There are four main types of faucets you can install in your kitchen and bathrooms. Read on to learn about each type and how to fix them if they clog.
Even if you only have two faucets in your home, there’s a large chance that they don’t work the same.
So, what about when you turn on the tap and there’s no water, or it just dribbles out drip by drip? There’s a large chance that a build-up of sediment is to blame. But, before you can do anything with that information you need to know what type of faucet you have.
We’re about to take a look at the 4 most common types of faucets and what you can try to do to fix them. Remember that some tasks are best left to the professionals. If at any point you feel like you’re in over your head, then contact your nearest plumbing services. It might just save you a lot of hassle and money in the long run.
The 4 Common Types of Faucets
Before you attempt to unclog your blocked faucet, it’s important to understand its idiosyncrasies. If something works differently, there’s a large chance that it breaks differently, and it is almost certain that it will need fixing differently.
A Ball faucet has one handle for both hot and cold water, and you’re most likely to find them in the kitchen sink. If the handle of your faucet rotates up and down, and side to side then its most likely a ball faucet. You control the temperature and water flow with the positioning of the handle. They were designed to be the first washer-less faucet.
The ball faucet’s handle moves a slotted rotating ball known as the lever ball assembly, which is located inside the faucet’s body. As well as slots, the ball contains rubber O-rings and spring-loaded rubber seals. It sits on top of the hot and cold water inlet seats inside the faucet body.
Where you move the handle decides how the slots in the ball align with the hot and cold water inlet seats, thus controlling the flow and mixing the temperature of the water coming from the faucet.
Disc faucet handles move up-and-down and side-to-side much like ball faucets, but they don’t have as much free motion. The faucet’s body is usually cylindrical and much wider than the other types of faucet. They are the least likely to leak of all the faucet types as they’re built to be practically maintenance-free.
The body of the faucet contains two extremely durable ceramic discs: an upper disc and a lower disc. When you rotate the faucet handle, the upper disc rotates, but the lower disc stays locked in place. The two discs are both perfectly flat, so when they’re pressed together they form a watertight seal.
When you turn the tap to let water flow, the upper disc separates from the lower disk, and water passes through the gap. Due to the hardness of the discs themselves, they are impervious to line debris, mineral buildups, and other common problems that affect valve life in other types of faucets.
Compression faucets have two separate, turnable handles for hot and cold water. They are the least expensive of faucet types, but this is because they require the most maintenance due to how they are constructed. You tighten and loosen the faucet handles manually to control the water flow. Turning these handles inevitably feels a lot like turning a screw, because that’s what you’re essentially doing.
When the handle is turned, it either raises or lowers a washer or seal inside the faucet that closes against a valve seat at the base of the stem. This is what either restricts or allows water to flow depending on which way you turn the handle.
Cartridge faucets can have either one or two handles. Whilst a two-handled cartridge faucet might look very similar to a compression faucet, you don’t have to apply force to rotate the handles to operate the faucet. With one quick turn, you turn the faucet handle to start the water flow. This makes them much easier to use for children or people suffering from arthritis.
The faucet body contains a hollow metal cartridge inside, which seals the faucet, blocking water flow. When you open the faucet, the cartridge is pushed forward, where it no longer blocks the water lines. In a single-handle faucet the water pressure is controlled by moving the cartridge up or down, and the temperature by moving it back and forth. So, now you know which type of faucet you’re dealing with, let’s take a look at how to unclog them.
How To Unclog a Faucet
Before you try to unclog your faucet it’s important to test all the other faucets in your home. If a lack of water pressure is universal across all your faucets then it’s more likely to be a pressure issue with the whole water system, and if that’s the case it’s time to contact a plumber.
If just one faucet seems to be the issue then it could be down to a build-up of sediment in the faucet’s aerator.
