Image for article titled How Bad Is a Leaky Faucet, Anyway?

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The drip-drip-drip of a leaky faucet can be annoying, to be sure. And it’s certainly not going to do any favors to your water bill (or the environment). But beyond that, how big of a deal is it, really?

How much damage does a leaky faucet cause?

If your leak is visible, you might not be too concerned—after all, water is just dribbling into the tub, which is designed to get wet. But all that excess moisture is a breeding ground for mold, which we know is hazardous to our health. In addition to that, according to Faith Plumbing, you might think all the materials are in your shower or bath are waterproof, but they’re not: “Blocking water out and being unharmed by it are totally different. The main component of traditional tile grout and thin-set mortar is Portland cement, which doesn’t block water.” Keeping the tub or sink perpetually wet will cause damage, even if degradation does take some time.

Plus, as we know, it’s a waste of water and money: the U.S. Department of the Interior has a handy calculator on its website that illustrates that if you have a leaky faucet dripping 30 times per minute, you’re wasting 8.6 gallons of water per day.

How to fix a leaky faucet

If your leak is visible (i.e., not behind a wall), it could be a quick fix. Per Home Depot, pick up these supplies to fix a leaky faucet if you don’t have them already:

  • Slotted screwdriver
  • Wrench
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Hex key
  • Faucet repair kit
  • Faucet cartridge or stem
  • Silicone faucet grease
  • Old rag

Before you start, turn off the water to you home. Then:

  • Open the shower faucet all the way and let any remaining water drain out.
  • Put a rag down in the tub over the drain so anything you drop doesn’t go down.
  • Unscrew the faucet handle (and note the screw may be under a cap in the center, which you can just pry off).
  • Remove the faceplate behind the handle.
  • Pull off the metal sleeve this reveals (or possibly unscrew it).
  • If you see a locking clip on top of the valve, remove it with your pliers, but know you might not have one there at all.
  • Use a wrench to grip the nut at the base of the stem and unscrew it.
  • Loosen the cartridge with your wrench and, if necessary, stop here to take that to the store and find a matching replacement if you don’t already have one.
  • If you do have a new cartridge, put it on your empty valve and tighten it with your wrench.
  • Put the locking clip, valve sleeve, faceplate, and shower handle and cover back on.

After you run the shower and test things out, if you still have a leak, it’s probably call a plumber.

Signs that you have a hidden water leak

If your faucet or shower head is leaking into your tub or sink, it’s clear you have a leak. But if you have a leak behind your wall, you may not notice right away. Angi, a service that connects skilled workers with customers, says you should always be on the lookout for these nine signs of a hidden water leak:

  • A musty smell in your bathroom, even after you clean it
  • Mildew or mold in your bathroom (which you should clean so it doesn’t spread)
  • Damaged paint or wallpaper in the form of blistering or stains
  • Damaged walls, like bubbles in your drywall
  • Moisture inside your cabinets
  • Damaged flooring, whether it involves buckling, cracking, or staining
  • A rocking, unsteady toilet
  • A loose faucet
  • Stains on your ceiling

If the leak is hidden out of view, you’ll need a professional plumber to access and fix the pipes. Don’t put this off—because you can’t see it, you don’t know how bad it is.

   



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