How to replace Tap Washers

A dripping tap can be an annoyance as well as a waste of water, and a waste of energy if it is a hot tap.

 A dripping tap is easier to fix than you might think, often just a replacement washer is needed, and by doing it yourself saves expensive plumbing costs.

You’ll need a spanner, a flathead and crosshead screwdriver, cloth, tap washers and possibly pliers, Sometimes a reseating tool is required and special Tap Socket Spanners can be bought.

There are a few different types of taps:

Taps that turn on and off with a quarter of a turn – ceramic discs inside a replaceable cartridge.
Taps that take several turns – rubber & plastic sealing washers, that have different size washers.
Mixer taps – often small washers.
New style Mixer Taps cannot be covered here.
As different taps will have different size tap washers, it is worth checking which one you need first, possibly taking the old one to harware store as an example or buying a selection so that you are sure you will have the correct size.

You will need to turn off the water supply to the tap. This will either be by turning the supply off completely – under or near the kitchen sink – or outside close to the Water Meter; or if the supply pipe to the tap has an isolating valve, you can turn the water off here by turning the valve ball with a screwdriver. Once done, you should open the tap up fully to check the water is off. A trickle of water may come out but that should be all. ( The main supply from the local council will be near a water meter with an on/off tap nearby).

Click to enlarge
Take off the screw handle. Depending on what type of tap it is you can either just:

pull it off or unscrew the screw from under the hot or cold indicator disc and then pull it off.
undo the small screw set in its underside – if an old style tap. (1)
Once the handle is removed, you should now see the stem of the tap, possibly with a brass nut holding it in place.

Click to enlargeUndo the nut then unscrew the spindle. If this has not been removed in some time a reasonable amount of force could be necessary.

Ensure you support the base of the tap whilst unscrewing the top part. Unscrew this by turning it anti clockwise with a spanner, then lift out the tap stem.

100_1418sClick to enlarge 100_1419sThis stem also has a ring washer which can need replacing or cleaning & lubricating.

The washer is on the bottom of this piece, you need to prise it out. Inspect the “seat” inside the tap body, it could require the use of a Reseating tool to ensure that it is flat.

Fit a new washer, the same size back in. Reassemble the tap correctly, supporting the base as this is done, making sure the spindle is kept a couple of turns out, whilst fitting. Tighten whilst holding base of tap firmly, and turn on your water supply. You should have fixed the dripping tap and saved yourself some money.

If you suceed at this task please send me an Email to let me know.

Handy Hint – Replace Tap Washer provided by Maroochydore Handyman

If the job looks a bit tough, do not hesitate to contact us.

Question. I have replaced the washer but the tap still drips.

Answer. the “seat” of the tap where the washer sits could be worn or have a slight split in it. You will need to use a “Re seating tool” to grind flat and/or to grind down past the split. If this doesn’t work you can use a “Dome” washer that seals almost any drips. But it does wear out quickly. You probably will need to replace the complete unit.

(If it’s a difficult one, on the Sunshine Coast? Call me and I will fix your dripping tap for around $65.00)