Fix A Dripping Tap Or Faucet

Edited by Nate Pepperell, Lynn, Eng, Ephraim and 10 others

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A slow leaking or constantly dripping tap can waste up to 2,000 liters of water a month.

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That's 24,000 liters of water a year from only one leaking tap! The main cause of a leaking or constantly dripping tap is because the washer inside the tap/faucet has eroded over time or has become damaged. When this happens, most people will simply call in a professional plumber to help fix their problem. However, plumbers can be expensive and changing or replacing a tap washer should only take you around 15-20 minutes to complete yourself when done correctly. The following instructions will show you how to change a tap washer and save yourself some money in the process.

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Materials And Equipment You Will Need

Make Sure You Have the Necessary Materials and Equipment Ready Before You Get Started. Before you attempt any of the following instructions, it is very important that you prepare first and make sure you have all of the necessary equipment and tools to complete the task. To change or replace a tap washer, you will need the following equipments:

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  1. 1
    A New Tap Washer.
    These are readily available at any home maintenance or home depot store. To make sure you get the right washer that is going to be suitable for your tap or faucet, it is a good idea to talk with a store attendant first and explain exactly what type of tap or faucet you have. They should be able to determine which tap washer you will need.
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  2. 2
    Spanner Or Wrench.
    Make sure you have a spanner or wrench so you can unscrew the tap head. A small-to-medium-sized spanner or wrench will work perfectly for this task. If your spanner or wrench is too small or too big, it will be very difficult for you to grip and unscrew the nuts on the tap/faucet which need to be loosened.
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  3. 3
    Flathead Screwdriver.
    This will be used to help you dismantle the tap/faucet.
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  4. 4
    Teflon Tape (commonly referred to as plumbers tape or thread tape).
    This tape is used for any screwing thread that needs to have a watertight seal to prevent leaking. You simply wrap the tape six to eight times around the outside of any male thread before you screw it into the female end.
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Turn Off The Main Water Supply And Drain Water

  1. 1
    Before you attempt to dismantle the tap/faucet, it is very important that you turn off the water supply to the tap first and drain all of the existing water out of the plumbing pipes.
    If you don't turn the water off at the main supply and drain the water before you dismantle the tap head, water will gush out of the open tap and flood the area where you are working in. To turn off the water, you will need to locate the isolation valve which controls the main water supply. These isolation valves can sometimes be hard to locate if you are not familiar with the property. Below is a list of the most common places where you will find isolation points to turn off the main water supply around your home --
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    1. Near the Boundary of the Property. If your house is connected to main's pressure, meaning that you use the main town's water supply, take a look near the boundary line of the property for a water meter. On your side of the boundary, meaning the side of the boundary line where your property is located, there should be a water meter or tap handle or isolation valve that you can shut off and stop the flow of water to your house.
    2. Near the Water Tank or Reservoir Which Stores Your Water. If you live in a rural area or you are not connected to the towns main water supply, you will more than likely have a storage tank or reservoir which holds and stores your water. Locate this storage tank or reservoir and take a look at the plumbing pipe that connects your storage tank or reservoir to your house. There should be an isolation valve located somewhere on that pipeline which controls the flow of water from the tank or reservoir to your home.
    3. Underneath the Actual Tap or Faucet You Are Working On. In some cases you can find a small isolation valve directly underneath the tap or faucet you are working on. Take a look underneath the sink bowl or inside the cupboards of the vanity/kitchen unit.
    4. In The Laundry Room or Under the Kitchen Sink. You might find your isolation valve somewhere in the laundry room or kitchen, especially if you live in an apartment or condo. Have a look inside cupboards or underneath your laundry tub. If you have isolation valves there, then you should see them protruding out of the wall. *Important Note* If you live in an apartment or condo, you should never attempt to turn off the main water supply to the entire building without asking for permission from the strata or complex management first.
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  2. 2
    Drain the Existing Water Out of the Plumbing System.
    After you have turned off the isolation valve, you need to drain the existing water out of the pipe system. Simply turn on the tap(s) you are working on and let the water drain out. This could take anywhere between 10 seconds and three min. You will know that the water is completely drained out of the plumbing system when water is no longer coming out of the faucet or spout. If you find that after three minutes, the water is still running strong and has not completely stopped, then you may not have turned off the correct isolation valve. Just repeat step 2 above until you have located the correct isolation valve for the tap(s) that you need to work on.
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How To Access and Replace a Tap Washer

