How to Replace Tap-Washers and Ball-Valve Washers
Dripping taps not only waste water but cause stains to appear on sinks and baths, and are most annoying to the people living in the house, yet a new washer is very easily fitted. Some water companies will fit new washers free of charge, but if your local company does not provide this service, tackle the job yourself as soon as the pipe starts to drip.
There are two kinds of washers — one for hot taps and one for cold taps — be sure that you obtain the right one. Or your ironmonger will probably stock the more modern universal type, which will do for either. The washers for cold taps arc made from rubber or leather, and those for hot-water taps from fibre or a rubber-like composition. Washers are very inexpensive, and it is as well to have one each of several sizes available. The tools required are a pair of pliers and an adjustable spanner. The taps may be one of several shapes.
Two shapes are shown sectionally in Image 1; the right-hand drawing shows the most usual type of tap, and the left-hand one is a more modern type. Whatever shape your tap may be it wall work on the principle of one of these types. If the dripping tap is on the mains pipe, it will be necessary to turn off the water at the consumer’s stopcock. If the water comes from the storage tank, the supply of water should be cut off as explained above for repairing a.
Open the tap and unscrew the top. This should not be screwed on tighter than is possible by hand, as if you find it necessary to use a wrench to remove the top of the tap, the metal may easily be marked. When you do find it necessary to use a wrench, place a piece of cloth over the jaws of the wrench to protect the metal finish of the tap. Next remove the nut; modern taps have a right-hand thread, but some of the very old ones have a left-hand. If any difficulty is experienced in removing the casing, don’t try to force it, but try turning it in the opposite direction.
Removing the cover of the tap reveals the ‘jumper’ (Image 1); the washer is held on the jumper plate by means of a small nut. In some taps the jumper is loose and will come out as the top of the tap is unscrewed. Other types may have a pin passing through a hole in the spindle, while yet a third type of jumper is a press fit, and the nut must be gripped by pliers and pulled to remove the jumper. Loosen the nut, being careful in handling it, so as not to damage the stem of the washer plate. Remove the old washer and fit the new one on. The washer should be the same size as the washer plate. The nut should now be tightened and the jumper refitted to the spindle and the top of the tap replaced.
The washering systems described above are the usual ones found in most dwelling-houses, but there is another method that may be encountered. This is illustrated in Image 1, and consists of a combined spindle and dome-shaped washer. Replacement is simple; the casing is removed, the old spindle-washer removed and a new one inserted.
Replacing a Ball-Valve Washer:
Ball valves are used to control the supply of water to the storage tank, and are used in every flushing cistern. Like other valves and taps, ball valves are fitted with washers and as these become worn the valve will leak, causing water to enter the tank, although the arm lever is raised to its highest level and the valve is closed. If the valve leaks it will be necessary to renew the washer. Image 2 shows a typical ball valve of the Portsmouth type, and also a Croydon type ball valve. The chief difference between the two is that the plug works up and down in the Portsmouth, and across in the Croydon. To renew a ball-valve washer, turn off the water and withdraw the pivot pin with a pair of pliers. The removal of the pivot pin will release the lever and allow the plug to drop out. When removing the pin hold the lever and the plug, or they may fall into the tank or the cistern. Unscrew the cap with a pair of grips. The cap is rather thin and quite easy to bend, so it must be treated gently, exerting no more pressure than is absolutely necessary. Remove the washer, and clean out the space into which it fits, then fit the new washer, which must fit exactly.
These washers may be purchased from an ironmonger, and are cut from hard rubber. It is false economy to try and cut a washer yourself; they must be quite even and just the right thickness. Having fitted the washer re-assemble the ball valve. In an emergency the old washer may be reversed to stem a leak from the valve.
It may be that the fault is not in the washer. The first sign of apparent trouble in the ball valve is water continually dripping from the overflow pipe outside the building. When this is noticed, it is as well to test the washer first as this is the most likely cause. Lift the ball and the lever up very gently; if this causes the water to stop flowing into the tank, a worn washer is not the cause of the overflow.
The lever is made of soft metal, and the continual movement of the ball in following the changing level of the water may have bent the lever very slightly. This is easily put right; grasp the lever close up against the ball, and with the other hand at the other end of the lever, bend the ball end down very slightly. Release the lever to check if the rising lever raises the ball to stop the flow. The water level in the storage tank should be just below the overflow pipe.
Another cause of overflowing may be due to a leak in the ball itself. The ball, which is hollow, is screwed to the end of the lever. Place a piece of wood across the top of the tank and tie the lever to the wood to close the valve; unscrew the ball and shake it to see if there is any water inside; if water has entered the ball, this must have affected its buoyancy, thus failing to raise the lever sufficiently to close the valve fully. A new ball is inexpensive, easy to replace and to obtain; in most cases it will be found quite a simple job to repair the old ball. Cover the ball with hot water — the heat will cause the air in the ball to expand, and it will press out at the leak, showing tiny bubbles in the water. Make a scratch on the ball, where the air is seen to be coming out, and remove the ball from the hot water.
To remove the water that has collected in the ball, punch a small hole at the spot where the leak is. Shake out as much water as possible. With this done hold the ball over aflame to dry it, but do not overheat the ball; when steam ceases to emerge from the hole, scrape the metal round the hole clean and bright and solder the leak. The ball should be tested by leaving it in a bucket of water for an hour or so before screwing it back into position.