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How to: Fix a leaky tap

By Maha

Updated: October 25th, 2021

Drip, drip, drip. Learn how to make it stop.

Not only is a leaky tap incredibly annoying, it can also damage your home and impact your water bill. You’d be surprised to learn how much water is being wasted with those incessant drips. Research has shown that a leaking tap could waste up to 20,000 litres of water a year. Yep, you read that right.

Check out this drip calculator to see just how much water your leaky tap is wasting. Not to make you feel bad or anything.

Fixing a leaky tap is a lot simpler than you may think. Though there are plenty of plumbers in London who can help, it’s worth every homeowner learning this basic plumbing skill.

Read on for our easy guide to help you fix your broken tap.

What you’ll need:

  • A spanner
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver
  • Replacement cartridge/washer/O-rings

Start by turning off the water

Simple enough. Turn the water off at the stopcock or isolation valve, located underneath the sink. Check it’s off by running the tap until no more water comes out.

hire a plumber

Locate the tap screw

The screw that holds your tap together needs to be loosened. You’ll usually find this underneath the ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ caps or indicators. It’s possible to unscrew these by hand, or you could use a screwdriver to pop them off.

Plug the sink before you unscrew so no important parts accidentally fall down the drain.

Dismantle the tap

The next step is to take the tap’s head off (that’s the bit you turn). You may find a metal casing around the valve, so take this off too. Assemble all the pieces you’ve taken apart next to the sink carefully. It helps to lay them in the order you took them off, so it’s easier to put it all back together.

Replace water/cartridge/o-ring

So this is where you take a slightly different approach depending on the type of tap you have. Some use washers and some have ceramic discs. If you’re not sure which one yours is, a quick test to check is by turning your tap. Those that only rotate up to a half are usually ceramic. If it turns further than that, you probably have a traditional or ‘washer’ tap.

Ceramic taps:

To replace a ceramic disc, grip the valve with your spanner and loosen. You’ll then easily be able to pop your new ceramic cartridge in. Tighten valve and put your tap back together.

Washer taps:

Washer types may be leaking because of two reasons: a worn O-ring, or a broken washer. To replace a rubber washer, loosen the valve with your spanner. Slide off the rubber washer and replace. Tighten the valve back on and re-assemble your tap.

Finding it hard to fit the new washer in? Apply some petroleum jelly to ease it down.

If you’ve replaced the washer and find there’s still a leak, check the O-ring for any signs of damage. If this needs replacing, unscrew the spout and use your screwdriver to loosen and replace the O-ring at the base.

When to call a plumber

Not to doubt your plumbing skills or anything, but there are times when you may just need a little professional help. Hire a plumber if you encounter any of the following issues:

  • If the washer in your tap is in good condition, but the valve inside is worn down. Special tools may be required to regrind the surface. Reach out to plumbers in London for help.
  • If you have a new ceramic disc tap and it’s your first time trying to fix a broken tap, it would be helpful to hire a plumber. Find someone nice enough and they’ll teach you how to do it firsthand.
  • If you’ve gone through all the above steps and the incessant leaking continues, it’s time to seek out the pros.
  • If you’re not sure how to turn the water supply off, get help. It’s important to know this as pipe leaks can lead to major property damage.
  • For any extensive plumbing work, it’s worth calling a professional in to avoid damage to your home. Your local council may also require you to use a licensed plumber for any major work.

Need to hire a plumber? Find trusted and local plumbers in London with Airtasker



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