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How to fix a dripping tap

How to fix a dripping tap

There are few things more annoying in life than a dripping tap. Whether it’s keeping you awake at night or distracting you during the day, it doesn’t have to be this way. Dripping taps are not only annoying, but they can also waste a lot of water. The good news is that you don’t have to put up with this forever. A dripping tap often has a very simple DIY fix.

Just like unblocking a sink or cleaning the filter on the dishwasher, every homeowner and tenant could benefit from this bit of DIY knowledge. But remember, if you’re not confident about your DIY skills, there’s no shame in calling a plumber to fix it for you. 

This might be a better option if you have limited mobility or are concerned about making the problem worse. If you decide you don’t want to wait for a plumber, you’ll find the DIY instructions below.

What you need to fix a dripping tap

Before you get started, assemble your tools to make sure you have everything you need to hand. Depending on the source of the problem, you may need a spare part so a trip to the hardware store could be in order. You will need:

  • An adjustable spanner
  • A pipe wrench
  • A range of flat and Phillips head screwdrivers
  • Scissors
  • A new tap cartridge, tap washer or O ring
  • PTFE tape, this is a kind of stretchy, non-sticky tape that sticks to itself and helps to create a seal between two metal components.

If you aren’t sure which part you need, this will depend on the type of tap you have. If you have two traditional taps, you will likely need new tap washers. If this doesn’t fix the problem, you may need to replace the O-ring. If you have a modern Monobloc tap (a type of mixer tap) then you will need to replace the cartridge. 

How to fix a dripping tap: Traditional tap

First things first, turn off the water supply. Taking apart a tap without first completing this important step will result in much more than just a small leak, so don’t skip this. You can either turn off the supply to your home using the main stopcock or find the isolation switch if you are working in a bathroom. When you’ve found and switched off the supply, turn on the tap to drain the water. 

Remove the decorative parts

Remove the decorative parts

Some taps will have caps and covers on the knobs to make them look nicer. Prise these off with a flathead screwdriver and put them somewhere safe.

Unscrew the tap handle

Unscrew the tap handle

You should now have exposed a small screw in the tap handle. Unscrew this to expose the mechanism below. If this is a little tricky, a squirt of lubricant like WD40 should loosen it up.

Remove the tap stem

Remove the tap stem

With the pipe wrench in one hand and the adjustable spanner in the other, loosen the large hexagonal nut while holding the tap in place. Make sure you keep track of which parts go where to make it easier to put it all back together again.

Replace the tap washer

Replace the tap washer

Now that you have removed the stem, you should be able to see the source of the dripping. Check the small washer at the bottom of the stem for signs of wear and tear. If it is worn down, replace it and put the tap back together.

Replace the O-ring

If the washer is not the problem, it could lie with the O-ring which is found in the base of the spout that sits inside the spindle. Unscrew the spout and replace the O-ring before putting everything back together. If you’re struggling to remove the O-ring, you can use scissors to cut it off.

How to fix a dripping tap: Mixer tap

With modern mixer taps, there is a cartridge which holds two ceramic discs instead of washers. There is one disc for the hot water and one for the cold water. If these components break, you will need to replace the entire cartridge. Make sure you buy the correct cartridge for your tap or it won’t fit properly.

Turn off the water supply

As with the DIY repair above, you should always turn off the water supply before starting any repair works on your taps. Turn the water off at the mains and then turn the tap on to drain any remaining water. Make sure you switch between hot and cold to completely drain the pipes.

Unscrew the tap

Unscrew the tap

Remove the decorative parts with a flathead screwdriver and keep them safe. You should now see a central screw which you will need to remove. This may be hidden behind a smaller screw, called a grub screw. Once this is exposed, you can twist off the casing to remove the cartridge below.

Remove the cartridge and replace

Remove the cartridge and replace

Make sure you know how to identify the hot and cold cartridges then simply remove the cartridge and replace it with a new one. Put the components of your tap back together, switch on the water supply and see if your repair has worked.

Still not fixed?

If you’ve tried everything and you still can’t get your tap to stop dripping, it might be time to call in the professionals. With home care plans from YourRepair, you’ll be covered for this and more, so you won’t need to worry about plumbing disasters in the future.

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