It’s not uncommon to find a variety of faucet designs, each with a distinct operating system, even within the same household. Generally, the functionality of the faucet isn’t a pressing issue, as long as it serves its primary purpose.
However, when your faucet starts dripping, leaking or sputtering, understanding the nuances of it becomes crucial. They all work–and break–differently. There are primarily four types of faucets, each with a unique operation and potential issues. To handle any faucet repairs, you first need to identify which type you’re dealing with. Let’s explore the four types of sink faucets that you might find in your home, and how they function.
Compression faucets are the oldest faucet type. If you own an older home and haven’t changed out the faucets, there’s a good chance you have a compression faucet,
All compression faucets have separate handles for hot and cold water. You tighten and untighten these handles manually by rotating them to let water flow out of the faucet. Loosening the faucet handle opens the valve and starts the water. Tightening it again stops the water. Using these handles probably feels a lot like turning a screw–because it basically is!
Compression faucet handles connect to two stem assemblies (one for each handle). Stem assemblies are essentially screws with washers at the end. These assemblies sit over the faucet’s valve seat, which is where water flows into the faucet. When you close the faucet, you’re driving the stem assembly down to the valve seat. When it reaches the valve seat, the stem’s washer compresses over the valve seat and cuts off the water flow. When you open the faucet again, the washer rises and allows the water to flow again.
Compression faucet repair usually involves removing the handle, taking apart the valve assembly and replacing the washer within. While not difficult, you’ll want to make sure you turn off the water and don’t let any parts slip down the drain while you’re working! To make this repair simple, keep a handful of right-sized washers on hand for when you need them.
Ball faucets were designed to be the first washerless faucet. Unlike compression faucets, a ball faucet only has one handle for both hot and cold water. They’re especially common in kitchen sinks. If your faucet’s handle can rotate semi-freely up and down and from side-to-side, then it’s probably a ball faucet. The lever of the ball faucet manages the water temperature, pressure, and flow rate.
A ball faucet’s handle controls a rotating ball called the lever ball assembly. The lever ball assembly is located inside the faucet’s body. The assembly sits on a system of springs and inlets directly over the opening where water flows through the faucet. This ball has chambers and slots built into it. These slots align with hot and cold inlet seats inside the body of the faucet itself. By maneuvering the ball, you’re aligning the slots in the ball with the inlet seats in the faucet and controlling how water flows through the faucet.
Ball faucet repair involves removing the faucet handle, diagnosing the source of the problem and using the right repair kit to resolve the issue. If you know the make and model of your faucet, you should be able to purchase a ball faucet repair kit with all the parts you might need. You may end up replacing valve seals, the O-ring, the ball itself or a combination of these parts. It all depends on which parts of your ball faucet have worn out.
Disc faucets are a more recent design than either compression or ball faucets. Like ball faucets, they were designed not to rely on washers. A disc faucet’s body is much wider than other types of faucets, and they’re usually cylindrical. They are generally more durable than their compression or ball counterparts. The wide, cylindrical body of a disc faucet houses two ceramic discs – an upper disc that rotates with the handle, and a lower disc that remains stationary.
These two highly-polished discs are both perfectly flat, so when they’re pressed together they form a watertight seal. When you open the faucet to let water flow, the upper disc separates from the lower disk. Water passes through the newly-created gap until you close the faucet again.
Disc faucet repair typically means removing the faucet handle to access the interior cartridge where the ceramic discs are housed. If you clean the cartridge and the rubber seals, you might get things flowing properly again. If your disc faucet still leaks, you may need to replace the entire cartridge. This is easy and relatively inexpensive. Most local home and hardware stores carry a variety of disc sink cartridges to match your model.
Unlike the other types of faucet on this list, cartridge faucets can have either one or two handles. Unlike compression faucets, however, you don’t have to rotate the faucet handles to control water flow. Instead, you can simply turn a cartridge faucet handle to start the water flow. Unless there’s something wrong, the handle should rotate from “off” to “on” in one smooth, easy motion. Single-handle cartridge faucets move up-and-down to control water flow and side-to-side to control temperature, like disc faucets.
Cartridge faucets contain a hollow metal cartridge inside the body of the faucet. This hollow cartridge seals the faucet, blocking water flow from both hot and cold water lines. When you open the faucet, you push the cartridge forward. In its forward position, the cartridge no longer covers the water lines allowing water to flow through the faucet. When adjusting temperature, you’re rotating the cartridge slightly so that it blocks either the cold or hot water intakes.
Cartridge faucet repair is as easy as removing the faucet handle and replacing the cartridge within. The only trick is to replace the faucet cartridge with the proper model. Bring your old cartridge to your local home or hardware store to match the correct type. Some manufacturers offer replacement through the mail.
Help Repairing All Faucet Types
Understanding your faucets is a great first step. Once you’ve identified yours, you can follow the correct steps to fix it. Different faucet repairs require different tools and parts. And always make sure you turn the water supply off and cover the drain before you start disassembling your faucet.
If you need a little help repairing your faucet–or any other plumbing fixture–give Mike Diamond a call any time. Older sinks, rusty parts and outdated plumbing can make the job tricky for anyone. We’d love to update your sink faucet so that it keeps working for years to come.