It can cost a small fortune to repair the damage caused by a pipe leak that is left unchecked, and everyone agrees it makes good sense to address such a problem as soon as it is noticed. With a dripping tap, however, many householders are content to let the problem go on for months or even years, even though it can cause unsightly staining to the tap itself or the appliance which it supplies, and is a waste of water. Yet fixing a faulty tap is much easier than most people think and a whole lot cheaper than calling out a plumber.
It’s amazing how many people seem to ignore a dripping tap. I think the reason must be that a tap may seem like a complicated piece of equipment to take apart, but in fact it is relatively straightforward.
On a normal tap the leak is probably caused by one of three things:
¨ Dripping from the spout indicates a washer problem.
¨ Leaking from the head when the tap is running suggests that the 0-ring or gland packing requires replacing.
¨ An old tap may be worn out at the seat and will continue to drip after the washer has been replaced.
REPLACING A WASHER
The only tools you’re likely to need for this job are a slotted screwdriver and an adjustable spanner. Remember to turn off the water supply at the stopcock.
Fully open the bathroom tap to drain any water before you begin to dismantle the tap. Prise off the tap head cover 1. The shrouded cover needs to be unscrewed 2 to expose the headgear nut that is directly above the body of the tap 3. Undo the nut with a spanner 4 then lift out the complete headgear assembly.
The washer is fixed to the jumper, which fits nicely in the bottom of the headgear. Depending on the type of tap, the jumper is either removed together with the headgear, or sits inside the tap body. Prise the washer from the jumper using a screwdriver 5 or undo the retaining nut to release it for replacement. Use penetrating oil to ease the nut if it’s stuck; if the nut won’t move at all, you will have to replace both the jumper and washer. Replace the washer and reassemble the tap.
Always leave the plug in so bits don’t disappear down the hole
cb TOP TIP It’s always worth keeping a few spare washers handy in your fixing kit. To ease a stiff washer on or off the tap’s innards, lubricate it with silicone grease. To soften a new washer and make it easier to fit, soak it dthoroughly in hot water.
REGRINDING THE SEAT
If you are unlucky and the tap still drips after you have changed the washer on the tap correctly, the tap seat is probably worn and so letting water through. To rectify this a special reseating tool can be acquired from a plumber’s merchant to regrind the seat flat. Simply remove the headgear and jumper again, then screw the reseating tool into the tap body. Bring the cutter into contact with the tap seat and turn the handle to re-cut the worn seat surface smooth and flat 6.
If that all sounds too difficult you can purchase a nylon liner, which is sold with a matching jumper and washer 7. Just pop the liner over the old tap seat, fit the replacement jumper, reassemble the tap and then close it. This action forces the liner into position and prevents the tap from leaking.
REPLACING A CERAMIC DISK CARTRIDGE
These are much simpler to repair than conventional taps. Turn off the water supply as before. Unscrew the old cartridge from the tap and fit a replacement. Note that cartridges are left- or right-handed on mixer taps.
cb TOP TIP Whenever you are servicing a bathroom tap, leave the plug in to prevent any vital components disappearing down the hole. It may also be wise to put a folded towel in the basin while you’re working 8, which will prevent any damage to the surface if you drop something weighty such as a spanner.