Is there anything more annoying than a dripping tap caused by a worn-out tap washer? Even bigger bills and thousands of litres of wasted water can result, especially in drought-prone Australia. A leaking tap is not just a minor problem; it can also stress plumbing systems, cause overflowing and stains, deteriorate caulk, lead to water hammer, and damage homes. Luckily, the solution may be simple – replacing the old tap washer with a new one.
While major plumbing issues require hiring professional plumbers like Gold Coast Plumbing Experts, worn tap washers can often be changed with basic DIY skills. Follow our ten simple steps to replace a tap washer and say goodbye to annoying drips.
How to change a tap washer in 10 super simple steps:
1. Determine the Cause of the Leak
Before replacing any parts, it’s essential to diagnose the cause of the leak properly. Locate where the water is dripping from. If it’s coming from the spout, the issue is likely a worn rubber washer inside the tap’s system. Rubber washers deteriorate over time from the constant water pressure and need replacing. However, the drip could also indicate problems in the water supply lines, pipe joints, or a washerless faucet cartridge. Replacing a washer with a washerless tap will not fix the issue.
Carefully inspect the entire tap assembly and related plumbing to determine if the leak stems from a worn rubber washer or another underlying problem. Non-washer-related leaks require a qualified plumber to diagnose and repair the tap system properly. Improper repairs can worsen leaks and cause more extensive damage.
2. Gather the Necessary Tools and Materials
Before starting any plumbing work, assemble the proper tools and materials. To remove the tap handle and access the leaky tap’s inner assembly, you’ll need wrenches, needle nose pliers, a flathead screwdriver and replacement washers.
Other valuable items include Teflon tape or plumber’s putty to seal threaded joints, clean rags, a basin to catch water, a flashlight, and safety goggles. Quality tools allow you to properly grip and turn the old rusty faucet parts when installing the new washer. Having the necessary equipment ready makes this repair job much smoother.
3. Turn Off the Water Supply
Before starting any work, turning off the water flow to the leaky tap is crucial. Locate the main water meter for the home and rotate the valve to shut off the water supply. Turn off the water heating system when dealing with a hot water tap. After closing the main valves, please return to the tap and open it up to allow any remaining water to run out.
Check to make sure the flow has completely stopped. Attempting to replace a tap washer with water still risks getting soaked. Only proceed once you’ve verified the tap and pipes are empty of water.
4. Relieve Remaining Water Pressure
After shutting off the mains water supply, there may still be some remaining water in the pipes leading to the tap. To release this, turn the tap handle to the open position and let any leftover water drain out. Let the tap run for 30-60 seconds. Double-check that the flow has wholly stopped on both hot and cold.
The main valve may not be fully closed if water continues dripping out. Follow the few simple steps again to completely shut off the mains supply before proceeding further. Removing built-up water pressure prevents a messy situation when pulling the tap handle.
5. Remove the Faucet Handle and Access Internal Components
You can safely remove the faucet handle and access the internal parts with the water supply cut off. Depending on the type of tap, there are a few methods for handle removal. Locate any small set screws or caps on the handle and unscrew them using a flathead screwdriver. For other models, you may need to pry off a decorative button or insert a small pin into the underside to release the handle. Remove any nuts, and the bonnet surrounding the faucet stem using pliers or a wrench.
This exposes the inner rubber washers, seats, and other parts, allowing access to replace the worn washers. Caution is still needed in case any residual water is released. Scrub away any slimy build-up on the interior parts to prep for the new rubber washers.
6. Remove the Old Washer
Examine the existing tap washer closely. Check for cracks, tearing, warping, or other damage indicating wear. You want the new tap washer to fit snugly and create a watertight seal, so the seating area must be clean. Use pliers or a wrench to grip and twist the old washer counterclockwise to remove it.
Make sure no remnants stay stuck behind. Clean away any grime or mineral deposits on the faucet body where the new washer will sit. Proper preparation helps ensure the new replacement washer can be inserted correctly and prevent future drips.
7. Install the New Washer
Now comes the crucial step of changing the tap washer. Take a brief trip to the hardware store, bringing the old washer. Compare it against new washers to find an exact size match. Rubber and fibrous options are standard. Consult with a knowledgeable store clerk if unsure. Upon returning home, firmly seat the new washer into the faucet body by hand or using pliers.
Ensure it is fully inserted straight and fits snugly with no gaps. You may apply Teflon tape or waterproof sealant around the washer’s outer edge for an extra leak-proof barrier. Take care not to overtighten. Proper installation ensures the fresh washer makes complete contact and can block water flow. Follow any specific manufacturer instructions when changing the tap washer.
8. Reassemble the Faucet
You can reassemble the faucet with the new washer inside the tap. Reverse the order you disassembled, replace the headgear, then the bonnet, and finally secure the decorative handle back in place. Tighten each piece by hand, turning clockwise. Over-tightening can damage parts, so make sure everything is lightly snug. Take care when putting the new washer into place so as not to nudge it out of position. Test the tap handle motion to ensure proper operation before turning the water back on.
9. Turn the Water Back On and Test for Leaks
The repaired tap is now ready for its final test. Slowly turn the main water supply back on and let the pressure return. Be prepared to turn it back off if any significant leaks occur quickly. Once fully pressurized, operate the faucet handle and verify no water is dripping out around the new washer.
Run both hot and cold water to check. If minor wetness is visible, you may need to tighten the handle or internal fittings more. Persistent small leaks may require an additional wrap of Teflon tape on threaded joints. Adjust as needed until completely drip-free.
10. Celebrate Your Success!
After confirming your tap no longer drips, reward yourself with a nice cup of tea. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. While you’ve got the basics covered, remember to call a professional plumber for any complex repairs or installations.
Replacing a worn tap washer is a straightforward DIY plumbing task for many homeowners. Follow the steps to turn off the water, disassemble the tap, remove the old washer, install a new washer, reassemble the tap, and test for leaks. Doing it yourself can save money compared to calling a plumber.
However, if the leak persists or you are over your head with gushing water, the licensed professionals at Gold Coast Plumbing Experts can quickly fix drips, replace tapware, and refresh fittings. They service Varsity Lakes, Mudgeeraba, Merrimac, Mermaid Waters, Burleigh Waters, Miami, and across the Gold Coast. Contact them today to tackle advanced plumbing issues and say goodbye to leaks for good!