A leaky or dripping tap is arguably one of the most common problems that we face in our kitchens.
It’s usually not enough of a problem to require a plumber, so here’s how you can change a tap washer, tap seal or reseat a tap, all of which are the most common reasons for a leaky tap in the first place.
Before we can recommend you to follow this DIY guide, we could still suggest calling out a plumber to your location if your tap is leaking and you’re not comfortable with DIY.
Whether it’s the tools you don’t have or if you’re just a little unsure about carrying out this type of work, it’s always best to call in a professional if you don’t think you can complete the job.
Before You Start
There are a couple of things to do before you start working on your tap. For starters, shut off the water supply to the taps that you will be working on.
If it’s a kitchen sink tap, then check under the sink for valves that control the water going to your taps. These may need to be turned by a flathead screwdriver, but in some cases, they are simple valves that can be turned by hand.
If you don’t turn the water supply off, then there’s a chance you’ll make a huge mess and water will get everywhere during your repair.
If you can’t find the valves or if there are none, then you’ll need to cut the water supply to the entire room or home instead.
This is usually done at a separate location and it might be tricky locating this valve if you’re unfamiliar with the inner workings of your home.
If you’re unsure where this valve is, you may want to ask for help from a friend or simply give up on your DIY journey for now and hire a professional.
If you watch them carefully, you’ll learn a lot (such as the location of your valves) and you can save that knowledge for the future.
Opening Up the Tap Cover or Cap
The first thing to do is open up the tap itself so we can access the inside. Many modern taps have red or blue caps on the top that indicate if the tap is for hot or cold water.
These caps can usually be removed with a flathead screwdriver or a similar tool. Once you pop these open, it will reveal a screw inside that is holding the handle or cover to the head of the tap. Unscrew this and the cover will lift off the head and reveal the inside of the tap. This screw is commonly referred to as the release screw.
Good to Know: Make sure you keep all of your parts in a container or a box and if it’s your first time opening a tap, take pictures of it before you remove anything so you know how to put it back together again once you’re done with the repairs.
If the parts are filthy or caked in grime due to prolonged use, then you may want to soak them in a cleaning solution and give them a scrub before you put them back together again.
Replacing the Washer and Seal
With the release screw removed, you can now lift off the tap head with ease to reveal the valve release nut. This is where you’ll need an adjustable spanner to clamp onto the valve nut.
These are notorious for being incredibly stiff and it’s entirely possible to move the entire tap while trying to loosen it.
Hold the tap itself still while you do this because the last thing you want is to detach the entire tap itself from the rest of your sink.
Once it has been screwed off, you can lift it off the tap housing to reveal the tap washer at the bottom. If you have a leaky tap, then replacing this washer will likely be able to fix the issue, but we can also attempt to reseat the tap.
Good to Know: Since you’ll be changing a tap washer that has been stuck for a while on the valve, you may need to pry it off with a screwdriver or something similar.
You’ll also need to purchase the replacement washer beforehand and these can come in various different sizes. Luckily, there are packs of assorted washers that come in several sizes.
Reseating a Tap
If replacing the washer didn’t fix your dripping tap, then it’s possible that the valve seat itself is damaged and needs to be fixed up.
To restore the valve seat, you’ll need to use a reseating tool. This is essentially a device that screws onto your tap much like a valve, but it has a cutting surface on the bottom which will grind the tap seat itself to remove any grime.
You don’t want to grind for too long, just enough to give it a good polish so that it shines again.
Combine this with replacing the washer or seal and you should have a working tap with no leakage.
As you can see, these processes don’t take long and assuming you’re willing to be patient, they’re simple enough that anyone could do it with a few simple tools.
While a tap reseating tool is a relatively uncommon tool, they’re inexpensive and can be reused many times.
Good to Know: Don’t fit the tap back on as soon as you’re done reseating. Turn the water supply back on and gently allow the water to flush through the tap to remove any debris caused by the tap reseating tool. This will ensure that no debris from grinding the seat remains stuck to the washer or damages it when you screw it back on.