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Information provided throughout this article is of a general nature only, does not constitute professional advice, and does not provide information to assist in managing the multitude of risks that may arise as a result of any action related to servicing a tap. Goanna Plumbing advises using a licensed professional to perform this service.
There are several reasons why taps might become stiff or leak, causing water to leak or pour through the faucet or shower rose, or from around the taps themselves.
This article applies to servicing jumper valve taps, not ceramic disc taps, or lever mixer taps. For example of what these taps might look like see below. Jumper valve taps are the sort that become gradually harder to turn as they are shut off, rather than coming to a sudden stop as do ceramic disc taps.
Below are examples of a mixer tap, brass handled jumper valve tap, and plastic handled jumper valve tap.
NOTE: Where ever possible both the hot and cold taps of a pair should be serviced. Why?
- the washers in both are most probably worn by approximately the same amount
- to avoid wasting the effort and cost of: gathering the tools and parts required, shutting the water supply off, or paying for a plumber to arrive at your premises, only to find shortly later that the second tap of the pair has begun leaking.
The water supply to the taps that require servicing must be shut off:
In the case of a single detached dwelling such as a house, the cold water supply shut off valve will usually be located near to or abutting the water metre on the inlet line. The metre box is usually positioned in the ground along the front boundary of the property. The shut off tap within can either be shut off by hand, or if its a 1/4 turn valve, by a small spanner, pair of multi grips or ideally a specialised tool.
A 1/4 turn tap, (above ground, but often beneath a black plastic lid). Often a tool is required to gain the leverage necessary to operate.
In the case of a multi-occupancy complex, the isolation valve is usually found at the front of the unit, or within a basin, kitchen sink or laundry cupboard, or other wet area, and often looks like an ordinary house hold tap.
An example of two cold supply isolators to two different units. Take care to ensure only the premises intended is isolated.
While in most cases shutting off the cold water supply, will in turn shut off the hot water supply, it is a good idea to shut off the hot water supply individually as well, at the hot water system – by turning off the isolation valve on the cold water inlet to the HWS.
Once the water is shut off, open the hot and cold taps to be serviced to drain out the residual pressure, and to verify that both the hot and cold supply are fully shut off. If the water will not shut off fully, either the shut off valve is faulty or what you have done is incorrect. Contact your plumbing professional or water network supplier for further advice.
Firstly, remove the tap handles:
The process to remove the two more common varieties of tap handles are detailed below.
Brass handles, buttons (locking nuts) – usually chromed, painted or enamelled.
Remove the button by rotating it counter clockwise with a spanner, while holding the tap handle still. The handle should pull straight off. Sometimes the handle may need to be wriggled off if corroded.
If not corroded on or over tightened initially, the bell shaped surround should loosen counter clockwise off by hand. If jammed, apply a lubricant such as WD40 to the tap-ware. Failing this, a set of grips can be used to break the surrounds free, but this is likely to damage the finish of the surrounds. Ideally, a rubber strapped wrench should be used in this situation as it will greatly reduce the chance of damaging the finish of the tap-ware.
Economy plastic handles, with concealed buttons (locking nuts).
To access the buttons for handle removal, firstly the button cover plate in the centre of handle’s face need to be levered out with a small flat bladed screw driver.
Once the brass locking nuts are exposed, they should loosen off by rotating counter clockwise with a tube spanner, while holding the tap handles still.
Following the button removal the handles, surround spring and surround should pull or spring off – take note of the sequence in which these are removed.
Removing the tap bodies:
To remove the tap bodies they are loosened counter-clockwise using a spanner, or tube spanner (in the case of showers or other taps that are recessed in the wall). Take care to ensure you do not warp the plumbing pipes beneath the tap-ware in the case of a basin or sink. Once the bodies are removed, use a pair of long nosed pliers to remove the jumper valve – what is commonly thought of as a tap washer – from the tap housing, taking care to remove it entirely if it has pulled or broken apart.
