Compression and Cartridge Faucets - Ball and Disc Faucets
Before you can start thinking about making repairs to your faucet, you need to first determine what kind of faucet you are dealing with. There are four types of faucets in common use in America today: compression faucets, and the so-called "washerless faucets" - cartridge faucets, ball faucets and disc faucets.
Compression faucets are the traditional old style faucets with two handles, one each for cold and hot. Inside each handle is a valve that opens to allow water to flow and close to block the flow. A rubber washer on the base of the valve gets "compressed" to block any small amounts of water from flowing and causing drips.
Cartridge faucets can be either single handled or two handled. The inside of the faucet has a stem cartridge that moves up and down to control water flow. Single handled cartridge faucets operate up and down to regulate water flow, and left and right to control temperature. Two handled cartridge faucets look similar to compression faucets, but feel different since they stop water flow without you having to actually "turn off" or compress a washer.
Ball faucets are easy to identify since they have a single handle that attaches to the faucet base with a round base. The ball shaped control has chambers built into it to control water volume and mix hot and cold.
Disc faucets are the most recent development in faucet technology. Once again they are single handled with a cylindrical shaped body. Inside the faucet are ceramic discs that slide over each other, controlling flow and temperature.
Faucet Repair Basics
No matter what kind of faucet you are dealing with, there are some basics when it comes to repairing any of them.
First turn off the water to the faucet. There maybe individual water shut-off valves under the sink or you may need to shut off the main water supply for the house.
Open taps and let any water in the pipe drain out.
Put the drain stopper or a towel in the sink (in case you drop anything you don't want it going down the drain).
To make sure you get the right replacement parts, take any parts you remove from the faucet with you to the plumbing supply store. That way you'll be sure to get an exact match.