Single-lever control valves
Time, use and water that is overly acidic or mineral-laden can wear out the type of single-lever valves now common on sink faucets and shower controls. When the lever is pushed all the way down and the faucet continues to drip, the culprit is a worn valve-stem assembly. You can swap this worn part for a new one in about 20 minutes, and without any under-the-sink gymnastics. Actually, it could take you longer to find the right part than it does to make the repair. Most major faucet manufacturers make single-lever faucets, and replacement parts are widely available at home center and hardware stores, but the valve assemblies are not interchangeable. Even different faucet models from the same manufacturer are likely to require different valve replacement parts. It will be easier to get the right parts if you know the name of the manufacturer and the faucet model number. If you know the manufacturer but not the model, a local plumbing-supply house might be able to narrow the choices for you. If all else fails, pull the old part before buying a new one. That's not the most convenient option, Sorrell says, but at least it's foolproof. We used a Moen faucet for the steps shown here. If your faucet is from a different manufacturer, the parts will look a little different. But, according to Sorrell, the procedure for replacing them is virtually the same. Replacement cartridges for this Moen faucet cost less than $20, and if your Moen faucet was made in 1996 or later, the company will send a new one to you for free. Cartridges are available in both plastic and brass; plastic cartridges work just as well as their brass counterparts, and they are a few dollars cheaper. If you have well water, Sorrell suggests the plastic model because it is less susceptible to damage from untreated water. Your first step is to shut off both hot- and cold-water supply lines under the sink, and here Sorrell advises caution. Shutoff valves in older plumbing systems can be corroded, especially when connections are threaded instead of soldered. "I've had them crumble right in my hands," Sorrell says. An uncontrolled geyser under your sink is no way to get started, so if the shutoff is suspect, use the main shutoff valve, located where the waterline enters the house or at the pressure tank. Another preliminary step: Block off the sink drain with a rag so small parts don't disappear.

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