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How to fix a leaking tap

Fix a Leaking Tap 101

So, your tap has been leaking a lot, and you have finally decided to do something about it. Leaking taps can easily be ignored, however the earlier you address the issue the lower your water bill will be and the more money you will save. Fixing a leaking can be an easy exercise if you know what you’re doing, however it can become a very messy and unfortunate series of events if not done correctly. Always keep this in mind when considering completing some DIY repairs on your tap and, if in doubt, contact the professionals!

What causes a tap to leak?

A few different things can cause a tap to leak, namely :

  • The tap washer has worn out or broken
  • The valve seating is corroded or has been damaged
  • The jumper valve is worn out
  • The O-ring has become loose or has worn out
  • The washer on the tap is the wrong size
  • The washer has previously been installed incorrectly

Most taps are equipped with either rubber or ceramic parts that act as a sealant to stop water from running when the tap is off. If your tap only turns a half or a quarter when turned, it is likely furnished with a ceramic disc as a sealant. However, if it turns further than this than it is likely a rubber washer which is installed.

Are there different sorts of leaking taps?

Yes there are. If your tap has water flowing from the body and spindle when it is turned on, or has liquid leaking from the cover plate, it is likely the O-ring which is the point of concern. However, if your tap is dripping when it is turned off, it is likely the washer that needs replacing. Now, most leaking taps are caused by a broken washer, which is easy enough to fix and replace yourself. However, if you are in any way unsure, please make sure you contact a qualified plumber to help you out.


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So, how do you fix a leaking tap?

There is a general, eleven-step process that should be followed when fixing a leaking tap with a broken washer, but first you need to ensure you have the correct tools and supplies and the tap has been prepared accordingly.

Supplies to fix a leaking tap

  • Correct sized washers
  • Jumper valves
  • O-ring
  • A shifting wrench (a shifter) or a set of spanners
  • Some pliers
  • A screwdriver
  • Gaffer tape
  • Tweezers
  • Resealing kit or silicone (if necessary)
  • A cloth

Tap Preparation

Before you even look at fixed your leaking tap, turn the water supply off at the main otherwise there will be a giant mess to clean up before anything is repaired. If you are unsure where your water main is, as a general rule:

  • If you reside in a house, your water main is likely located in your front yard, garden or out on the street. If you locate your water meter, you will likely find your water main; and
  • If you live in an apartment, your water main is generally located in the bathroom or laundry.

Once you have turned the water off at the main, turn on the leaky tap and let all water left in the pipes to drain. If you are concerned that all the water may not have been released, turn on a tap on a lower level (such as a garden tap) to assist the process.

Leaking Tap Repair Steps

  1. Plug the basin

    Place a plug in the basin or sink to ensure that no parts are lost down the drain during the repair.

  2. Remove the tap button

    If your tap has a tap button (these usually say ‘hot’ or ‘cold’), remove this from the top of your tap. You may need a screwdriver to complete this step.

  3. Remove the handle

    Depending on your tap, you will need to remove the handle to expose the inside of the tap. This usually means unscrewing the handle, and you may require a spanner or shifting wrench to do this

  4. Remove the tap skirt

    If your tap has a skirt or shroud, which is usually made of metal, you will need to remove this also. Some sealants may make this step a tricky one, so use a pair of pliers or a wrench to unscrew.

    Sneaky tip - wrap gaffer tape around the skirt for extra grip, then a cloth around the tap to avoid scratched. It can make this step a lot easier!

  5. Remove the tap bonnet

    Now you need to remove the body of the tap, so you can gain access to the washer and jumper valve. You will likely need a spanner to unscrew the body and, once removed, place to the side (and don’t lose it!) so you can put the tap together again at the end.

  6. Remove the washer and jumper valve

    Once the bonnet is removed, you should be able to see the washer and jumper valve. Note however that sometimes the jumper valve can come off with the tap body - that’s not an issue, as long as you know where it is. If you can not reach the washer and jumper valve without tools, use a pair of tweezers or needle-nose pliers to pick out the parts.

  7. Find a suitable washer replacement

    Take your washer and jumper valves to your local hardware store and purchase replacement items for the broken components. Tap washers are usually 12mm in residential homes, but they can be 15mm or even larger in some circumstances. Also, if you think you’ll need some skirt resealant it’s worthwhile picking up some silicone whilst in store, to avoid mould accumulation in the future.

  8. Replace the washer

    Place the washer and jumper valve back inside the tap.

  9. Put your tap back together

    Once the washer and jumper valve are in place, place the tap bonnet back in place and use a spanner or wrench to tighten. Don’t however place any silicone on the bottom of the skirt until you are sure the tap is fixed.

  10. Turn the main back on

    Now it’s time to turn the tap off completely and turn the water main back on, but don’t close the tap off too tightly.

  11. Test the tap

    Now, test your tap and see if the leak is still there! If the leak appears to be fixed, you can remove the handle and skirt and place some silicone on the base of the skirt to reseal it… but be careful. Silicone can get super messy!

If the only repair that needs completing is to change a tap washer, than this can easily be a DIY project for a Sunday afternoon. However, if it looks like a bigger job than we highly recommend you call a qualified plumber to check all taps in your home and provide repairs where needed. Give us a call on 02 8188 5339 and we can help!


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