Checking The Aerator
The aerator is the little screen at the end of the spout where that water comes out. Its function is to catch debris. Due to its allotted task, sediment or debris can build up there, and eventually, cause enough blockage to hurt the water flow. Fortunately, this can be a very easy fix. Just unscrew the end piece of the spout where the screen is and clean it out. You might need a small screwdriver or knife to pry the components apart.
There can be a few small components so be sure to note how they go together before taking them apart and cleaning them. You can soak the components in vinegar to clean them, or even use some water and a toothbrush to scrub them clean. If the mesh is blocked with sediment then you can carefully use a pin or a toothpick to push out the bits of debris between the holes in the mesh before giving it a good scrub with a toothbrush.
If the aerator resists scrubbing and it’s a standard cylinder-shaped aerator then you can just take it to the hardware store and find a replacement. If it’s a more uniquely shaped aerator then finding a replacement might not be so easy and you might need to dig around online. You can also try soaking the aerator in vinegar overnight to try and loosen any debris. Once you’ve cleaned or replaced your aerator screen. Reassemble the aerator and screw it back on to the end of the spout. If this is the issue, the pressure should return to normal when you put it back on.
Handy Tip – You should clean your aerator regularly to reduce any buildup. If you’re still having problems and you have a cartridge faucet, then the problem might be with the faucet cartridge itself.
Check The Faucet Cartridge
First, you’ll need to shut off the water supply valves located under your sink. Turn the valves clockwise to close them. Then turn on both your hot and cold water taps to drain any excess water from the faucet. Once the water is drained, turn the taps back to the off position. It’s also a good time to block the drain just in case any small parts fall out. Use a towel behind the faucet to soak up any water.
Now you need to remove the faucet handles. There is usually a decorative cap that needs to be removed to access the screw underneath. Remove the screw, and the cartridge should pull right out. They are quite often stuck in there pretty good, so be careful, and be prepared to pull pretty hard to get them out. With the cartridges out, you can rinse them individually in a bucket of clean water. Be sure to open and close the cartridges by twisting the stem. If they’re hard to open and close you might want to put the handle back on to help move them.
If there is a lot of whitish-green sediment built up on the
cartridge then it’s time to replace them. You should be able to buy
new cartridges at any home improvement store for under 15 dollars. If
you’re not sure what to get, just take the old cartridge with you.
Now reinsert the cartridges and reassemble the handles. It’s important not to over-tighten the cartridge assembly. Stop when you feel resistance, otherwise, you could damage the faucet. Now reopen the supply valves under the sink and slowly turn on your tap. Be sure to check for any leaks and ensure the water is running smoothly. Still, having problems? It might be the spout.
Check The Faucet Spout
With the aerator removed, be sure to check inside the faucet spout with your little finger or a small screwdriver for any debris that might be causing the blockage there. If you find something you can use the small screwdriver or a Q-tip to remove the debris. If you’ve already checked the aerator and the cartridge, and you can’t find any debris in the spout with your little finger or a small screwdriver. You might still have a blockage further up the faucet spout.
You can check this by using a compressor to attempt to blow air through the faucet. If you don’t have a compressor then you can try and blow air through it manually. If there’s hardly any air coming out then you might have a build-up of sediment somewhere further up. If this is the case then the best thing to do is to soak the whole faucet in vinegar overnight. This should loosen any debris that might be causing the blockage.
In the morning, check to see if air is flowing freely through the faucet. If it is then just reassemble the faucet and you’re good to go.
Handy Tip – If a build-up of debris is a recurring cause of your clogged faucet then you might want to contact your local plumber and inquire about having a water softener installed in your home to condition the water and reduce its mineral content before it reaches the faucets.
I’ve Tried All That And Nothing Works
These are the 4 most common types of faucets and the easiest and most common fixes for them, but sadly not the only things that might be causing a lack of water flow. Before you unpack the rest of your tool kit and take the day off work remember that disassembling a faucet can be tricky and potentially lead to you standing in a partially flooded kitchen or bathroom. Let a professional plumber inspect and take care of the issue for you.