  1. 1
    Dismantle the Tap Head.
    After you have drained all of the water out of the plumbing's pipe system, you then need to dismantle the tap head so you can gain access to the spindle which houses the faulty washer that needs replacing. In most cases, you will find a hexagon-shaped nut on top of the tap head which you need to loosen or unscrew by turning anticlockwise (turn nut right to left). After you have loosened the nut on top of the tap head, the tap handle should slide up and off the spindle.
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  2. 2
    Unscrew the Spindle and Remove Old Tap Washer.
    After you have dismantled the tap head, you will find another hexagon-shaped nut which is attached to a part of the tap called the spindle. You need to unscrew this nut by turning anticlockwise. Once you have unscrewed the spindle, lift the spindle out of the tap and remove the faulty washer inside.
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  3. 3
    Clean the Spindle Seat and Install New Tap Washer.
    Now that you have gained access to the location where the new washer is to be placed, it is a good idea to clean the base or 'seat' where the new washer will sit. This is done to remove any foreign objects that may prevent the washer from making a water-tight seal when you shut the tap off. Cleaning the base or 'seat' can be done by gently rubbing the tip of your flat-head screwdriver around the base and removing anything that may prevent the new tap washer from making a complete seal when the tap is turned off. After you have cleaned the spindle base, insert the new tap washer.
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  4. 4
    Reassemble the Tap Head.
    After you have replaced the old tap washer with the new one, simply reverse the process or steps you used to dismantle the tap head and put it all back together again. Make sure to wrap teflon/plumbers/thread tape six to eight times around the outside of any male threads before screwing the spindle back in and reassembling the tap/faucet.
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  5. 5
    Turn On the Main Water Supply and Test For Leaks.
    Once you have successfully replaced the tap washer and reassembled the tap head, you need to turn on the main water supply and check to make sure there are no leaks. Before turning on the main water supply, it is a good idea to open up another tap somewhere in the home, as well as the tap you have just been working on. This allows the water to flow freely and flush out any foreign materials and air locks which may have made their way into the plumbings pipe system while you were working.
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How To Loosen A Tight Lock Nut On A Faulty Or Old Tap Faucet

When you need to replace a tap faucet, first you need to loosen the lock nut which secures the faucet to the bench or counter top. However, this locking nut can sometimes become stuck due to rust, corrosion and mineral build up over time. If you have tried to remove this nut by unscrewing it, but you were unsuccessful, below is a list of handy little tricks you can use to loosen a tight lock nut on a faulty or old tap faucet:

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  1. 1
    Tap the lock nut with a hammer.
    You can try tapping the nut with a hammer or with the back of your wrench. By doing this, you might be able to dislodge the nut so that you can unscrew it.
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  2. 2
    Try to tighten the lock nut before unscrewing it.
    If you can't get the lock nut to loosen by simply unscrewing it in a counter clockwise direction (turning right to left), tighten the nut a little and then try to unscrew it again. There might be rust and mineral build-up lodged in between the thread, preventing it from unscrewing. By moving the nut in any direction at all, you might be able to dislodge whatever is caught in the tread.
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  3. 3
    Soak the lock nut in a penetrating fluid.
    Use a penetrating oil such as WD-40 or similar, and soak the lock nut so that the penetrating oil seeps int the thread. For the best results, make sure you clean away any surface rust with a wire brush before you apply the penetrating oil.
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  4. 4
    Heat the lock nut.
    When metal is heated, it expands slightly. By applying some heat to the stubborn lock nut, you might be able to expand the nut just enough so that it breaks the seal of whatever is preventing it from moving. You could try using a heat gun, propane torch or even a hair dryer to heat up the nut before unscrewing it.
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  5. 5
    Cut the lock nut off.
    If all else fails, you can use a reciprocating saw or a hacksaw to cut the lock nut off. You do this by making a vertical cut through the thread, which will allow you to knock the nut loose with a hammer.
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First Signs of A Dripping Tap

