How to Fix a Dripping Tap

Matt Robinson | Updated on March 24, 2021

Your dripping tap may be more of an irritation right now with its constant and annoying sound but just think how much water you could actually be losing per day as a homeowner and bill payer. Isn’t that even more annoying?

You may not be all that bothered about that drip, drip, drip but did you know that your leak could be costing you three gallons worth of water a day lost down your sink and therefore money down the drain every single day.

Take a look at your water bill. It has probably risen. And your leaking taps are probably a big part of the cause of that. If your taps can be repaired then why not do it instead of putting a drain on your purse.

Repairing a Dripping or Leaking Tap

The fixing of a tap may not actually involve much expense when you compare how much you are losing over time on every water bill.

Additionally if you have some basic handyman and plumbing skills and you have the correct tools there are many fixes that you could do yourself.

If you do not feel that confident well why not call in a plumbing professional. The money you spend will definitely be paid pack over time once you see your water bills going back down again.

If you are seriously thinking about repairing that leaky tap and you do want to tackle a DIY tap repair then here are some helpful notes. This is general information as every situation is different but should you have the right skills then why not get those leaky taps fixed.

Leaking or dripping taps are the most regular and frequent plumbing issue in the home.

This may sound like a small issue but this can become an urgent one as avoiding this issue may cause you a huge amount of water loss.

Happily, Tap refurbishment is quite straight forward if you have the appropriate tools.

You may already know how basic plumbing and taps function and if so great; otherwise, to save on an emergency plumber, you may want to try following instructions given on YouTube or Google and some of the basic incites we provide in this article.

What tools will you need?

  • An adjustable spanner or C wrench
  • A slot or cross-headed screwdriver
  • Your stopcock location and the ability to close it.
  • Possibly assorted washers or O rings available in sets from any well known DIY or hardware store.
  • Possibly a replacement cartridge for the tap.
  • Lubricant

Identifying the type of tap you have

There are generally two forms of tap in your home:

  • Compression washer and valve seat taps with a central stem.
  • Washer-less or cartridge taps.

Compression Taps

A compression tap when turned raises or lowers a washer seal that closes against or opens away from the valve seat at the base of the tap to let water flow through or stem that water flow.

With compression taps their main weak point and cause of leaks and dripping is the degrading of the rubber washer seal at the base of the stem. When this wears out the tap drips or worse.

More modern forms of compression taps lower the washer seal onto the valve seat without rotating the washer down onto the base. They move the washer up and down vertically without rotation so do not grind the washer down onto the valve. The washer, therefore, has less friction and it should generally last longer.

Cartridge Taps or Washer-less Taps

With a washer-less tap mechanism a cartridge holding a turning disc is used in the tap to open and close the water and adjust the temperature of the water. Although there are no washers in these taps they do still use O-rings or neoprene seals to prevent leaks and drips.

Cartridge taps refer to a set up where a hollow brass and plastic cartridge holds a disk that moves up and down to open and close the flow of water and can be turned left or right to mix the hot and cold water to the temperature that you prefer.

When centred the cartridge lets water from both the hot and the cold flow through equally. If you move the tap to the left more hot water should come through. When you Move it to the right then more cold will come through.

How to fix a dripping compression tap

In compression tap a drip is usually caused by a washer that has been damaged and generally replacement of the washer is the solution in these cases.

