A helpful guide that explains how faucets work, including detailed diagrams and descriptions of the different types of faucets typically found in a home.

Though there are hundreds of different styles, colors, and shapes of faucets, the working mechanisms of nearly all can be grouped into four main types: cartridge, compression, ball, and disc.

These names refer to the parts that actually control the flow of water through a faucet.

The type of valve you choose will make a difference in a faucet’s price, how well it works, and how long it will last.

How a Faucet Works
How a Faucet Works

Three of these—cartridge, ball, and disc faucets—are mixing faucets. They normally have a single handle or control, though cartridge and disc types are also made with two handles.

The compression faucet has two controls, one for hot, the other for cold. See more about each of these types of faucets by visiting the links above.

Because washers and seals wear out with use—resulting in the familiar drip, drip—washerless faucets are generally favored.

If you have a faucet that leaks or drips, chances are good that the washers, seals, or O-rings have become worn and simply need to be replaced.

If you do the work, be sure to turn off the water to the faucet first, using the shutoff valves beneath the sink.

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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” served as MSN’s home expert for several years, and is featured as Yelp's home improvement expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort