When your single-lever, ball-type faucet starts dripping, it's time to replace the parts inside. You'll know you have a ball-type faucet (vs. a cartridge type) if it has a dome-shape cap under the handle (Figure A). This is an easy repair. Once you have the parts, the whole thing will take about 45 minutes and you'll save a whopping $125 doing it yourself!
Everything you need is available in a repair kit ($15 at home centers). Most kits include the ball, springs, seats, O-rings and an Allen wrench. You'll also need to pick up faucet grease ($2). There are several different models and types of ball-style faucets, so first follow our instructions to take apart your faucet. Then note the brand and take the old faucet guts along to the store to make sure you buy the right repair kit.
Before you disassemble your old faucet, turn off the water at the fixture shutoff valves under the sink or your home's main water valve if the individual shutoffs are missing (now is a good time to install some!). Cover the sink drain hole with a rag to avoid losing small parts down the drain.
The only tricky part of this repair is first locating and then loosening the Allen setscrew (see Photo 1) that anchors the handle to the stem. The screw is typically hidden under the decorative cover. If the faucet is old, you'll have to use some force with the Allen wrench to loosen the screw.
Your repair kit may include two different versions of the same part, one for newer and one for older-model faucets. Our advice is to use the same version as the existing parts and discard the other versions when you have the option. Most repair kits come with a hollow stainless steel ball. This will work well and last longer than the original plastic ball you might find if yours is an older faucet. If your faucet uses an older-style, two-part cam—the plastic cam and a separate cam seal—and your kit comes with only the newer combined version (see Photo 2), go ahead and use the combined version. Just make sure to discard the existing adjusting ring located in the cap of your faucet or the handle won't fit correctly when you reassemble it.