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How to fix a dripping tap

What’s more annoying than getting into bed, ready for a good night’s sleep, only to be kept awake by a dripping tap? Drip, drip, drip, it goes on and on and as you’re lying there thinking about how irritating it is, you also start thinking about how much it’s costing you in wasted water. The good news is it’s not something you have to put up with and you needn’t spend money calling out a plumber. Fixing a leaking tap is usually a simple DIY task.

Just like replacing a fuse or unblocking a kitchen sink, knowing how to fix a dripping tap, is knowledge every homeowner could benefit from. Carrying out this relatively straightforward repair yourself will save you from having to call out a plumber. Let’s face it, no one likes having to wait at home for repairs to be done or pay the expensive cost of a call-out out for that matter. Follow our step-by-step guide below and you’ll know how to fix your leaking tap in no time.

Fixing a leaking tap – What you’ll need

Before you get started on repairing a dripping tap, you’ll need to have a few key tools and parts to hand. We suggest gathering the following, so you don’t have to search for them in the middle of your repair:

  • Adjustable spanner
  • Assortment of flat and cross-head screwdrivers
  • Scissors
  • New tap cartridge or tap washer and o-rings

Unsure whether you need a cartridge or tap washer? It will all depend on the type of tap you have installed. A traditional tap will use a tap washer. Whereas, something like a Monobloc tap (a type of mixer tap,) will use a ceramic disc, housed in a cartridge. These parts are likely to need replacing to stop a dripping tap. However, if it’s a traditional tap you’re dealing with and replacing the tap washer doesn’t stop it leaking, it could be the o-ring seal. O-rings may show signs of wear over time and become ineffective. Replacing the seal should solve the problem.

How to fix a leaking tap

Now you’ve gathered your supplies and identified the type of tap you have, we can move onto how to stop a leaking tap. We’ll start with the steps to replace a tap washer. If you have a more modern tap that has a ceramic cartridge, skip this bit and move onto the section labeled ‘How to change washer on mixer tap’ below.

Turn off the water supply

Avoid making a mess by turning off the water. You can either do this at the stopcock or isolation valve, which is located on the pipes underneath the sink. Turn on the tap and wait until the water stops running.

Remove the stem

Next, you’ll need to loosen the nut that holds the tap parts together with your spanner and remove the stem. Some stems will simply pop out, whereas others need to be twisted to remove them from the valve.

Lay all of your parts on your worktop in the order you removed them. This will make it easier to re-assemble your tap later on.

Replace tap washer

A damaged or loosened tap washer is likely to be the reason you have a dripping tap. All you need to do to replace it is unscrew or slide off the original washer and screw or slide on a new one. Make sure it is tight and an exact fit for your tap.

Replace o-ring

If the tap washer isn’t the cause of the leak, it could be the o-ring instead. The o-ring looks like a bigger washer and is the seal found at the base of the spout. To check and replace it, carefully remove the spout. You will then need to use a flat-head screwdriver to loosen and lift off the o-ring. Alternatively, snip it with your scissors and it’ll come right off. Slide the replacement o-ring on and put the spout back.

Re-assemble your tap

Once you’ve replaced the tap washer, o-ring or both parts, you can begin to re-assemble your tap. Turn your water back on and test the tap to check it’s working properly.

How to change washer on mixer tap

Some modern mixer taps (including monobloc taps) operate with ceramic discs instead of rubber washers, which are hidden inside cartridges within the tap. There is one cartridge for hot water and another for cold water. If one of the ceramic discs breaks (the most common cause for a leaking tap), you will need to replace the whole cartridge. Make sure you buy an exact replacement and follow the steps below.

Turn off the water supply

Cut off your water supply at the stopcock or isolation valve. Run your taps to check the water has stopped.

Unscrew the tap

Unscrew the handles of your tap and carefully remove any decorative parts with a flat head screwdriver. You’ll find the entrance screw below the hot or cold indicator. There’s a chance it could be hidden behind a smaller screw (known as a grub screw). This can be easily removed with your flat head screwdriver too. Take off the metal shroud and you’ll see the valve. You’ll need to grip this with your spanner and twist, until it’s loose enough to remove.

Remove the cartridge and replace

Make sure you know which one is your hot water and which one is your cold water cartridge. Take out the damaged cartridge and simply pop in a new one.

Reassemble your tap

Put your tap back together. Turn the water supply on and see if the leak has stopped.

Can’t stop tap leaking? It’s time to call a plumber

If you’ve followed our steps on how to fix a dripping tap but you can’t stop the leak, it’s probably best to call a plumber or take out plumbing and drainage coverto prevent further issues. While you wait for expert help, recycle the water from your dripping tap. Collect it in a bowl and use it to water plants, wash dishes and clean with. That way at least it won’t be going to waste!

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