Follow our step-by-step guide to fixing a dripping compression tap:

  1. Avoid larger water damage issues by cutting off the water supply to your tap.
  2. Turn off your shut off valves and run your tap till flow stops.
  3. Using a flat-head screwdriver, carefully remove any cap decoration from the tap head to reveal the mechanism holding the tap head in place.
  4. Be careful to not scratch your tap while doing this.
  5. Using some lubricant if required, unscrew and take the tap handle off the stem.
  6. Using the correct gauge of spanner loosen the packing nut to remove the tap stem.
  7. Some stems come straight out and some need to be twisted off the valve. This depends on your type of tap.
  8. While you are taking these elements apart check for any other ware and tare. If you find any other damage, it?s a good idea to replace that part while you have the tap apart.
  9. Inspect the black rubber O-ring of the tap and the bottom valve seal washer.
  10. Loosened or misshapen O-rings and washers can also cause leaks so replace them with new ones even if they are a bit loose.
  11. Make sure the washer and o-ring you use is an exact fit.
  12. Reconstruct the tap by putting the parts back in place.
  13. Once you have tightened the tap back in place and re engaged your water source gently turn the handle so you can test if your replaced parts and tap are working correctly.
  14. If done correctly you will should have a drip-free tap

How to fix a dripping cartridge tap

These taps are quite different from compression taps with washers and central spindles. The taps have a cartridge in the main body that houses discs. A damaged disc may cause dripping from the tap and you must replace the cartridge as a whole unit.

You will need to remove the cartridge and match it to a new one of the same size form and details.

These taps can also drip if the base of the cartridge has also worn down. It may not be the internal disks that are the issue however the whole cartridge will need to be replaced.

Follow our step-by-step guide to fixing a dripping cartridge tap:

  1. Cut off your water supply as described with a compression tap.
  2. Run the tap to drain down the water after the shut-off valves have been turned.
  3. Unscrew the handles carefully removing any decorative parts so as not to scratch your tap.
  4. The opening screw for these taps is sometimes a small grub screw that once removed releases the hot and cold indicator tap head under which is hidden the main screw. This can easily be removed by a flat-head screwdriver.
  5. You should be able to remove the cartridge with the help of an adjustable spanner.
  6. Check for damages and replace if required.
  7. If your tap is not a monobloc mixer with only one cartridge then assess each cartridge both hot and cold and confirm which one needs replacing.
  8. Check for damages and replace one or both if required.
  9. Make sure all the parts you are replacing are the correct size and that they all fit the tap properly.
  10. It is essential that you put everything back together in correct order.
  11. Bring back your water supply by opening up your shut off valves again and then gently turn the tap knob to test whether you have managed to fix your leak.
  12. If your leak problems still persist then call a professional plumber for some more experienced assistance.

Dripping kitchen taps

Over-tightening of your taps is a fairly common mistake when it comes to the daily use of your Kitchen taps.

Bare in mind that taps made up of compression valves and washers will continue to drip for a few seconds after you turn it off. Over tightening your taps because of a few after drips may actually lead to you creating an actual leaking drip through over-tightening and grinding the washers.

Usually the dripping on your kitchen tap will stop within a few seconds so do not keep on tightening it. This can damage the longevity of the O-ring as well as the washer and actually cause a leak.

Check back in a minute to see if your kitchen tap is still dripping if not then leave it be. If yes then why not get that washer or O-ring changed.

Dripping shower heads

When it comes to leaks and drips shower heads can also cause you countless water wastage as similar dripping problems might also arise to those on your taps.

There could be leaks at the connection point of the showerhead and the shower arm or between the showerhead bar and swivel ball so check all this out the same way that you would with your taps.

Tap Quality Versus Price

There are plenty of great looking designer taps out there of all shapes and sizes. But remember that prices and quality are not always related. We recommend that you go with well-established brands when looking for the style of tap that you desire. These household names have been around for a long time for a reason and that is usually because they do not compromise on quality and reliability.

If you see a fashionable tap that you want but it’s rather pricey then remember that getting that tap for a low price from a lesser-known brand may cause you extra expense in the long term through replacement parts and additional plumbing costs.

A Word of Advice about Taps

If you do not have the confidence to handle fixing dripping taps on your own or you are not sure where your shut off points are for your taps and water supply then call a professional plumber.

A well trained professional plumber is the person that will get all this figured out for you and put your mind at rest long term.

Talk to our team for help and advice or to book

Call 020 3880 5666