Types of Faucets and How to Tell Them Apart

  • 01 of 05

    The Four Types of Home Faucet Valves

    Modern kitchen sink
    Melissa Ross / Getty Images

    Identifying your faucet type is an essential first step before any repair. This tutorial will give you an overview of the four most common types of faucets used in the home:

    • Ball
    • Disc
    • Cartridge
    • Compression

    The first three (ball, disc, and cartridge) are all types of "washerless faucets" since they do not use rubber or neoprene washers. The latter (compression) is very much your basic washer faucet. Let's take a look at each type and gain an overview of how they work and how they're...MORE different. We'll also provide you links to a repair tutorial for each type.

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  • 02 of 05

    Ball Faucet

    Water running from tap into round sink set in worktop in modern kitchen
    Kevin McFeely / Getty Images

    Ball faucets are very common in kitchen sinks and were the first type of washerless faucet. They are identifiable by their single handle which moves over a rounded ball-shaped cap right above the base of the faucet spout. The ball faucet has a single handle which controls a special plastic or metal ball inside the faucet body. This ball has chambers or slots in it, along with rubber O-rings and spring loaded rubber seals. Depending on the ball's position, the ball/lever assembly controls the...MORE flow and mixing temperature of the water coming out of the faucet.

    Because of the number of parts which make up this type of faucet, ball faucets tend to leak more than other washerless faucets such as the cartridge faucet or disc faucet.

    Handle Type: Single

    Repair Tutorial: Repairing a Ball Faucet

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  • 03 of 05

    Disc (or disk) Faucet

    Stainless steel kitchen faucet
    Fotosearch / Getty Images

    Ceramic disk faucets are the latest development in modern faucet technology. They are identifiable by their single lever over a wide cylindrical body. The disk faucet mixes hot and cold water inside a mixing chamber called a pressure balance cartridge. Two ceramic disks at the bottom of the chamber will raise and lower to control the volume of water flow. Temperature is controlled by a side-to-side rotation of the handle. These faucets are high quality, are very reliable and do not need repair...MORE very often.

    Handle Type: Single

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  • 04 of 05

    Cartridge Faucet (Two Handle)

    Bathroom sink and mirror
    LOOK Photography / Getty Images

    Single handle cartridge faucets operate with a movable stem cartridge that moves up and down to regulate flow. They are identifiable more by how they feel when they operate than how they look. As opposed to a ball faucet that you push back to turn on, a single handle cartridge faucets operate in an "up/down" motion to adjust water volume and a "left/right" motion for temperature.

    Similarly, double handle cartridge faucets look almost indistinguishable from a compression washer faucet. Again,...MORE however, you can tell the difference by how the handles feel when used. A compression faucet requires you to tighten down (compress) the washer to close the water flow. With a cartridge faucet, the action is smooth and consistent. With a 1/2 turn, the handle goes from the off to the on position. The faucet turns off without added pressure being required as with a compression faucet.

    Handle Type: Single or Double

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  • 05 of 05

    Compression Washer Faucet

    Bathroom Faucet
    Massimo Merlini / Getty Images

    Compression washers have been around since the beginning of on-demand indoor plumbing. They are found in older homes and updated versions are often found used in utility sinks in newer homes to this day. These faucets are typically the least expensive but are most prone to leaks and maintenance. Compression washer faucets are identifiable by their separate hot and cold water handles and their action requiring you to tighten the handles down to close off the water flow. These faucets work by...MORE using a compression stem which is a type of glorified screw with a washer at the end of it pressing against a valve seat.

    Handle Type: Double