Picture of a dripping kitchen tap

How to fix a dripping tap

Posted on 14/08/2018

Drip, drip, drip, drip. It’s a sound that can drive you mad. There’s few things more annoying than a tap that won’t stop dripping, and the knowledge that you may be wasting precious water only adds further anxiety to the situation. If you want to know how to fix a dripping tap and give yourself peace of mind, then read on for the Local Heroes guide on how to fix a dripping tap.

Why do I need to fix it?

If you’re wondering why you need to bother fixing a tap then there are a few reasons that you should consider that may just change your mind. Did you know that over the course of one year the average leaky tap has the potential to waste over 20,000 litres of water - that’s right, 20,000.

Not only is this absolutely terrible for the environment and the planet as a whole, but it could also be costing you as much as £100 depending on your water provider.

The average leaky tap can waste over 20,000 litres of water a year

Fixing your tap will take you approximately an hour, so £100 for an hour’s work isn’t too bad, now is it? Especially when you consider that if you have one leaky tap, you’ve probably got a few others in your house too, the costs quickly start to add up. And as a bonus you’ll finally put a stop to that awful dripping sound.

Why is it leaking?

The first thing you’ll need to figure out is what exactly the problem is, why is your tap constantly dripping? Well, there are a number of different reasons that could be causing the incessant dripping, including a damaged cartridge (the part of the tap that controls flow and temperature), issues with the pipes such as corrosion or damage, the water pressure may be too high, or the seat tap (where the spout meets the tap) may be corroded or worn out.

A dripping tap could be caused by a damaged cartridge, corroded pipes or too high water pressure

Some of these problems may be beyond your skill but we’ll take a look at the simple method for fixing a leaking tap. If you’re still at a loss after that, then why not hire one of the many Local Heroes professionals in your area?

What do I need?

Picture of screwdrivers and adjustable spanner You should be able to fix the dripping tap without specialist tools

Before you get started, let’s take a quick look at the kind of equipment you’ll need to start the job of fixing a leaky tap. Luckily there is nothing too extravagant here and if you already have a decent tool set then you should be able to get cracking right away.

The right tools you’ll need for the average tap repair job include a flathead or Phillips screwdriver (best to have both just in case), an adjustable spanner, and you will most likely need a replacement cartridge.

None of these items should prove too difficult to find, and if you do need to run out and buy some tools, they will all be relatively cheap and available to use on lots of other jobs. Think of it as an investment.

The best course of action is often to simply replace the tap cartridge

Depending on what needs to be replaced you may need to purchase a new ceramic disk/rubber washer/the O-ring all of which make up a washer cartridge. However, it’s probably easier and more worth your while just to replace the whole thing, and a new cartridge will only cost you between £10 and £20.

How do I fix it?

A picture of an undercounter stopcock Ensure your water supply is disconnected and the tap is drained before removal

So, how do you actually fix the tap? Right off the bat, you’re going to want to turn the water off at the stopcock. Stopcocks are usually found in your kitchen, below the sink unit.  

However, in some houses the stopcock is found in a front or back hall or in a larder unit beside the sink unit. Once this is done, run the tap again to release any excess water still in the pipes.

Just as a quick word of warning, because you’re going to be working with small screws, it’s definitely worth putting the plug in the sink so that none of those screws escape down the drain.

Put the plug in the sink before unscrewing any screws

Next, you’re going to need to get inside the actual tap. This varies in difficulty, typically because you’ll have to remove the ornamental handle that you’ve installed and then unscrew the part holding the tap together. Some handles will come off easily and can be unscrewed by hand but some may require the use of a screwdriver.

If you can remember how yours works then great, if not, it might worth looking for the instructions.

Once you’ve removed all of the outerwear of the tap, look for the hexagonal nut and unscrew it with the adjustable spanner. Make sure you don’t force it, and keep a tight hold of the base, otherwise you risk damaging the pipes and that’s a whole other problem that will need to be fixed.

Do no force the removal of the tap’s outerwear - this can damage the pipes

Now that you’ve found the problem area, there could be three things that need to be changed depending on what’s broken. However, as we said earlier, it might be worth replacing all of them at once to save you the job later on. In either case, replace the ceramic disk/the rubber washer/the O-ring, all of which should be visible to you now.

Once you’ve replace the part, or the entire cartridge by screwing the replacement into the exact spot you found the original, all you need to do is put the tap back together and ensure everything is locked up tight. Voila, you’ve just saved yourself money and given yourself peace of mind.

Ensure everything is reassembled correctly to avoid further issues

This relatively painless process is easy enough to replicate on just about any tap in your home, so if you’re looking to save some money then why not get the rest of the house done too!