Have you got a leaky tap that’s been driving you mad? Don’t put it off any longer by following our step-by-step DIY guide about how to fix a leaking tap.

You’ll be surprised at how easy it can be, even without any experience or plumbing knowledge. As well as keeping your sanity, sorting out the tap as early as possible will help you reduce your water usage and therefore save you money on water bills.

What Are the Causes of a Leaking Tap?

When fixing a leaking tap yourself, it’s important to first identify the cause of the problem.

If the tap is dripping when turned off, it’s generally the washer that needs replacing. This could be because the washer is worn out or broken, the washer is the wrong size or it has been installed incorrectly. It could also signal that the jumper valve has worn out or the valve seating has been damaged.

On the other hand, if the tap is leaking water while it is turned on, then it’s probably the O-ring that has become loose or worn out. 

Some types of taps do not have washers, these are a ¼ or ½ turn style. In most cases these cant be repaired and a new spindle will be required. 

Tools and Materials You’ll Need 

Here are some essential tools you may need:

  • Adjustable spanner or wrench (for different-sized nuts).
  • Set of pliers (for very stiff taps).
  • Screwdriver (Phillips or flat-head).
  • Basin wrench (for some hard-to-reach areas).
  • Tap lubricant (like WD-40).
  • Cloths (for cleaning up)

Depending on the problem at hand, you may also need to buy a replacement tap washer and O-ring. It’s important to note that replacement parts come in different sizes so make sure you know the required size before buying.

If this is your first time repairing a tap, consider buying a tap repair kit. This should contain everything you need to get that leaky tap fixed.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing a Leaking Tap

Follow our 5-step guide to help you fix your leaking or dripping tap. 

Step 1: Identifying the Type of Leak

As a general rule, you’ll need to replace the O-Ring if it’s leaking at the base, and the washer if the tap is dripping.

As you have to dismantle the tap anyway, it can be worth replacing both while you’re there. 

Step 2: Turning Off the Water Supply 

Turn off your water supply at the isolation valve or if you don’t have these, you can turn the water off at the water meter. If you live in a house, this should be in your front garden or the street but if you live in a unit, it will probably be in the bathroom or laundry. 

(Isolation valves allow you to turn the water for individual waterpoints and fixtures on and off. This means you can turn the water off at the tap you’re working on, without having to turn water off to your whole house or apartment. Contact us if you’d like to know more about this! 

Turn on the tap to let the excess water run out. Then it’s a good idea to put a plug in the basin to avoid losing small parts.

Step 3: Disassembling the Tap

Using a spanner or pliers, undo the locking screw or nut in an anti-clockwise direction. Depending on the type of tap, you may need to pop off the tap button first.

Remove the handle and then screw off the tap bonnet to give you access to the inner workings of the tap. You should now see the spindle which is where you find the tap washer and O-ring.  

Step 4: Replacing the Washer or O-Ring

Unscrew the spindle using a spanner. Grease the spindle and new parts with lubricant.

Remove the O-ring with your fingers or pliers and swap it for a new one.

Replace the old tap washer with the new one, placing it back in the same position on the spindle.

Step 5: Reassembling and Testing the Tap 

Once finished, screw the spindle back into place, along with the bonnet, handle and locking screw. Be very careful not to overtighten anything at this point.

Make sure the tap is in the closed position before turning the water back. Gently open the tap to test for any leaks.

Troubleshooting Common Issues During Repair 

Although fixing a leaky tap yourself is fairly simple, it’s good to know what to do if a problem arises. Here are 4 common issues:

  1.     You may find that it’s difficult to remove the tap handle or other components. To avoid damaging the tap, apply a lubricant oil like WD-40 to loosen stuck or corroded parts before using your wrench, spanner or pliers. You may damage the tap if you force too hard here. If your taps are old and won’t budge, they may have seized and will need replacing. 
  2. Sometimes, a tap can continue to leak or drip even after you have replaced the washer or O-Ring. Check the replacement parts are the correct size and type for the tap and that they are correctly aligned.
  3. If the tap handle is still loose or wobbly, you’ll need to tighten the screws with the appropriate screwdriver. If this doesn’t work, you may need to replace the tap handle or the screws.
  4.     It can sometimes be difficult to work in confined, hard-to-reach places. Be prepared with specialised tools like a basin wrench before you start to avoid damage to surrounding fixtures and pipes.
  5. Bending the copper behind the taps. 
  • Sometimes when removing spindles that are attached to a basin, the copper connected to them can bend. In most cases you can un-install the tap and install a new piece of copper. Check to make sure you are not bending the copper when removing the taps.  

When to Call a Professional Plumber

As you can see in this guide, it can be quite simple to replace an old washer or O-Ring yourself.

However, some jobs should be left to a qualified plumber. This can avoid further damage and save you money in the long run. My Home Plumbing are here to help you with all plumbing repairs as well as providing regular professional inspections and maintenance tips. 

Preventing Future Tap Leaks

Here are My Home Plumbing’s top 10 tips on regular maintenance to prevent future leaks and drips:

  1.     Check your taps on a regular basis for any leaks or drips.
  2.     Respond to leaks or drips straight away to avoid further damage down the track.
  3.     Replace washers and O-Rings as a first, easy step to fixing a tap.
  4.     Avoid over-tightening which can damage internal parts and can lead to further leaks.
  5.     Use Teflon tape when repairing leaks to create a watertight seal at the connection points.
  6.     Clean your taps regularly with a mild cleaner and cloth to remove mineral build-up.
  7.     Check the water pressure isn’t too high which can put extra strain on your plumbing fixtures. The Australian standard for water pressure is 500kpa. This is also the maximum limit for most plumbing fixture warranties – so it’s important to keep this in check.
  8.     Insulate your pipes if you live in colder climates.
  9.     Consider upgrading to more efficient plumbing fixtures, if you experience frequent problems.
  10. Get professional inspections done by plumbers from time to time which can lead to fewer issues in the long run.

Let Us Help!  

If you have a plumbing job that you just can’t face or you know is too big for you, get in touch today. My Home Plumbing provides a range of services to help you with whatever plumbing needs you have. If in doubt, call us out.