It is a very annoying thing to have a dripping tap or faucet. It is a common issue, especially in busy households where the kitchen sink or the bathroom sink is frequently used. When the tap starts dripping, you know you have to do something about it. It gets worn out just like any other house component, so it will need to be repaired from time to time. Below are some of the first signs that your tap is leaking:

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  1. 1
    Wet sink in the morning. You may be surprised when your sink is wet and you know no one used it within the past hour.
    This could be proof that your tap has a dripping problem already. You should call the plumber immediately so that the faucet components can be assessed properly. This may lead to a stained sink and that would not be a very pretty sight, especially if you plan to have guests soon.
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  2. 2
    You hear the drops.
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    If your sink is empty, then this will help you hear if your sink is leaking
    .
    If your sink is made of stainless steel, the sound of the dripping should be easy to hear, especially when you are trying to sleep at night. The sound could easily wake you up and disrupt your sleep.
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  3. 3
    The sink appears to have little droplets of water in it. When you know you left your sink dry after you used it and you see water droplets in it after a few minutes, it's a sign that your tap is leaking.
    Try to see if you have shut it off properly and then dry the sink again. Come back and check. If the droplets appear again, then your tap is definitely leaking.
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  4. 4
    The handle is wet.
    Handle.jpg
    You'll probably notice that your faucet handle is wet if you have a leak
    .
    This is an immediate sign that your tap is in trouble. Call your plumber or someone handy in the home right away to correct the issue.
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Tips Tricks & Warnings

  • If you are only renting or leasing your home/apartment/condo, then you should contact your landlord or property manager first and ask for permission before changing or replacing a tap washer.
  • Take note of the exact order of actions you use to dismantle the tap/faucet. You will need to reassemble the tap/faucet in this exact order after you have replaced the tap washer.
  • Rub a lubricant like clear grease or petroleum jelly around any thread that needs to be tightened or screwed in. This will prevent the thread from seizing up or becoming hard to unscrew in the future.
  • While you have the main water supply turned off, it is a good idea to replace any other faulty tap washers at the same time.
  • Never rest your tools on the side of porcelain, ceramic or marble sink bowls. These materials are very brittle and can be easily damaged by metal objects such as tools. It is a good idea to lay an old towel or rag on the floor and place your tools close to where you are working so you can reach them easily.
  • If you can't locate the isolation valve which turns the water supply off to your home/apartment/condo, you can ring your local council, water supplier or strata management and ask if they can help you. These organizations and companies should have a building plan or records which will tell you exactly where this isolation valve is located.

Questions and Answers

How to find isolation valve on home faucet?

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The location of the isolation valve may vary depending on the type and the location of your water service. But definitely it should be located on the place that is accessible.

The best thing to do to find your isolation valve is to look at your HVAC ( Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system and plumbing blueprint.

You can look for the an isolation valve under the skin, but most likely you will have to shut it off at the main valve. To locate the main area water comes into your house, go to the edge of your property closest to the street and look for a small manhole this is the main water shutoff valve.

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In case you have no blue print at hand below are the most common locations of isolation valve in general:?

  • Usually found under the sink of your kitchen
  • Inlet of storage tank
  • Outlet of storage tank where the capacity exceed 50 Liter
  • Pumping apparatus
  • Cistern

In order to find a shutoff valve there are a few locations you can look. To shut off the main valve for the house, it's most likely located at the edge of your property nearest to the road, underneath a small metal cover. It can also be located under the actual faucet, next to the hot water heater, and in your laundry room/bathroom.

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If you are living in multiple buildings or Multi-story development you can find the isolation in places below:?

  • Usually found under the sink of your kitchen
  • The branch serving each individual buildings
  • The branch serving each floor of two or more storeys
  • In group of fixtures
  • Standpipe.

