Help! My Faucet Leaks At Base When Turned On

Faucet Leaks At Base When Turned On

When you turn on a faucet, you expect water to come out, but what if water comes from the faucet’s base? Not only is a leaky faucet annoying, but it also wastes water (and money) and makes a mess.

If your faucet leaks at the base when turned on, it could be a dirty or damaged O-ring. Less often, it could be that you need to replace the valve cartridge. First, determine if the leak is really coming from the base; sometimes, it could actually be a leak from the handle.

If water leaks from the handle, it can pool around the faucet’s base, making it hard to distinguish the source. Once you’ve pinpointed the actual leak, you can proceed with the proper steps to fix it.

Faucet Leaks At The Base When Turned On: Steps For Troubleshooting

Dealing with a leaky faucet might be a pain, but you can often fix it relatively quickly. First, make sure you’re sure about the leak’s source, then you can start working your way through possible solutions.

1. Determine The Source Of The Leak

Image source: Robert Kneschke

When it appears your faucet is leaking water at the base, it might actually be coming from elsewhere. Unless you’re staring at your faucet constantly, the odds are good you notice water pooling around the faucet base after the fact.

So, it could be another part of the faucet leaking and dripping down, gathering at the base. One drippy spot that people often confuse with a leaky faucet base is a leaking handle.

2. It Could Be A Leaking Handle

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Before you attempt to fix your faucet problem, first confirm the base is the true source of the leak. You’ll want to rule out the possibility that the handle is what’s leaking.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell where the water is coming from, so here’s a simple test. All you need is a rag and a paper towel.

First, use the rag to thoroughly dry the countertop and sink area around the faucet’s base. You want to make sure any existing water is gone, leaving no room for doubt.

Next, wrap the paper towel around the bottom of the handle tightly and turn it on. If the towel starts to get wet but the faucet base stays dry, you’re dealing with a leaky handle. Go ahead and repeat the same step with the other handle if it’s a two-handle fixture.

Now, if the paper towel stays dry, continue to watch the area around the faucet base. If you see water pooling and the paper towel is still dry, you’ve confirmed the water’s coming out the faucet base.

If you have a leaky handle, you likely need to replace the O-ring in the handle. If the faucet is leaking water at the base, it’s also likely an O-ring issue, but in the faucet body.

3. Check The Faucet’s O-Rings

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If you’ve determined it’s indeed the faucet base leaking, the most likely culprit is the O-ring. The O-ring is a pliable gasket that goes inside the faucet body or handles to help seal against leaks. It’s a good idea to replace O-rings every 10 years to keep your faucet functioning at its best.

If you determined the leak was coming from the faucet’s handle, you’d replace that O-ring. If it were coming from the base, you’d replace the O-ring in the faucet body.

How To Replace An O-Ring

You’ll need:

  • A crescent wrench
  • Rag
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Silicone grease
  • Replacement O-rings

First, shut off the main water supply, then turn on your faucet to let all the water run out of the pipes. Plug the sink’s drain hole, so you don’t lose any screws down the drain.

If The Leak Is Coming From The Handle

  1. If the leak is coming from a handle, you need to remove the handle. Many handles come with a decorative cap that you can simply pop off using the flathead screwdriver. Then you can simply pull up the handle. Some handles will also have a small set screw holding it in place at the base, so you’ll need to remove this first if this is the case.
  2. Once you remove the handle, use the wrench to unscrew the bonnet nut from the handle base. Turn it counter-clockwise to do so.
  3. Remove the damaged or old O-ring. You can use this O-ring to get the appropriate size replacement. Look around the handle base for any crumbled O-ring debris and clean the area.
  4. Put silicone grease on the base, slide on the new O-ring, and apply more silicone grease. This will help keep the O-ring in good shape and pliable.
  5. Follow the above steps in reverse to reinstall the handle.
  6. Turn the water supply back on and check for leaks.

If The Leak Is Coming From The Faucet Base

  1. If the leak is coming from the faucet base, you need to remove the faucet body. If you have a single lever faucet, you’ll need to remove the handle first.
  2. Loosen the coupling nut at the spout’s base using a crescent wrench. Place a rag between the coupling and wrench to avoid scratching your fixture.
  3. Pull off the handle if necessary, then twist the faucet back and forth to pull it up and off the base.
  4. Use a flathead screwdriver to gently lift and remove the O-rings from the base. You should have at least one O-ring, but there could be two.
  5. Apply silicone grease to the base, then install the new O-rings in the grooves where the old O-rings were.
  6. Apply silicone grease again to the base and O-rings.
  7. Reinstall all of the elements following the reverse order of the above steps.
  8. Turn your water supply back on, run the faucet, and check for leaks.

4. Check The Valve Cartridge

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The O-ring is the most common reason for a leaky faucet base, but it could also be a faulty valve cartridge. This device controls the water flow into the faucet’s spout. In two-handle faucets, each handle has its own cartridge.

So, if the issue is with one of the handle cartridges, you would only need to replace the one.

How To Replace The Faucet Valve Cartridge

You’ll need:

  • Pipe wrench
  • Allen wrench
  • Screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead)
  • Silicone grease
  • Replacement cartridge
  1. Turn off the water supply, either at the main or under the sink, and turn on your faucet to let the water run out.
  2. Remove the handle or handles following the same steps as earlier to check the O-ring. This applies to whether you have a double-handle faucet or a single-handle style.
  3. Loosen the nut with the wrench and remove it.
  4. Pull out the cartridge, and this is also a great time to check the O-ring if you haven’t already.
  5. Take the cartridge with you to the home improvement store to get the right size.
  6. Apply silicone grease to the cartridge’s O-ring, and install the new cartridge in the same place as the old one.
  7. Follow the above steps in reverse order to put the faucet back together.
  8. Turn on the water supply and check for leaks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to replace a faucet?

If you decide to change out your entire fixture yourself, you’ll only have the cost of supplies. Typically, this can range from $50 to $200, depending on the brand and quality of the faucet you choose.

Also worth noting is you’ll need a few special tools to complete the task. Typically, flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, an Allen wrench, a crescent wrench, and silicone grease.

If you do regular DIY plumbing work, you’ll have these items already. Otherwise, you’ll need to borrow or purchase them.

If you plan on doing your own minor plumbing repairs in the future, these tools could be a worthwhile investment. However, if you opt to hire a professional plumber, you can expect to pay about $125 to $250 (depending on the faucet you select).

Plumbers usually charge by the hour, between $40 and $150, and changing out a faucet takes a pro about one hour. Some plumbers charge a flat-rate call-out fee between $50 and $200.

So, keep this in mind. For example, say the plumber’s hourly charge is $40, but they have a service call fee of $75.

Then, even though the job only takes them one hour, you’ll pay $75, not $40. Plus, you’ll pay for the cost of supplies and your new faucet on top of that.

How difficult is it to change out a faucet?

If you want to give replacing a faucet a try, it’s relatively simple. You likely only need about an hour or two. Just remember to shut off the water supply first; it’s a rookie mistake that could cause a big mess.

Why is my faucet dripping from the spout?

A faucet can drip from the spout due to a dirty or corroded valve seat inside the body. You can switch this out or perhaps just need to clean it.

Drippy spouts can also be due to many of the same reasons as leaky handles and a leaky base. It could be worn-out cartridges or O-rings that you need to replace.

Can I just seal around the faucet base to stop the leak?

While you can apply a putty or caulk seal around the base, this is only a temporary fix. It simply keeps water from seeping out for a short period, but the faucet is still leaking.

Now, all that water is just building up behind the seal. It’s best to repair the damaged parts causing the leak in the first place.