What should I do if my tap is dripping?
A dripping tap is always an unwelcome occurrence. The annoying noise can quickly become considerably disruptive. Even if the tap only sends one drop of water down the plughole at a time, across an entire day this can easily add up to 5 litres or more of unnecessary additional water consumption.
This guide explains why taps drip and provides some tips to prevent it from happening.
How does a tap work?
To ensure that water can reach the top floor of a multi-storey building and flow out of the tap with sufficient force, there is a certain water pressure in the pipes for fresh water. As such, every tap must be designed to account for the predominant pressure in the pipes and the temperature of the water. The tap must also close the pipeline completely when the water is not running. To this end, a valve disc is installed in the tap system. It closes the pipeline and only allows water to flow through if the valve, or the tap, is open.
Why does a tap drip in the first place?
It’s usually little things that cause the tap to leak and drip, and these can often be resolved without the help of a plumber. The issue is usually the rubber seals – limescale can form on them over time or they may become leaky due to material wear. These seals or O-rings can be replaced quickly and easily.
In modern single lever mixers, the built-in cartridge inside the tap may also be the cause of the dripping tap. With many models, this can be removed and either descaled or completely replaced in order to stop the dripping.
Repairing a dripping tap – How-to guide
Turn on both taps fully so that any water left in the pipes can run out. If your taps have protective covers, remove these first but take note of their positioning to avoid mixing them up when refitting them later.
Then, using a screwdriver, loosen the screw fixing the handle and remove the handle. The valve is located underneath the handle, and can be unscrewed using a spanner or pipe wrench. When doing so, you should cover the tap with a towel or soft cloth to protect it from scratches. The actual rubber seal, or washer, is located beneath the valve. On some models, this disc is secured with an additional small nut.
In single lever taps, it is a concealed cartridge with ceramic discs that ensures the tap remains watertight. Ceramic is considerably more durable and robust than a rubber seal, so with these taps, limescale is usually the cause of the dripping.
After shutting off the water supply, loosen the covered screws on the front or back of the tap to remove the handle. The cartridge is located beneath the handle and a pipe wrench should be used to carefully unscrew it for cleaning. Place a thin cloth over the handle to prevent damaging its surfaces with the wrench.
One final top tip
If you aren’t confident in carrying out the repairs yourself, contact a tradesman to do the work professionally. But until then, you can at least resolve the annoying dripping noise yourself: Simply tie some string around the dripping tap. The end of the string should reach the bottom of the washbasin. The water droplets will then run down the string, reaching the washbasin and the drain without making any more noise.