A leaky faucet could be the sign of a valve stem that needs to be repacked. Packing material, typically made out of rubber or plastic, surrounds the central valve cylinder and helps prevent water from leaking up through the centre of the stem. A piece of hardware called the packing nut keeps the packing material pressed tightly in place and helps keep the seal watertight. Repacking a valve stem will help prevent leaks and is an inexpensive project.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Phillips screwdriver
- Slotted screwdriver
- Sharp knife
- Adjustable wrench
- Packing material
- Needle-nose pliers
- Small screwdriver
- Silicone grease
Shut off the water supply for the valve stem. How this is done will depend on the stem location. Interior faucets will typically have a shutoff valve located underneath the faucet. Rotate the knob on the end of the valve clockwise to cut off the water. If you cannot find a separate cut-off valve, you will have to shut off the water supply for the entire house at the main valve. These valves are usually located next to the water meter for your property.
Remove the valve stem handle by unscrewing the handle screw. Some faucets, such as bathroom or kitchen faucets, may have the screw hidden on the front or the back of the faucet. In other faucets, the screw will be concealed by the temperature indicator on the top of the handle. Insert the edge of a sharp knife underneath the cap, and wedge it off in order to access the screw. Pull the handle straight up, once the screw is removed.
Unscrew the packing nut with the adjustable wrench. This is the nut located just underneath the handle. Unscrew counterclockwise to remove. Pull the nut off the stem.
Remove the packing material. The packing material is wedged in beneath the packing nut, in the space between the valve stem cylinder and the outside of the faucet. The best way to remove it is either with a pair of needle-nose pliers or a small screwdriver. The packing material is typically made of either plastic or rubber, and is ring-shaped to fit around the cylinder.
Insert new packing material around the cylinder. Turn the packing nut over and apply a coat of silicone grease to the surface. Turn the packing nut up right side, slip it over the cylinder, and tighten.
Insert the handle back into place. Secure with the screw.
Restore the water supply.
Tips and warnings
- Take your old packing material to the hardware or plumbing store so you can get the right sizes for replacement.
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