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HOW- TO HOW-TO REPAIR A DRIPPING TAP

Not only is a dripping tap annoying, it also wastes precious water. Water by-laws make householders
responsible for the good maintenance of their water systems.
In this How-To guide, you will find out how easy it is to refurbish or replace a tap.

MATERIALS
• New taps • Service valves
• Tap conversion kit • Tap-seating grommets
• Flexible tap connectors • Jointing paste, for use with drinking (potable)
• Tap washers water
• ‘O’ rings • Silicone grease
• PTFE tape (gas quality)

TOOLS
• Mini pipe cutter • Large square-nosed pliers
• Small hammer • Circlip pliers
• Adjustable basin wrench • Screwdrivers: Pozidrive No.2, flat blades,
• Adjustable wrench, 230mm wide with parallel 3mm and 9mm
jaws • Tap re-seating tool
• Adjustable wrench, 250mm • Half round file, second cut
• Water pump pliers • Round file, second cut

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F1

• Piece of old car or motorbike inner tube


B E F O R E Y O U S TA R T
Taps usually leak for one of the following reasons: a faulty washer; a worn seat against which the washer is
compressed; water coming from under the tap head or round the spindle means the gland packing (F1) or the
‘O’ rings (circular rubber seals) need replacing (F7).
There are several different types and sizes of tap washer and many different sizes of ‘O’ ring. Unless you know
what type of washer or ‘O’ ring you need, only start the job if you have lots of time to get to the shops before they
shut. Once you know what type of washer or ‘O’ ring you need, buy several for stock, as they are not expensive.
Read How-To Understand Your Hot and Cold Water System. This will help you to identify your type of water
supply system and show you where to look for control valves.

T U R N I N G O F F T H E W AT E R
This is easy if you have a service valve fitted below each tap in modern installations. All you need to do is turn off
the valve that isolates the tap from the water supply. Other taps will still be operable. If you do not have service
valves, use the following procedure.

Kitchen cold water, garden hose bib-tap and direct systems with a combination boiler:
1 Turn off the boiler.
2 Turn off the mains cold water supply at the stop valve where the rising main enters the house. This will stop
water flowing to all of the taps.

Old direct cold water system with indirect hot water:


For cold water, turn off the mains stop valve.
Hot water:
1 Turn off the boiler.
2 Turn off the water supply from the storage tank to the hot water cylinder. This will be by means of a gate
(fullway) valve next to the cold water storage tank or adjacent to the hot water cylinder.
If there are no valves, turn off the main supply stop valve and, with the boiler turned off, open all the hot water
taps. Let them run until the water storage tank is empty and no more water runs from the taps.
3 Take the opportunity to install a gate valve next to the hot water cylinder. This will enable you to shut down
the hot water supply more easily in the future.

Indirect system:
1 Kitchen cold water tap and garden hose bib-tap: turn off the water at the main stop valve.

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F2 F4

F5

F3

2 Other cold water taps and hot water taps: turn off the valves in relevant supply pipes from the cold storage tank.

C H A N G I N G A WA S H E R
HINT
Place the plug in the sink waste and block the overflow. Both have a nasty habit of swallowing screws and other
small parts.

Pillar taps (F1A and F1B)


1 Isolate (cut off) the water supply.
2 Turn on the tap to allow the water to drain.
3 Remove the capstan head retaining screw (F1A). This will be in the side of the capstan head or under the
cap in its centre. This cap might unscrew or it may be prised out with a small screwdriver.
If the capstan head won’t pull off, turn the tap fully on, slide a spanner over the spindle and under the head
and gently tap the spanner upwards with a hammer (F2). Protect the basin with towels in case the head flies.
4 Remove the tap cover or shield. If the shield won’t undo, wrap a strip of inner tube round it to protect the finish
and apply pressure using water pump pliers.
5 Undo the large hexagon nut and remove the body.
6 Remove the old washer from the jumper; this may be held in place by a nut. Hold the jumper with pliers and
undo the nut with a small spanner (F3). Replace the washer.

If the nut shears or breaks off the jumper, see ‘Refurbishing Taps’ on page 6.

