When you have a dripping tap in your home, it isn’t just irritating, it’s a massive waste of water. Plus, the leak might get worse and cause all kinds of damage to your home.
Thankfully, fixing a leaky tap is usually a pretty easy job that you should be able to do yourself, so below is a step-by-step guide to help you. The first thing you need to know before you start is what type of taps you have so that you get the correct replacement part.
There are generally two main types of taps — traditional taps with a handle or knob, which are turned on by spinning it multiple times, or mixer lever taps, with a single handle, which is used by lifting and rotating it a quarter or half a turn.
Most taps have either ceramic or rubber parts — to determine this, if the tap turns ¼ or ½, it likely has a ceramic washer; if it turns more than ½ it is likely to have a rubber washer.
What causes leaky taps?
The first thing you need to do before you fix your leaking tap is to determine the problem. The most common cause of taps leaking is the rubber washer or ring in traditional taps or the ceramic cartridge sealant ring in mixer taps that have worn out or broken and need to be replaced.
If the tap drips after you’ve turned it off, that means the washer needs replacing. If the water flows between the body of the tap and the spindle, or from underneath the cover plate, it’s likely you need a new ring. In either of these cases, you should be able to fix it yourself.
Tools and parts needed
- Adjustable spanner.
- Flathead or Phillips Head screwdriver.
- Small Allen key.
- Assorted washers and O-rings or a replacement cartridge.
Before you start
Before you can start fixing your leaky tap, you need to turn off the water supply. Most Australian homes have water meters located above the ground and this will usually be located somewhere along your water supply pipes, either outside or maybe even under the kitchen sink.
After the water supply is off, find the lowest height tap in and around your house, put a bucket underneath, and turn it on until no more water comes out. Don’t forget to turn it off again. Then do the same with the tap you are fixing to release any water that is left in the top of the pipes and put a plug in the sink.
Step 1: Find and remove the handle retaining screw
First, make sure you plug your sink — a simple step, but one that is often overlooked. Why do you need to plug it? So you don’t lose anything down the drain!
Then, you obviously need to take the tap apart to repair it, so you’ll need to remove the nut or screw that holds it together. The nut on traditional taps is underneath the decorative hot or cold cap on the top of the handles, which needs to be removed by hand or with an adjustable spanner. Start by removing this hot or cold button.
Mixer lever taps on the other hand have a small Allen or screw hidden underneath the lever, often beneath the hot /cold indicator which needs to be removed using a small flathead screwdriver or an Allen key.
Step 2: Take the tap apart
Once the cap or screw has been taken out, the next thing you’ll need to do is take the handle off. If there is a metal shroud surrounding the neck of the tap which protects the valve, you’ll need to lift that up to take it off too.
If you should see a hexagonal nut that needs to be undone using an adjustable spanner. Make sure you hold the spout while you are undoing the nut so that the tap doesn’t twist around.
Step 3: Replace the faulty parts and reassemble
For traditional taps, lift the stem out and replace the faulty washer and O-ring underneath. For mixer lever taps, you’ll simply replace the faulty cartridge. Follow these instructions in reverse to put everything back together, making sure it’s clean, turn on the water main and test the taps. If the leak is fixed, congratulations!
However, if the leak isn’t fixed then it’s most likely due to a more major issue, like a corroded valve seat or some other plumbing issue that’s not a DIY one. If that’s the case, simply call a licensed plumber to come and fix the problem for you.
Why you need to fix a leaky tap asap
A leaky tap might not seem like such a big deal, but it can easily lead to major problems:
- Health: Leaking water is one of the most common causes of household mould and mildew — which in turn, can create a number of health hazards. Mould, in particular, can lead to respiratory problems and allergies.
- Water wastage: A leaking tap that drips twice a minute can waste up to 260 litres of water on average per year. If your taps drip significantly, they can waste anywhere up to 20,000 litres of water per annum
- Structural damage: Water build-up that’s left untreated can lead to structural damage around your property, impacting the foundations, walls and floors of your home.
- Expensive Repairs: Not only does a leaky tap lead to water wastage, which you’re paying for, but if your leaks do lead to damage or mould, you’ll end up paying a substantial amount to have it fixed.
It’s important to note that in Australia, it’s illegal for homeowners to work on any system that is connected to the main water supply or your home’s sewer system so if you’re unsure, check with your local plumber, or give City Council a call to confirm you can complete the task at hand. If you have any concerns about fixing your own taps then simply get in touch with Tap This Plumbing today to assist.