If you live in a large building, but you are not the owner of it, you should contact your landlord. Now if you are the owner and wish to find the shut off valve, there should be one located as the main city water pipe enters your property. Its normally covered by a small manhole right on the edge of your yard closest to the road. Now alternatively there could be shut off valves for each division of the building. You should be able to find one in each building near where the pipes enter it.

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How to tape leaking tap and how long will it work for? Also will it be water tight or will it still leak some?

Many times, plumber's tape will stop a tap's water leak. It is applied on the threads of a male pipe connection, where it fits into a female pipe connection. Your leak may have been prevented if whoever fitted the two pipes together has used plumber's tape. For water taps the plumber's tape is Teflon tape. It is non-adhesive, and professional plumbers typically use it. The Teflon tape will stop most leaks because it serves as a sealant at the connection. How the plumber's tape is used: There are three types of plumber's tape, with two of them used for water taps. The third is used for gas connections only.

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  • The low-density tape for a water connection is Teflon tape, and is white.
  • The high-density tape for water is pink.
  • The tape for gas is always yellow.

The Teflon tape should work for your water leak, and is most commonly used by the pros.

  • Wrap the tape clockwise around the thread at the end of the male pipe.
  • Keep steady pressure on the tape as you wrap it like a layer of skin.
  • Wrap several layers around the pipe thread before you screw it into a pipe connector.
  • Press the tape evenly around the pipe once you are done wrapping it.

Try out the taped pipes by turning on the water slowly and steadily. If it begins to leak again as you turn up the water pressure, do the above procedure once again. This time, add two more layers of Teflon tape. If the tap leaks once again, put a little pipe dope (thread lubricant) onto your wrapped tape. Then screw the fitting onto the male pipe again. There is a pipe dope applicator that comes with the pipe dope. After this, allow the pipe fitting that you have fixed to dry well. How long will the pipe stop leaking? There should not be another leak at all if you applied the tape as instructed. It will completely stop the leak, ordinarily.

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Understand that taping a leak will not last for a very long time, even if the tape is water resistant it will still be affected by the water over a long period of time. Also it will still leak through the tape even if it a drop understand that it will in fact leak over time.

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How to stop slow dripping in laundry room faucet?

It is fairly easy to stop slow dripping from your faucet. You need to buy a rubber seal and fix it at the spot from where it is leaking. Your laundry room faucet will stop slow dripping. Also, try opening and shutting it at different pressure points. Until you figure it out, keep a bucket underneath the tap so that you don't have to work hard at cleaning the mess.

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I have dismantled the tap but cannot get the washer out?

How do I get the washer out? The tap was leaking but the washer actually looks OK. How do I get it out?

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How to loosen main water supply faucet?

My main water faucet it so tight I cannot loosen it. I've tried using WD40, and scraping with a wire brush. What else can I try?. I have tried: Sprayed with WD40. Scraped corrosion with wire brush. I can loosen the nut behind the faucet handle, but I'm not sure what I'm loosening

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What can I do about a leaking hexagonal nut that is stuck?

My tap is leaking and the hexagonal nut that holds the fixture together refuses to come loose.. I have tried: Wrenching the nut off but I fear that it will pop off and make the problem worse.. I think it was caused by: The faucet fixture is very old.

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Cabinet floor ruined under faucet leak in kitchen?

Going on a long time before I discovered it. I had the cabinet lined with plastic place mats, and the wood underneath is a mess. I thought I would try some Liquid Gold on it to salvage it. Had leaks before, but not this kind of damage. There is some green in the corner of the cabinet in the back, and all the pipes under there now look corroded. They are not old pipes; redone when we remodeled in '85. Not new, but updated from the original back in the 60's. How can I clean up all that green on all the pipes and on the floor of the cabinet. I just received new parts from Pfizer for the plumber to replace, then want to clean it up under there. I wish I would have had some thing under all the pipes now to catch any possible leaks. It looks terrible; lucky it didn't go all the way through. It doesn't leak when I use the dishwasher; strictly the faucet which will be taken care of one day this week.

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Categories : Home Repair

Recent edits by: jesryldaque, fdg, Doug Collins

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