If you’ve been lying awake at night listening to the slow ‘drip drip’ of the ensuite tap, you are probably summoning up the courage to have a go at fixing it. Dripping taps fall into the ‘do I need a professional?’ category of DIY jobs, especially in new houses where the sink basin and taps are often installed in one integral piece and can be hard to take apart. But if your tap is dripping away your hot or cold water, proving hard to turn off or on, or is leaking water from around the handle, now is the time to do it. Leaving a tap when it starts to malfunction is a false economy; it will get worse and the damage will spread to other parts of the tap.
The good news is that mending a dripping tap is an easy job to do, so long as you have the right tools and take some basic precautions to preserve the fabric of your home from sudden flooding.
First of all, assemble the tools for the job; these include both flat headed and Philips screwdrivers, an ordinary wrench or pliers, a spanner set and silicone gel for sealing the tap base after refitting.
Secondly, you’ll need to identify the type of tap you have and purchase the correct washers for it. One way is to take it all apart and take the pieces in to your local DIY hardware shop and another is to try and identify your tap from ones on the shelf from sight. In these days of smartphones, take a photo of your tap in-situ and pop into our store; there is a very good chance we will know exactly what you need!
Once you are ready to start, you must turn off the cold water supply! In most houses, this is situated under the kitchen sink; some sinks have an isolation valve built into the unit and if your tap is a Supatap, a check valve inside will automatically cut the supply off. If you are not sure, turn off at the mains; water gushing out will flood a room very quickly once the tap head is removed.
A tap is generally built as a series of pieces around a spindle; when the handle is turned and the spindle raised, water flows out through the seating and when the handle is turned back it closes down, with a rubber or silicone washer creating a seal through which water cannot penetrate. If the washer disintegrates, water can still leak out, causing an annoying – and potentially expensive – drip. In addition to damaged washers, the seating of the tap itself can become worn, allowing water to seep under the washer and escape down the drain.
There are so many different types of tap that exact step by step instructions are not possible and it will be necessary to identify the parts particular to your tap as you dismantle it, however, the following steps commonly apply.
- Identify the type of tap and purchase replacement parts.
- Turn off water at the mains and run tap dry. Put the plug in once the water stops to avoid losing small pieces down the drain.
- Locate the screw that holds the top of the tap in place. In the case of a pillar tap, it is likely to be just below the handle. On a newer bathroom tap it may be under the top plate which identifies the tap as hot or cold. Use a screwdriver to pry this open and gently take apart the main elements of spindle, nut and seal. You may need to use a wrench to remove the tap body cover but protect it with a cloth if possible.
- Depending on the age of the tap, the insides will vary and you may need to use a spanner or wrench to expose the washer. Older taps may have a brass head and the washer may be held against the jumper by a small nut, while newer taps are likely to have an integral replacement tap unit. You may need pliers or a wrench to remove the nut on older taps.
- If the washer is clearly disintegrating, dig out the pieces and carefully replace it. Have a careful look at the tap seat to see if it appears worn. If so, fit a new plastic valve seating set to ensure a tight fit and elimination of dripping.
- If your leak is coming from the spindle of the tap and oozing – or indeed spraying – from the outside of the tap, the spindle or O-ring seal may need replacing. You will need to take the full tap element apart and carefully inspect each part for wear and tear and replace as required.
- Once everything has been replaced, carefully rebuild the tap and apply sealing gel around the base. Turn on the mains gently and test before returning to the normal water pressure for your home.
Of course, a leaking tap might be the perfect opportunity for a new, stylish tap unit for your kitchen or bathroom. New hardware on your sanitary-ware can give a kitchen or bathroom a new lease of life. Why not check out the range of taps available from Hafele and pop into our Peterborough store to order them.