Woke up to the sound of a steady stream of (hot) water flowing from the bathroom sink, as if the handle was all the way open, but when I went to turn it off - the faucet handle was already in off position.

Turned off the hot water shut-off valve below the sink and it stopped.

Why would the water just start flowing like that ?

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  • Other humans in the house who fail to mention things is a common reason. Shut-off valves which are not used for 20 years often will not function. Good annual checklist item. Apr 16, 2017 at 14:57
  • No other humans in house. Faucet in complete off position.
    – P.S.
    Apr 16, 2017 at 15:53
  • a new cartridge did fix it, if anyone else runs into something similar
    – P.S.
    Jan 29, 2018 at 1:40

1 Answer 1


It is not uncommon for the cut-off valve under the lavatory to get stiff with age. I have encountered cut-off valves that needed to be turned with pliers.

As to the hot water starting to run in the middle of the night, that is a new one to me, but possibly the valve had been on the verge of failing and then suddenly did so. If this is the type with a "rubber" washer seal, then a new seal may fix it. If it is the type with a "cartridge", then a new cartridge may fix it.

If you cannot get the cut-off valve to work with pliers (used carefully), then you will have to replace the cut-off valve.

If you have the water to the entire house shut off, then it might be a good idea to turn off the water heater. Then you may be able to turn off the supply valve to the water heater and then turn on the water to the house and have cold water supply at the taps. Having running cold water will allow the toilets to fill and you will have cold water at the kitchen faucet, etc. Then you can plan a fix for the hot water valve in the lavatory.

EDIT I don't see the left (hot) handle skewed at an angle. The position of the lever is a little different which it will be in general. Pop off the little cap unscrew the screw holding the handle down and remove it. Then remove the covering to expose the valve. Then remove the guts of the valve and I think it will be revealed as a cartridge. Take it to a big box or a plumbing supply and get a new cartridge.


It could be that the handle is poorly placed so that it does not close all the way. Remove the handle and reposition it so that when closed it is not in contact with the back splash guard of the counter top. That may be all that is needed.

  • 1
    Yes. In normal operation (in the old style faucet) the rubber washer seal is pressed against the seat to shut off the water. The most common failure is the seal fails and so water flows around the torn or compressed seal. You have to take the stem out to see what is happening in a particular case. It is also possible that the seat has a groove or is damaged in some way. Or the seat is loose and water is flowing through the threads which hold the seat against the body of the valve. Apr 16, 2017 at 16:04
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    The seat is held in with threads, but one does NOT have to use teflon tape or pipe dope on the seat threads. The reason is that the threads are there to pull the seat tight against the valve body. This flat surface is where the seal is made. Apr 16, 2017 at 16:07
  • 1
    Have you tried to shut off the hot water at the cut-off under the lavatory? Turn clockwise with a heavy glove or a washcloth or with pliers. Apr 16, 2017 at 16:09
  • 1
    We need to know what kind of lavatory faucet you have in order to give specific advice. For example, is it dual handle or single handle? Can you post a link to a picture? Apr 16, 2017 at 16:11
  • 1
    Newer faucets do not have a rubber washer seal. They have a cartridge which is replaceable with an identical one or an aftermarket one with is compatible. Apr 16, 2017 at 16:16

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