The steady dripping of a leaky tap can be one of the most irritating noises in the world. Not only can the sound of water dripping cause lost sleep and aggravation, but there is a real economic impact as well. A dripping tap can drive up the water bill in a very short time and it literally is hot water going down the drain. In addition to the economic impact, a tap leaking is usually a sign that something is amiss and in need of repair before it gets worse. Here’s how you can put a stop to that leaky tap.
Causes of a Dripping Tap
The most common cause of a leaky tap is usually worn-out parts. Conventional faucets will start to leak when the washers or seals get old and either come loose or begin to wear down at the edges. Washers in particular are constantly under water pressure, and it’s only a matter of time before they start to wear.
Washerless taps have similar problems. Cartridge, ball and disc-style taps don’t decay in the same way standard compression taps do, but the inlet and outlet seals and the O-rings can and do wear down or break. Inlet seals can accumulate layers of sediment over time, which can eventually cause leaks. Other causes of leaks include loose nuts around the handles or fixtures.
Repairing a Dripping Tap
Most of these problems are fairly simple to repair. To replace a washer, begin by turning off the main water supply in the house or apartment (unless you want water spraying all over your kitchen or bathroom). This includes the shut-off valve to the sink you’re working on. Make sure that the water has been turned off by turning the tap on. If no water comes out, you’re ready to proceed.
Next, loosen the packing nut on the tap. This will generally be located near or inside the faucet handle, which you will probably have to remove. In some cases, the nut may be obscured by a decorative covering, depending on what style of tap you have. Once the packing nut is loose, pull the entire valve unit out by the faucet handle stem.
The washer will probably be at the bottom of the valve unit. Remove the screw holding it in place — you may need some lubricating oil to get it to come loose — then remove the washer itself. Replace the old washer with a new washer of equal size; make sure you get the correct size as it may end up not fitting correctly and need opening up again. While you have the entire tap disassembled, now would be a good time to clean out any grime or sediment that’s built up on the valve unit or around the faucet handles.
Then replace the screw, put the valve back into the faucet, tighten the packing nut. You can now turn on the water supply and check for any leaks. If there’s no dripping water, you’ve succeeded in stopping the leaks!
Tips for the Future
Remember not all taps are made equal, and not all of them are built to last. The best way to avoid potentially costly repairs is to start with a top-flight brand, like Kohler, Moen or Grohe brand faucets. The style of tap you install will also make a difference. Compression-style taps are generally quite easy to repair. Again, cartridge- and ball-style taps don’t have the same kinds of issues, but in some cases, the cartridge itself may need replacing. If you’ve tried doing it yourself and you’re in doubt about the cause of your leaky tap or you just can’t seem to stop the dripping then call a professional.