How to fix a leaking tap in your bathroom

Heritage basin, vanity unit, Freestanding bath.

Is there anything more annoying than a leaking tap in your bathroom? Drip… drip… drip… sometimes a quick turn of the tap will stop it completely and you can go back to what you were doing… but what if it still drips?

Fixing a leaking tap always looks like a big job but often it’s not. Nine times out of ten with an old tap it’s simply a washer that’s worn out over time and replacing it will give you a drip-free zone.

Here’s the Alan Heath and Sons simple guide to fixing an old leaking tap.

How to fix a leaking tap in your bathroom

Get the right tools first

Firstly, you’ll need to grab the right tools for the job. Like any job around the home it’s a lot easier with the right tools.

You’ll need:

  • A screwdriver
  • A pair of pliers
  • A wrench.

If you don’t have those then pop out and buy or borrow them. They’re essential home DIY kit.  


Do your homework

Like most problems nowadays you’re best to head over to Google and find the dismantling instructions for your tap. Check the brand and model if you can and search for the PDF or instructions from the manufacturer.

Now you need to work out which tap is leaking. If you have a mixer tap or combination tap then this won’t be as obvious. You’ll need to work out which tap is leaking – but there’s a simple trick. Turn on your taps and then turn them off and wait for the drip. If the drip is cold then it’s the cold tap. If it’s hot? You guessed it. Now you can work on the right tap and save time.


Done that? Good. Now you need to turn off your water.

You’ll need to locate your isolation tap or, as more commonly known, your stop cock. This is usually found under your kitchen sick and is simply a tap connected to your pipes that stops the water coming into your home. You might also be lucky enough to have an isolator on the pipework leading to your taps, so check under your sink to see you find one of these.

Next we recommend that you put the plug in. No, you’re not going to have any water now but you don’t want that missing screw to be found in three years’ time in your trap! Pop the plug in to catch any stray parts, just in case.


Disassembling your leaking tap

So, your water is off and you have the plug in and instructions ready? Excellent – let’s get to work.

You need to take off the tap controller (the part you twist) with your screwdriver. The screw is usually hidden under a badge or sticker so lift that up first. It’s usually under the ‘H’ or ‘C’ symbol.

Unscrew this to remove the controller. If you’re in luck this might just be the problem causing the leak. If it’s already loose just tighten it and job done! If not… read on.


Tap washers

Most of the taps that are sold these days are unlikely to have rubber tap washers. It’s considered to be very ‘old hat’ now – or just a very budget way of manufacturing.

As far as budget taps goes now, it’s really easy to buy a ceramic disc tap at a really cheap price as they’re made overseas for a fraction of the cost. Obviously, quality is the issue here.

This goes back to something we’ve already blogged about – paying extra and getting a branded product! At least if anything goes wrong, you’ll have somewhere to go back to if you need help or spares.

The main problem will come with mixer taps that have a ceramic cartridge. A single lever tap will have a ceramic disc cartridge which is not likely to be repairable. In this instance a new cartridge will be required.

Once you’ve disabled the tap you should be able to see the washer that we mentioned at the beginning of this guide. This is the washer you need to replace. The best way to replace it with the right one is to take this washer to your local plumbers’ merchant or DIY store and replace it like-for-like.

The valve will be exposed now that you’ve removed the tap controller. Get your adjustable spanner or wrench and secure the nut at the base of the value. Then grab your pliers and hold the body of the tap and unscrew the nut on the tap.

The washer should now simply pop out with the aid of a gentle flick of a screwdriver. Replace the washer and then assemble your tap back to how you found it. Test the water by turning on the water supply back on. Check for leaks and drips.


Still leaking? Check the faucet head washer

If you have a mixer tap with a moveable head then you may have a leak from further down. Turn off your water again and unscrew the neck of the moveable tap and replace the washer there instead. Same theory; same technique.

As with both these options be careful not to over-tighten the nuts and screws on re-assembly.


Your tap is too modern! 

Most modern taps are now ceramic.  When a ceramic disc tap is dripping it’s not as simple to repair. Ceramic discs are not standard and unless you know the actual model of your tap you’re going to struggle to find a replacement. If you keep all your documents and are an organised person then you ‘may’ be able to save your tap… but we rarely see that. Mostly in this situation you’ll need to replace the tap.


Dripping mixer tap

Fixing a dripping mixer tap is actually the same as fixing a standard pair of taps. The principle here is exactly the same. The only real difference is that a mixer tap will have the hot and cold valves fitted into the body of a mixer tap, whereas a pair of taps are separate.

If your mixer tap is dripping then the above advice can still be followed and your tap can still be fixed.


Your tap isn’t leaking – it’s breathing…

Some modern designs also appear to leak because of the aerators that are fitted in the end of the taps.  These are designed to make the water look nice when your taps is turned on.

But, because they narrow the opening, you may find that when your tap is turned off the water can be held in the spout.  Then 5 minutes or a few hours later the tap has a splurge of water that drips out.  The capillary action means that water dribbles out and it looks like it’s leaking. This is normal and nothing to worry about.


Or… you could upgrade your taps

Hopefully you now have a non-drip tap and can sleep at night without that annoying noise!

Well done, and we hope you enjoy many more years with your bathroom tap.

This can be applied to most old taps but if you find you come up against problems then obviously you should seek the help of a professional plumber.

If you’re not happy with your outdated taps or you have a ceramic tap that can’t be fixed then speak to us about arranging a beautiful replacement. We’re always happy to chat sinks, taps and well… anything to do with bathrooms. Come and visit us in our Coventry bathroom showroom to see how we can help.