How to fix a dripping tap

Our handy step-by-step guide talks you through how to turn off the water supply, take your tap apart, and replace any faulty parts.

Home maintenance

20 March 2018

A dripping tap isn't just annoying; it also has the potential to be really expensive. And we're not just talking about it running up your water bill – it can cause serious property damage, costing about £387 million in insurance claims annually. You can avoid the hassle of repairs and build up your no-claims bonus by keeping your home well maintained.

Like bleeding a radiator, fixing a dripping tap is a really simple skill that every homeowner should learn how to do. Our handy guide will talk you through it, whether this is your first time or you just need a refresher.

What you'll need

Get these things together first and keep them nearby, because you don't want to be running off looking for an important part in the middle of your repair:

  • an adjustable spanner
  • slot and cross-head screwdrivers
  • scissors
  • replacement cartridge or assorted washers and O-rings

Cartridge or washer?

Some taps use washers while others have ceramic discs. An easy way to tell what kind of tap you have is to give it a turn – if it only rotates a quarter or a half, then it's likely to be ceramic. If you can turn it further, it's probably traditional. Worn O-rings are another cause of leaks in traditional taps, so if you replace the washer and there's still a leak, check the O-ring (a type of seal) and seals for signs of wear and tear.

Step-by-step guide

Step 1: Turn off the water

Either turn your water off at the stopcock or at the isolation valve – this is usually found on the pipes underneath the sink. Run the tap until there's no more water left.

Turn off the water

Step 2: Find the screw

The screw holds the tap together, and you'll need to loosen it to get inside and make repairs. It's usually hidden underneath the decorative hot and cold caps on top of the tap, or under the hot and cold indicator on single lever taps. You can usually unscrew these caps by hand, or pop them off gently with a slot-head screwdriver.

Tip: put the plug in the sink before unscrewing anything. That way you won't lose anything important down the drain.

Find the screw

Step 3: Take your tap apart

As well as the caps and the screws you'll also need to take off the tap's head (the bit you turn). There might be a metal cover around the neck of the tap protecting the valve. If so, take this off too. Lay all your bits and pieces out on the side of the sink, in order of when you took them off, so that it's easy to put your tap back together again.

Step 4 is slightly different depending on your tap, and the type of repair you need to make.

Take your tap apart

Step 4: Replacing a ceramic disc

Once you take off the metal shroud you'll be able to see the valve. Grip it with your adjustable spanner and turn it until it's loose enough to be removed. Pop your replacement cartridge in and tighten it. Put your tap back together.

Replace ceramic disc

Step 5: Replacing a rubber washer

Use your adjustable spanner to grip and turn the valve until it's loose enough to be removed. Unscrew or slide the rubber washer off, and put a new one on. Put the valve back in, tighten it, and put your tap back together.

Replace rubber washer

Step 6: Replacing an O-ring

The O-ring is a bigger washer at the bottom of your tap spout. Unscrew the grub screw at the base of the spout, and then lift the spout off carefully. You'll be able to see the O-rings at the base. Use your flat-head screwdriver to loosen the O-ring and slide it off, or just snip it off with a pair of scissors. Roll the replacement O-ring on. Pop the spout back where it belongs, and tighten the grub screw.

Replace O-ring

Helping you do more of what matters

Your time counts. We get it. If you need to make a claim on your AXA home insurance policy, we don’t want to make you jump through hoops.