how do faucets work - plumbing a bathroom sink faucet with tools and parts

How Do Faucets Work? (5 Different Types Explained!)

Have you ever wondered, “how do faucets work?” Well, I’m here to answer that question by telling you about the 5 types of sink faucets found in most homes.

What is a Sink Faucet?

Sink faucets are simple valves that turn on and off to control the flow of thousands of gallons of water each year in the kitchen, bathroom, or utility (laundry) room.

Faucet trouble usually presents itself as a steady drip from the spout (the tip of the faucet where water comes out). You might also notice a slow leak around the handle or collar of the sink faucet.

How Do Faucets Work? There are 5 Types

To solve any sink faucet problem you might have, you must first identify what kind (or type) of faucet you have. This will allow you to purchase the correct replacement parts. And, yes, in most cases, this means you or a plumber will need to disassemble the faucet.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This article is about identifying the type of sink faucet you have. So let’s get started.

1. Compression & Reverse-Compression Faucets

These types of sink faucets, which are always double-handled, have a washer that rests on a seat at the bottom of the stem.

When a compression faucet is turned on, the washer rises to allow water to flow to the spout. When a reverse-compression faucet is turned on, the stem lowers to create space between the washer and seat, allowing water up.

Simply changing the stem washer will often stop the spout from dripping, but on older faucets, the seat may also need replacement. Replacing the O-ring or packing in the stem will usually stop leaks from the handle.

how do faucets work - compression-faucet diagram
How do faucets work: this is a diagram of a typical two-handle compression faucet.

2. Diaphragm Faucets

A diaphragm faucet is another type of two-handle faucet, and in most cases can be easily repaired.

Changing its O-ring will stop most leaks from the handle. Replacing the rubber diaphragm, which is the part that controls water flow, stops leaks from both the spout and the handle.

3. Disc Faucets

A disc faucet has either two handles or a single lever. It has a pair of plastic or ceramic discs that move up and down to regulate the volume of water. In addition, the discs rotate to control temperature (hot to cold).

A disc faucet assembly rarely needs changing, but the inlet ports can become clogged and the seals can wear out.

how do faucets work - disc faucet diagram
How do faucets work: this is a diagram of a typical assembly for a disc faucet with a single lever.

4. Cartridge Faucets

Cartridge faucets regulate the water flow by means of a cartridge controlled by a single lever. Repairs involve changing the O-rings or replacing the entire cartridge with a new one.

how do faucets work - cartridge faucet diagram
How do faucets work: this is a diagram of a two-handle, cartridge-style sink faucet.

5. Rotating-Ball Faucets

A rotating-ball faucet has a single lever. It employs a slotted plastic or brass ball set atop a pair of spring-loaded rubber seats. The handle rotates the ball to adjust water temperature and flow.

When this faucet leaks from the spout, it usually means the springs and seat need to be replaced. Leaking from around the handle points to work O-rings or a loose adjusting ring.

how do faucets works - ball-faucet diagram
How do faucets work: diagram of how a rotating ball faucet assembly is put together.

Final Thoughts

The above answers the most basic question: how do faucets work?

As you can guess, there can be a lot more to it. We just covered the 5 most common types of sink faucets. But in today’s modern market, where kitchen design is at a premium, there are many types of custom or unusual faucets, some with their own proprietary assemblies and mechanisms.

If you find yourself up against a sink faucet that you can’t fix, call a trusted plumber to take a look. Don’t be shy about asking questions and watching the repair process. You might be able to make the repair yourself the next time.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help repairing or replacing a sink faucet.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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