How to Know if You Should Repair or Replace Your Leaky Faucet

Katy Willis
Written by Katy Willis
Updated October 14, 2021
A bathroom faucet dripping water
Photo: KeremYucel/iStock/Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Find out whether your leaky faucet is repairable or if it's time to replace it with a shiny new one

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The drip, drip, drip of a leaky faucet isn't just annoying—it's costing you money and wasting water. Getting it fixed promptly is vital, but knowing whether to repair or replace the faucet is often a sticking point. 

If it's the first time the faucet has sprung a leak, a repair could be a smart, cost-effective option, but if the damage is extensive or the leak keeps recurring, it might be better for your wallet, in the long run, to replace it with a new one.

What’s the Problem With Your Faucet?

A woman repairing her kitchen faucet
Photo: The Good Brigade/DigitalVision / Getty Images

The issue with your faucet really determines whether you can get away with a quick repair or if you need a more extensive fix or a faucet replacement. If you're unsure what the problem with your faucet is or if you should repair or replace it, ask a local faucet repair specialist.

Worn O-Ring

Inside your faucet, there's a small disk called an O-ring. Over time, O-rings can work loose or just wear out. Luckily this is usually an easy repair and not cause for a replacement.

Corroded Valve Seat

The valve seat sits between the faucet and the spout. Eventually, sediment and mineral deposits build, corroding the valve seat, resulting in a leaky faucet. If the buildup is minimal, you can likely get away with just a simple repair, but if there's also corrosion or excessive wear from the debris buildup in the faucet or spout, then you're better off having it replaced.

Worn Out Washer

The washer inside a faucet gets a lot of wear and tear. Every time you turn the faucet on or off, the washer presses against the valve seat and eventually, this repeated friction wears out the washer, and the faucet starts to drip. So, of course, like most people, you try to tighten the faucet more to stop the drip, compressing the washer further, subjecting it to even more damage, and essentially wearing it out faster. Thankfully, replacing a washer is a relatively simple repair.

Washer Installation Issues

Poorly installed washers are one of the most common causes of leaking faucets. This highlights the importance of hiring a professional plumber for any plumbing job, however small unless you're certain you have the right skillset. If washers are installed or seated incorrectly or aren't exactly the right size, you'll quickly end up with a leaking faucet and need someone to repair it.

Reasons to Repair a Leaky Faucet

Repairing a leaky faucet is usually most appropriate for fairly quick and easy fixes.

If It’s Cost-Effective

The cost to repair a faucet is, on average, $210 all-in. Although the job doesn't usually take that long, most plumbers have a minimum of a one-hour callout fee, and the cost to hire a plumber is $45 to $200 per hour, plus parts.

So, if you have a leaky faucet you've been putting off fixing, and you have some other plumbing work that needs addressing, get a plumber to take care of all the jobs at once to maximize value.

If It’s a One-Off Fix

If this is the first time that your faucet has required fixing, then it's usually most cost-effective to pay for a repair rather than a whole new unit.

If It’s a Simple Fix

If the repair is a super-simple one, like replacing an O-ring or a washer and cleaning the inside of the faucet, then a repair makes good financial sense. If you have the time and skill and already know how to repair a leaky faucet, you may even be able to do the job yourself, saving you a significant amount of money.

If It’s Worth the Investment

If you have relatively new faucets or special vintage or antique ones that you love, then a repair could be the best choice. If you feel like the money you pay is worth it to save your new or much-loved faucets, then it's worth the investment. Similarly, if you know that performing a repair will give your faucet another decade or more of trouble-free life, then it's most likely worth the cost.

Reasons to Replace a Leaky Faucet

If you constantly have to repair a leaky faucet, though, it might finally be time to take the plunge and replace it.

A plumber fixing a dripping faucet
Photo: Manu Vega/Moment / Getty Images

If You’ve Already Paid for Too Many Repairs

If you've had to repair your faucet multiple times over a relatively short period, like a couple of years, then it's probably far more cost-effective at this point to just get a new one. 

Installing a new faucet costs between $100 and $575, depending on the faucet and the job’s complexity. Even if you love your vintage porcelain lever-handle faucets, if they keep needing repair and costing you money, it's time to find something new (or new to you).

If There’s Extensive Damage

If the damage to your faucet requires extensive work like with internal corrosion or worn threads, then it makes more financial sense to replace the old faucet with a new one. Similarly, if you have other issues, such as the leaky faucet also having low water pressure, you may hire a local plumber to replace the faucet and fix the water pressure.

If You Want to Elevate the Room on a Budget

Maybe you don't want the cost of a full bathroom remodel or kitchen upgrade, but you still want to give the room a budget-friendly makeover. Perhaps your porcelain bathroom pedestal sink is still pristine, but the chrome-effect faucet is peeling and really bringing down the look of your bathroom. 

In this case, replacing the faucets with something sleek, like a black brass square widespread faucet with a waterfall spout, instantly elevates the space without getting crazy expensive or requiring a lot of time and construction mess.

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