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How to fix a leaking tap

The intermittent drip of leaky taps is a common household annoyance! Here’s how to fix a leaking tap.


how to fix a leaking tap

Drip. Drip. Drip. There’s nothing more infuriating than the slow drip of a leaking tap. Whether you’re trying to work, sleep or enjoy a quiet bubble bath, the intermittent plink of a leaky tap is distracting.

It’s understandable that you’d want to fix a leaking tap straightaway. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to call a plumber. This guide will explain how to fix a leaking tap yourself, so you can bathe in blissful silence once again.

It’s tempting to call the plumber out straightaway when you notice a problem with your taps. However, investigating and fixing the problem yourself might be easier than you think – not to mention more cost-effective!

What causes a leaking tap?

A leaky tap is often caused by a loose or broken washer, which means it will either need tightening or replacing. Another serial offender in the world of leaky taps is a damaged valve seat, which is what the washer rests on when the tap is turned off.

Valve seats are usually made of brass, and are highly susceptible to erosion. Over time, the pressure of the water carves tiny channels into the valve seat, which allows droplets of water to escape into the sink. In this case, tightening the washer won’t help fix a leaking tap.

How to fix a leaking tap

So, how do you fix a leaking tap? First, you’ll need to arm yourself with a flat-head screwdriver, two adjustable wrenches or spanners and replacement washers and/or a replacement valve seat.

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Here’s how to change a tap washer and put a stop to annoying drips.

  1. Turn off the water supply – you want to fix a leaking tap, not flood the house!

  2. Plug the basin. The nuts and bolts you’ll be removing are small and fiddly and might disappear down the plughole!

  3. Remove tap covers with a flat-head screwdriver.

  4. You should see a release screw. Gently turn with a screwdriver until it becomes possible to easily remove the tap head.

  5. Hold the spout using pliers, a wrench or an adjustable spanner – then twist the spindle with another spanner to loosen. Remove the spindle completely.

  6. You should be able to see the top washer, the O-ring and the bottom washer. It may be worth replacing both washers – they’re fairly cheap to buy and available in most hardware stores.

  7. Work backwards through the above instructions to reassemble your tap.

Prevention is the best defence against leaky taps. Protect rubber washers and reduce wear and tear by turning taps off carefully, making sure not to overtighten.

Still leaking?

How do you fix a leaking tap when the washers are in good condition? If knowing how to change a tap washer hasn’t made much difference, the valve seat is the likely culprit. If you have a valve seat grinder (a fairly specialist tool, but widely available) grind the valve seat until smooth to the touch, and reassemble.

Alternatively, it is possible to replace the valve seat – just make sure you buy the correct size and shape. An incorrectly sized valve seat can – yep, you guessed it – cause the tap to leak!

If you’re in any doubt about how to fix your taps, it’s best to seek professional help.

  • Turn off the water supply and plug the basin

  • Remove tap covers and loosen the release screw

  • Remove tap head and spindle

  • Replace washers and reassemble

  • Use a valve seat grinder or call out a professional to fix the valve seat

  • Turn taps off carefully to reduce wear and tear

Originally published