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How do i change a tap washer?

We are called quite often from property owners asking us to change tap washers.

In this video we explain exactly how to carry this task out.

When a bathroom or kitchen tap starts dripping, what starts off as a minor annoyance can quickly turn into a costly, property-damaging problem if you leave it too long.

However, fixing a leaking tap is one of those easy, basic skills every homeowner should know how to do, just like bleeding a radiator. This guide will show you how to fix a leaking tap in a simple, step-by-step guide with a few added tips and tricks.

What you’ll need;

Adjustable Spanner

Pump Pliers/Grips

Assortment of Tap Washers

Flathead/Crosshead Screwdriver

Towel/Soft Cloth!

Tips before you start:

  • Always turn off your water supply before you start any plumbing work. Once the water is off, run the taps to drain the water and release pressure in your pipes
  • Before you start disassembling your tap, put the plug in the plughole so you don’t accidentally lose any small parts down there!
  • Spanners and screwdrivers have been known to easily scratch chrome taps, so whenever you can, use a soft cloth or some masking tape to cover and protect the finish of your gleaming hardware
  • Don’t over-tighten a washer or valve when reassembling, as this may damage or cause excess stress on the joint

Let’s get to it:

A traditional tap is also known as a compression valve tap. If you’ve got separate hot and cold taps and they turn much more than a quarter to get to full flow, you’ve got compression valve taps. Here are the steps for fixing a dripping compression valve tap:

1. Isolate the water with a screwdriver
If you have an isolation valve for your sink (usually found on the pipes underneath or close to the sink), use your screwdriver to turn it off. If you can’t find one, turn your water off at the stopcock (usually under your kitchen sink). Now run the tap until there’s no more water left.

2. Check that no water comes out of the taps
Your taps need to be completely drained before you can take apart the dripping tap.

3. Take off the tap cover
There are different types of tap cover or cap. What you need to find is the screw underneath it. If you have decorative hot and cold caps on top of the tap, check under those, or under the hot and cold indicator on single lever taps. You can usually unscrew these caps by hand, or pop them off gently with a flathead screwdriver. Some need an Allen key.

4. Take off the tap handle and dismantle the valve
Now you should be able to see the screw at the top of the tap head holding the tap together. You’ll need to loosen it completely to get inside the valve and make repairs.

There are different types of compression tap valve covers (the part that turns). You could have a traditional one with a spindle at the top and the valve cover underneath, or the valve cover might have grips for you to turn. In both cases you dismantle the tap head as follows:

  • Unscrew the top screw with a crosshead screwdriver
  • Use an adjustable spanner to loosen the valve inside then remove it
  • Remove the nut that holds the washer in place
  • Hold the valve steady in an adjustable spanner and use a screwdriver to remove the screw that holds the washer in place.

Top tip: Lay all your bits and pieces out on the side of the sink or on a towel, in the order that you took them off, so it’s easy to reassemble your tap once you’ve fixed it.

5. Run your finger inside the tap to check the seating

Often when your tap is dripping, the problem is actually the tap seat, which the washer sits on when the tap is closed. When it’s in good health it creates the seal that closes the tap and stops water running. You can tell when it’s damaged by normal wear and tear, because there will be small canals eroded into the metal of the seat. You can fix this by:

  • Using a seat grinder tool to grind the rest of the seat down to the level of these canals, which produces a flat, smooth seat for the washer to sit on and seal the flow of water.
  • Buying a seat insert kit that adds a new piece that forms a new seal

If the tap seat was in fact eroded and you’ve carried out one of those two fixes, try putting your tap back together, turning your water back on and testing the drip – you may find it was the seat and not the washer that was the issue.

6. Check and replace your tap washer
Now you’ve checked or dealt with the tap valve seat, check the washer for wear and tear and replace if needed.

7. Re-assemble your tap, turn on your water and check for drips
With the seat and the washer checked and/or fixed, you should be home and dry.


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