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We started to notice that the hot water bathroom sink faucet still drips after we turn it with the normal amount of force, but if we twist it harder it would stop. This problem exacerbated and it became harder and harder to make the dripping stop. Now we can't actually stop it.

I know there are several different things that could possibly be wrong with a leaky faucet. I just want to know if this information can illuminate the exact problem, so I don't end up doing something unnecessary and possibly making things worse.

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The type of valve that has to be "tightened down" to make a good seal is likely an older valve like the one in this diagram from ThisOldHouse.com:

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Over time, there is a washer on the bottom of the stem that wears out. Forcing the handle tighter can fix the issue, but this ultimately just destroys what's left of the washer even faster. Normally removing the stem and replacing the flat or cone shaped washer is all you need to do.

Another problem that can occur is the metal "seat" for the stem that stays in the faucet when the stem is removed can become corroded to the point of not providing a good seal. The seat can be replaced (if you can find one), or they can be ground down with a special tool to provide a new surface for the washer to seal on. Feel the seat with your finger to see if it's smooth. Try to just replace the washer first, and only mess with the seat if the drip continues or returns after a short time.

They might be a challenge to find, but you can normally get new seats, an entire stem, or any washer you need to repair the faucet. A whole new stem will cost on average $15 or so, and they are easy to replace. You shouldn't need to replace the faucet unless the exterior is in equally bad shape and you just want something new.

  • If you are going to go to the trouble to repairing it, you should repair both the hot and cold water taps at the same time. It will save you trouble later. – Jason Hutchinson Jan 5 '16 at 21:12
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Most likely the washers need replacing. If so continuing to exert force to stop water flow will only damage the washer brass base and/or the valve seat. These repairs will cost several times more than the cost of a 10 cent washer. It seems from your description that the damage is now beyond washer replacement.

To be sure it is a washer problem remove the stems from both sides to replace both stems washers. The washer will probably be gone or a jagged black piece of rubber (if your lucky). Look at the raised edge where the washer sits. It should be smooth with no cracks. Look into the faucet where the stem was removed from. It should also be smooth with no sharp edges. If you notice any of these problems it would be easier to replace the faucet.

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