7 Check the washer seat for pitting, which will stop the washer making a perfect seal. If it is not perfectly
smooth, it needs attention.
8 A plastic seating grommet may be inserted to make a new seat. Push the grommet into the hole (F4).
9 Reassemble the tap and screw the handle down. This will bed the grommet and create a new seat. This
method does not always work. The grommet may be too large to fit the tap or may be too small and allow
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F6

F8

F7

leaks. Grommets also reduce the flow of water to the tap. It is better to buy or hire a tap re-seating tool (F5).
10 Screw it firmly and squarely into the base of the tap. Adjust it so that the cutter just touches the tap seat. Turn
the cutter knob firmly until a new seat is made. Do not remove too much metal.

Removing shroud handles (F1B)


1 Try tugging the handle upwards, as some just pull off.
2 If this fails, release the coloured disc in the centre of the shroud. This may unscrew or it can be eased out
with a small screwdriver.
3 Undo the revealed screw.
4 Remove the shroud handle.

LEAKING FROM THE SPINDLE


This manifests itself when water dribbles from the top of shield or from under the shroud.

Gland type taps (F1A)


1 Remove the capstan head and shroud to reveal the tap body.
2 Tighten the gland nut ⁄-fi turn.
3 If this does not cure the problem, undo the gland nut (F6A). Wrap PTFE tape round the spindle (F6B).
Replace and tighten the gland nut.

‘O’ ring taps


1 Carefully remove the circlip from the spindle (F7A).
2 Screw out or tap out the spindle and replace the ‘O’ ring (F7B).
3 Reassemble the tap.

Kitchen mixer taps


These should be treated as other taps, except for the swivel spout. Do not isolate taps to stop this leaking, just
turn them off.
1 Remove the small retaining screw at the rear of the spout. You may need a mirror and a dumpy, small-bladed
screwdriver.
2 Ease out the swivel spout. Some spouts do not have a retaining screw, they have a locating lug attached to
the spout.
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F10

F9

F11

3 Looking at the front of the tap, twist the spout to the right, in line with the taps. The spout should now pull
upwards out of its socket. If this fails, turn the spout through 180 degrees and try again.
4 With the spout removed, replace the ‘O’ rings (F8) and reassemble.

Leaking shower hose on bath mixer taps


1 Unscrew the hose.
2 Remove and replace the washer.
3 Reassemble.

Leaking diverter on bath mixer taps


1 With the taps turned off, raise the shower diverter knob and release the headgear nut with a thin spanner (F9).
2 Remove the diverter and note the position and approximate size of the ‘O’ rings (F10), so that you can
replace these with the correct ones.
3 Unscrew the knob from the diverter anti-clockwise.
4 Withdraw the diverter mechanism from its body (F11).
5 Replace all the ‘O’ rings and the washer. Use a smear of silicone grease to enable easy replacement.

Ceramic disc taps


HINT
Always keep a record of the make, model number and supplier when a ceramic disc tap is bought.

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F12

F14

F13

The procedure for removing the working parts is similar to


other taps. The water flow is controlled by moving one
ceramic disc against another. All makes vary as to how they operate. Replacement cartridges are obtainable from
most manufacturers’ distributors. The cartridges are special to each model of tap.

REFURBISHING TAPS
Kits are available to convert or resuscitate old capstan head or shroud taps, giving them a fresh new look.
1 Isolate taps and remove the main body.
2 Gently clean the spout area.
3 Insert a new shroud or lever tap body.
4 Turn on the water.

REPLACING TAPS
1 Isolate the taps from the water supply.
2 Use an adjustable basin wrench to undo the tap connector nut from the tap tail (F12).
3 Remove the back nut from the tap tail.
4 Remove the tap and thoroughly clean around the hole on the basin or sink.
5 Place a flat foam plastic washer over the tail of the new tap.
6 Insert the tap tail into the basin or sink.
7 Place a flat plastic sealing washer over the tail. Note that in the case of fitting a tap to a steel sink, you will
discover that the thread on the tap tail will not allow a nut to tighten onto the sink. You will need to use a top
hat spacer (F13).
8 With an assistant holding the tap square to the basin, screw on and tighten the retaining back nut.
9 Fit a new fibre washer to the tap connector.
10 Attach the connector squarely onto the tap tail. Don’t over-tighten.

When the connector is too short for the tap tail


1 Use a flexible tap connector. One with a built-in service valve is a good idea, if one is not already fitted.
2 Fit the tap connector end onto the tap tail. Check that the fibre or rubber washer is in place.
3 Align the hose with the supply pipe and mark the position of the top of its thread, on the lower end of the
hose, on the pipe (F14).
4 Use a mini pipe cutter to cut the pipe.

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