator.

If your old aerator needs cleaning, soak it in white vinegar to remove buildup and deposits. Rinse it before installation.