How to Repair a Leaking Tap


Taps are usually the hardest working components in a plumbing system, so it’s hardly surprising if they develop the occasional fault.

Leaking from the spout is usually due to a worn or split washer — the part that seals the tap’s inlet. So long as you know where to turn off the water, fitting a new washer is a simple job requiring only basic tools. And if this doesn’t cure the problem, it’s usually possible to regrind the seat — the part the washer closes against. This is much easier (and cheaper) than replacing the tap

Leaking from the handle, or a handle that’s hard to turn, are two faults to do with the tap mechanism. Since you’ll be exposing this to replace the washer, it’s worth servicing your taps as well.

Spare parts for taps are sold by plumber’s merchants and hardware stores First identify what type and size of tap you’re dealing with (see below). Then, if possible, take the old parts with you so that you can buy matching replacements. Failing this, make sure you can describe the tap and what it is fitted to.

Washers, seals and other parts are cheap, so buy a set of spares so that you don’t get caught out again. Also, buy a tube of silicone gel for lubricating the mechanism.



Taps come in many styles, but work in one of two ways:

washered tapsWashered taps have a spindle mechanism, on the end of which is a backing plate (jumper) holding the washer. Turning the handle closes the washer against the inlet (seat), shutting off the water.

Washers need replacing at intervals, as do the seals around the spindle. It’s also possible for the seat to wear or become damaged.


ceramic disc tapsCeramic disc taps have a pair of finely ground discs which open and close the water inlet as the handle (often a simple lever) is moved through a quarter turn.

The diamond-hard discs are supposedly maintenance-free, but faults have been known to occur and most manufacturers offer free replacement cartridges for taps under five years old. The cartridges come in (hot) and (cold) versions and aren’t interchangeable.



pillar taps

Pillar taps come in two inlet sizes – 1/2" for sink and basin taps, 3/4" for baths.

Older styles have chromed brass capstan handles and shrouds; newer designs have clear acrylic handles. Ceramic disc versions often have levers.


bib tapsBib taps are for outside use and utility rooms, and are normally the 1/2" size. They work in the same way as washered pillar taps and take the same washers, but use leather washers outside for increased frost resistance.



supatapsSupataps can be rewashered without turning off the water. The special washers come ready-fitted to a brass backing plate (jumper), but vary widely between models and aren’t easy to find; if you do, buy plenty of spares.


mixer tapsMixer taps for the kitchen may be two-hole or monobloc (single hole), with washered or ceramic disc mechanisms.

A swivel spout may leak around its base when the seals inside wear out, but these are easily replaced.


bath shower mixer tapsBath shower mixers, like sink mixers, may have washered or disc mechanisms.

Water is switched from spout to shower head by a washered diverter mechanism. When water comes out of both outlets, washer needs renewing.

24. May 2011 by admin
Categories: Plumbing, Taps | Tags: , | Comments Off on How to Repair a Leaking Tap


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