DIY How To

How to repair taps

DIY Projects - Pillar Taps

Taps come in all sorts of styles and designs but the actual working principle, comes down to one of the following methods to control the flow of water.

  • Traditional taps have a capstan head and a spindle with what is called a jumper attached to the end. This jumper holds a washer in place. When the tap is turned on or off, the spindle, jumper and washer move up and down as well as rotate, this opens or closes the washer against the seat to control the flow of water.


  • A more modern design looks the same as a traditional tap and uses a similar principle, consisting of a spindle, washer and a seat but when the tap is turned on or off, a threaded spindle and washer, rises and falls without rotating. This reduces wear on the washer due to the washer not rotating against the seat.


  • There are also taps that contain precision ground ceramic discs that rotate against each other as they open and close with very little wear, these types of taps are supposedly maintenance free but on occasions faults can still occur.

A leaking tap is not only annoying but can also waste about 10 litres of water a day, over a year this can add up to a considerable amount and be quite costly if you have a water meter.


Pillar Taps

Pillar tap

A pillar tap can start to leak for a number of reasons, all of them are relatively easy to repair. If water is dripping from the spout, the most common fault is the washer is damaged, though sometimes if the tap is old the seat could be worn. If water leaks when the tap is turned on from the top of the spindle or from under the shroud then depending on the type of tap either the gland packing or O-ring needs replacing.

Safety AdviceBefore you can replace the washer on a traditional pillar tap, the water supply must be isolated.



DIY Projects - Repair leaking tap gland

Water leaking past the gland when the tap is turned on is another common problem and indicates that the gland packing has worn. Another indication is the tap can be turned on and off very easily, which can cause water hammer (shock waves in the pipes due to the sudden closing of the water way).

The glands will eventually fail with normal wear and tear, but back pressure from a garden hose or washing machine can increase the wear and tear.

Pillar tap exploded view

To adjust or renew the gland there is no need to isolate the water supply. Remove the capstan head by removing the tiny retaining screw (this can be on the side of the head or under the red or blue plastic coloured plug in the centre of the head). Lift off the head by either rocking it from side to side or tap it from below with a wooden hammer.

Remove stuck head

If the head won't come off you will need to isolate the water supply, for instructions see how to drain cold water or drain hot water then fully open the tap, unscrew the metal cover and insert wooden blocks between the cover and the base. Close the tap and this will cause the capstan head to lift off the spindle.

Remove the cover and tighten the gland nut to see if that can stop the leak. If there is no more adjustment or the tap still leaks then fully unscrew and remove the gland nut, then using a small blade screwdriver pick out the old gland packing.

Replace the packing with special gland packing string or twist some PTFE tape and wrap around the spindle and pack it into the gland with a screwdriver.

Replace the gland nut and tighten down to a point where the tap can be opened and closed easily but not too easily. Refit the cover and capstan head.

Some taps have an O-ring instead of the gland packing, in this case use the same method as above but remove the damaged O-ring and replace with a new one.

DIY Projects - Replace tap washer

Always isolate the water supply and drain any water from the taps and pipes.

Unscrew headgear nut Before you begin make sure the water is isolated, then fully open the tap. If the body of the tap has a metal cover, unscrew this by hand or use a wrench (cover jaws with tape or a cloth to protect the tap). Lift up the cover and using a slim spanner unscrew the headgear nut, until the whole assembly can be removed.
Remove jumper The jumper and washer normally lift out with the headgear, but sometimes the jumper and washer can remain in the bottom of the tap body and just needs lifting out.
Remove washer The washer can be held on by a small button in which case to you can prise the washer over the button with a screwdriver. If the washer is held on by a nut then hold the jumper stem with a pair of pliers, unscrew the nut, remove the washer and clean the jumper. (If the nut is seized try penetrating oil to loosen the corrosion, otherwise fit a new jumper and washer). Fit a new washer and reassemble.

DIY Projects - Supatap

Supataps also known as Reverse Pressure Taps differ somewhat from a normal tap in that you can replace the washer without isolating the water supply.

TipWhen the nozzle is removed don't be tempted to push the pin back in as you will end up getting wet.

Unscrew locking nut Open the tap slightly and with a spanner unscrew the retaining nut at the top of the nozzle, turn the tap on and keep on turning. The flow of water will increase but then it will stop when the check valve falls into position. Keep on turning and the nozzle will drop off into your hand.
Remove anti-splash device Tap the nozzle on a block of wood and the anti-splash device should come out, if not tap the end of the nozzle on a block of wood, then turn upside down to remove the anti-splash device.
Remove jumper from anti-splash device The anti-splash device contains the combined jumper and washer, prise off the jumper with a screwdriver or even a coin will do. Replace with a new combined jumper and washer and refit the anti-splash device into the nozzle.
Refit nozzle Screw the nozzle back on to the tap (remember that it has a left-hand thread) as the nozzle is screwed up water will start to spray out until the nozzle is completely refitted.
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