Fix a Leaking Tap

Replacing a Washer on a Bib or Pillar Tap

Before you unscrew the tap, drain the supply pipe, and then open the tap as far as possible. Where there is a metal shroud cover (like an inverted dome) unscrew it – by hand, if possible, or wrap the teeth of a wrench in protective tape. Lift the cover to reveal the head gear nut. Use a narrow spanner to unscrew this then lift out the entire assembly.

The washer is fixed to the jumper, which fits into the bottom of the headgear. With some taps, the jumper comes out with the head gear, while in others it lies inside the tap body. Prise off the washer. If it’s held in place with a small nut, use a little penetrating oil to soften any corrosion, and then unscrew it. Fit a new washer, replace the retaining nut and reassemble the tap.

Replacing a Washer in a Reverse Pressure Tap

In this ‘upside-down’ tap, the washer is screwed upwards against the seat. You don’t need to turn off the supply because these taps have an integral check valve which closes automatically. Loosen the retaining nut at the top of the tap body then unscrew the body itself – as if you were turning on the tap. Water will run out until the check valve kicks in, but keep on unscrewing until it comes off. Gently tap the nozzle then turn the body upside-down to tip the finned anti-splash device out. At the end of this

device you’ll find a combined washer and jumper. Prise this off and replace it, then put the tap back together in the reverse order, screwing the body back clockwise when you look down from above onto it.

Curing a Leaking Gland

When the spindle tap is opened or closed, the spindle passes through a gland (also called a ‘stuffing box’) which is on top of the headgear. To stop water leaking past the spindle when the tap is turned on, a nut forces watertight packing into the gland. If the spindle leaks, the packing has failed. In modern taps, however, the packing has been replaced with a rubber ‘0’ ring seal.

To replace the gland packing, turn the tap off fully; you don’t need to shut off the supply. Remove the cross or capstan head: there may be a tiny screw at the side or it could be hidden under the decorative plug marked ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. Lift off the head by rocking it gently from side to side. If it’s very stiff, wrap a cloth around it and tap it from underneath with a hammer. Seal the leak by tightening the gland nut.

In most cases this won’t stop the leak on its own: it’s better to replace the packing. Use impregnated twine (available from plumbers’ merchants) or twist a thread made from PTFE tape. Wind the new packing around the spindle and push it well into the gland with the point of a small screwdriver. Replace the cross or capstan head and secure it with the retaining screw at the side (or on top) and refit the decorative plug.

Replacing ‘O’ Rings on Mixer Taps

In most mixer taps, the gland packing has been replaced with an ‘0’ ring. Remove the shrouded head and the clip holding the spindle in place. Take out the spindle and take the old ‘0’ ring out of its groove and replace it with a new one then reassemble the tap. If water is leaking from the mixer taps swivel base, you’ll have to find out the type of seal first before you can buy a replacement. Turn off both valves, unscrew the spout or remove the retaining screw. Note the type of seal and buy a new matching one.

Replacing Taps

Taps can be changed without altering the existing plumbing. If old or corroded fittings are difficult to remove, apply penetrating oil to the tap connectors and any nuts.Tap kits include full instructions on fitting replacement taps. Make sure that the taps you buy fit into the existing holes in your sink, basin or bathtub.

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