How to Change Tap Washers

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How to Change Tap Washers

The sound of a dripping tap is one of those sounds that homeowners can often hear in the middle of the night as they are trying to sleep. Faulty washers are one of the most common reasons for a dripping tap, but there is no reason to call a plumber. The fix is fairly simple, even for those homeowners who are new to DIY projects. All that is needed are a few tools and a replacement washer that fits the tap properly.


Components of a tap

There is a wide range of tap styles, but they tend to have similar components despite their differences. To repair a tap, it is important to have a good working knowledge of the parts of the unit, and how they work together. Components may vary in style or size depending on the function of the tap.


The handles control the flow of water through the tap. Most modern taps have one handle that allows hot and cold water to mix in the tap and pour through the spout. Older taps may have two handles, sometimes with two separate spouts as well.

Seals and O-rings

Seals and O-rings fit between internal components to prevent water leaking. Most often, these pieces are made from rubber or silicone. As they age, these parts can deteriorate and need replacing.


A washer helps to keep the proper space between the aerator and other components. When the washer is worn or malformed, the tap ends up leaking. Some are rubber, but most washers are thin metal disks.


The spout is the tube through which the water flows when the tap is on. Most taps only have one spout, but older ones may have two spouts, one for hot water and one for cold water. Typically, when a washer allows a tap to leak, the evidence of the leak is visible at the end of the spout.


Materials needed to change tap washers

Most of the materials needed to change tap washers are likely already part of a homeowner's basic tool kit. For homeowners who are newer to home repair, it helps to know which tools can help with the task of switching out tap washers. Tools to gather include:

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Screwdriver
  • Pliers, regular or locking
  • Replacement washers


Preparing to work on the tap

Before beginning any work on the tap at all, homeowners need to locate the water shut-off. In some homes, that shut-off valve is under the sink. In many other homes, however, there is a central water shut-off that could be in a basement or even outside. If the water is not shut off, the tap will flow while trying to replace the washer, since there is nothing to stop the flow of water once the tap is taken apart.

If homeowners are not sure what type of washer they need, they should perform a search for the manufacturer to determine the proper size. If that information is not available, then the next best thing is to disassemble the tap to get to the faulty washer. Once that is in hand, homeowners can locate the proper washer.


Changing the tap washers

Before removing any pieces from the tap, homeowners should plug the sink. This helps to keep any pieces that fall from going down the drain. It is easy to remove the trap and retrieve these items later, but that adds work to the process that is avoidable.

Remove the cap at the top of the tap, and unscrew the main screw. From there, the pieces inside the tap fit together. If homeowners are not certain how to fit the pieces back together, it is a good idea to take a picture of each stage of the process.

Disassemble the tap until reaching the faulty washer, and remove it. In some cases the washer may fit flush, in others the washer might be attached with a screw. Once removed, replace the faulty washer with a new one, and then put the tap back together. Turn on the water to the house and test the tap to make sure it works properly.


How to buy items to change tap washers on eBay

Once you determine that your tap's washer needs replacing, it is important to find the right replacement items. If you know the part number for your washer, you can search for that part number directly in the search box on any eBay page. If you do not have the part number, you can search for the manufacturer name and the term "washer". If you need additional tools as well, the sellers on eBay have just what you need. 

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