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DIY How To's and Guides

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How To Fix A Leaking Tap

Wasting money on your water bills every year? A leaking or dripping tap usually means that the tap washer needs renewing, however it can also be caused because of a damaged valve seating. You should check also whether the leak is coming from the mixer nozzle, if this is the case you will have to change both tap washers.  The first thing you need to do to fix your faulty tap is to remove the headgear.


Removing your taps headgear

You should ensure that you turn off the water supply to your taps before you begin to tamper with them (Turn the water off under the taps at the service valves or at the mains); along with this place the plug in the plughole to make sure none of the small parts for down, this is a vital tip which will save you time and money. Turn the tap on fully either though no water will be running.


Next you will need to lever off or unscrew the cover of a non-rising spindle tap in order to expose the retaining screw; you can do this using a standard flat head screwdriver. Remove the screw and keep it somewhere safe, you will now be able to remove the head of the tap. You may not have a non-rising spindle tap but instead a rising spindle tap, if this is the case you need to prise off the index disc, which is located in the centre of the handle; again this can be done with a flat head screwdriver. Next you need to remove the retaining screw to release the capstan or the handle as its commonly known; I would advise using an adjustable spanner wrapped in an old rag or cloth to unscrew the metal shroud and lift from the head gear nut.

After you have done the above you need to undo the larger headgear nut; the way to do this is with a spanner. If the nut is stiff, which in many cases it will be make sure you do not force the nut. If this is the problem you should brace the tap body with you hand and twist. You do not want the tap to be turning while releasing the headgear as this could lead to you damaging the pipe or fracturing it. If this happens you could make your leaking tap twice as bad and calling a plumber will be the only real solution. What if the nut is still difficult to turn? If the nut is still proving difficult to turn then you should go to your local DIY store and purchase some penetrating oil. Rub this around the joint and allow at least ten minutes for the oil to soak in, and then try again. Sometimes you will have to apply a few layers in order for this method to work. If need be you could apply some heat to the nut using a blow torch or electric paint stripper however only use this method if all else fails!


How to replace your washer


You will to replace your washer in order to stop the dripping or leaking that your tap is experiencing. The way to do this is simple; firstly prise off the washer with a screwdriver and if there is a small nut protecting your washer you need to unscrew it. You will probably need an 8mm spanner for this. Again if you’re having difficulties undoing the nut use some penetrating oil. Afterwards prise off the washer. Sometimes you may find that the nut is too tight and cannot be removed, you don’t need to worry… You can replace both the jumper valve and the washer unit as one. Next of all you need to fit your new washer or the new washer and jumper valve. You should grease the threads on the base of your tap before you reassemble it. If you wish you can purchase a specialist silicone gel from all building/plumbing merchants however something such as Vaseline will do a good job.


You will need to repair the valve seating The valve seating is one of the main reasons that your tap will be leaking. When your valve seating is rough or scored because of grit the seal between the washer will not be effective; because of this your new washer will still let water through. The best solution is to visit one of your local hardware stores and purchase a combined washer and seating set. Within this contraption you will notice there is a plastic seat part, this will fit into the valve seat along with a washer and jumper valve unit that will be fit into the headgear. While the tap is turned off the plastic seating will be forced into a sturdy position; it may actually take a couple of days for the new seating to give a completely watertight seal. If you don’t want to have to repair the tap seating then you can look at buying/hiring a reseating tool. This tool will allow you to grind down the seat until it is smooth once again, a simple but more expensive option.


Your ceramic disc taps

In comparison to the normal and conventional taps that use washer and have a main spindle a ceramic disc tap is completely different. The way they work is that they have a cartridge in the body of the tap which will contain two ceramic discs (each with two holes on them). One of the discs will be in a fixed position and the other will be rotating as the handles are turned.


The ways this method works is that when the rotating disc moves the holes within it are matched up with the holes on the still disc, this allows water to flow through. Once the tap is turned off the disc rotates and the holes are no longer aligned, stopping the water flow. If your ceramic disc is scratched then it will probably result in a leaking or dripping tap. You must replace the entire cartridge.


Always remember that the left handed disc is for the hot tap and the right handed for the cold tap. Take the faulty piece with you to your local plumbing merchants to ensure you purchase the right size and left or right handed piece. It is important to note that your ceramic tap could be leaking because the seal at the bottom of the cartridge has been perished.


How to check your ceramic discs -   

Turn off your water supply, pull off the tap handles and use a spanner to unscrew the section which is known as the headgear. Next you need to carefully remove the cartridges, checking if either is damaged. Also remember which is the hot and which the cold cartridges are. There is a chance that your cartridges will be worn; if this is the case then you need to replace them with identical parts for your tap. Ensure when fitting these again that they are fitted into the correct part, hot and cold. Your cartridges may not be worn but just dirty, if so then clean them with a damp cloth. Sometimes the rubber seal may be damaged… Replace this if so. Replace the cartridges and fit them into the appropriate taps.


The recipe for curing your leaking tap

If you have an annoying leaking tap then there is a good chance that it is because of faulty glands; the way to see if this is your taps diagnoses is as follows. If the leak is from either the body of the tap, around the spindle, the base of the swivel spout or even the diverter level on a shower mixer tap then it is your glands.  The glands are the seal between the body of your tap and the spindle or O-ring seal.  The reasoning for this type of problem is fairly simple and it is mostly seen in kitchen taps. Usually soapy water from hands will run down the spindle and wash the grease out of the gland which keeps the joint completely watertight. It is worth noting that on modern taps they don’t actually have a gland, instead they use an O-ring seal function; it is very unlikely that this will need replacing unless it is fairly old and then the only real worry will be wear and tear.  


How to adjust the gland

You don’t have to cut off the water supply if you are adjusting the valve. You can make this adjustment with the tap turned off. Undo the small screw that secures the capstan handle and place it in a safe place as it is very easy to lose, and then remove the handle. If you can’t see a screw the handle should literally pull off. You should be able to see a bell-shaped cover that is over the whole tap, you need to remove this and you should then see the gland nut. This is the highest nut on the spindle; tighten the nut roughly a half turn with a spanner. Next of all turn the tap on for a temporary moment, do this by slipping the handle back on. You can now check whether or not the leak is still from the spindle. Hopefully there won’t be and if so turn the nut another quarter turn and reassemble the tap. Over tightening the nut can make the tap very hard to turn off. If you are unfortunate and the gland is still leaking then you will need to turn the nut another half turn and check again; sometimes there will still be a leak even after this and if so you are going to have to repack the gland.


Here is how to do this: Replacing and repacking

Do exactly as I said above to get to the point of the tap being turned off and the handle and cover being removed. Then use a spanner to take the gland nut out. You need to remove the old packing, use a sharp tool or a screwdriver to do so. You need to replace the old packing with packing string that you will be able to purchase from any plumbing merchant. Pack it in with your screwdriver and then replace the gland nut and reassemble your tap. This concludes all of the different methods for fixing your leaking tap, sometimes it can simply be down to the materials that have been used. Buying high quality materials may cost you a little extra at first but in the long run it will not only save you money but also many hours of being frustrated when a leaking tap occurs.

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