In this case, the plastic upper body and the soft washer came apart, and were removed separately.
Re-surfacing the seats:
Within the tap housing, there will be a brass seat that the jumper valve sealed up against to seal or shut off the flow of water. A cracked, corroded or otherwise damaged seat is very often the cause of the leak – it doesn’t matter what sort of tap washer you replace the old one with, if the seat’s face is not smooth, you either won’t stop the leak at all, or the new washers will wear out far earlier than they should, because you will need to turn the taps off so hard, that you will damage the soft washer by driving it hard into the rough metal seat. For this reason, as a matter of course when tap servicing, the seats should be re-surfaced by a licensed professional.
NOTE: If a re-seating tool is used, it will shave off bits of brass that will need to be flushed through the taps and outlet of the fixture (e.g. shower rose) before the fixture is used. These brass shavings will block up spout aerators, water restrictors and other such devices that are found in all water efficient compliant fixtures. These aerators and restrictors (or the spout or rose that house them) must be removed, so they do not block with shavings, and only re-installed after at least 10 litres of hot and cold water (each separately) have been flushed through the fixture and into a bucket (to avoid spraying sharp brass shavings everywhere else) after the servicing is complete.
Prior to reseating, the seat is dark, dull and pitted, afterwards, it should be a bright brass ring, free or cracks, ideal for the washer to ‘seat’ against. Care and experience are required not to reseat too deeply, and ruin the tap housing.
Changing the tap’s washers:
NOTE: a worn spindle O’ring is what will usually cause water to leak out of the tops of the taps.
Next use a rag to completely remove all the old grease and scum from the thread of the tap spindle.
Remove the red tap body gasket with your small flat bladed screw driver. Replace it with a new one after ensuring none of the old deteriorated gasket remains on the tap body.
NOTE: A broken red tap body gasket, will cause water to leak back into a wall cavity or around the base of the tap.
Replace the O ring(s). Lubricate all the threads of the spindle and tap body with a lubricant rated for safe use in plumbing applications.
Screw the tap spindle completely back into the tap body, wiping away any excess grease that might squeeze out the top of the tap body when finished.
Insert the new jumper valve into its cavity at the end of the spindle. If the tap is mounted to sit vertically (e.g. a basin tap), sometimes a little tap lubricant pushed in the jumper valve’s spindle cavity before the jumper valve/washer is inserted and the tap boy is re-screwed into the tap housing will stop the jumper valve/washer from dropping out.
Jumper valves with brass bodies and neoprene faces are what we recommend. They lasts far longer than the plastic variety, and are heavy enough to reduce its movement within its housing when in use, greatly reducing the noise (water hammer) of the tap when its turned on.
Screw the tap body and spindle back into the tap body housing and fasten until reasonably tight. Do not over tighten.
In the case of wet areas seal the space between the taps and surrounding tiles or other surfaces with an anti fungal kitchen and bathroom silicone to prevent water running into wall cavities or other similar spaces.
Re-install the tap’s surrounds, handles and buttons in the reverse order in which you removed them. Screw the taps inwards/ clockwise to turn them off.
Now you can turn back on the water supplies:
Ensure all taps within the premises are properly re-installed and turned fully off to avoid flooding, before you turn back on the main supplies.
Refer to the section on tap re-surfacing if the taps were reseated – that is in particular, to remove shower roses, faucets etc. flush brass filings into a bucket, and reinstall shower rose once only clean water is passing through the fixture. Below is an example of a clogged spout aerator, because it has not been removed to allow for the filings to be flushed through.
If you have not managed to fix the leak, it is likely that its cause is less common than the causes detailed throughout this article.
To provide an idea of cost to have this service completed by a professional, to completely service a pair of leaking hot and cold taps, and re- surface their seats, which will return the taps to their greatest possible working standard, is a process which will usually take our plumbers around 15 minutes. See our pricing section.