Dripping sinks can be frustrating. That insistent drip-drip sound can fray nerves, and the watermarks can lead to stains that are difficult to get rid of. The drops may not seem like much, but over time, they do lead to a lot of wastage, gradually hiking your utility bill.
Another disadvantage of leaking taps is they can form puddles which then attract waterborne pests like mosquitoes and drain flies. If left unattended, these pools of water can trap dirt and start to smell. The first thing you have to do is discover what’s causing the drip.
Tools that you will need
Fixing a tap drip doesn’t require a complex set of tools. You can find them at any hardware store:
- A flat-edged screwdriver, sometimes called a Phillips. This is the kid that has a wedge shape at it tip, as opposed to the screwdriver with a cross or star.
- An adjustable spanner/wrench
- Lubricating oil e.g. CRC or WD-40
- Replacement parts if necessary
Step 1: Turn off the water
While you’re doing your repairs, it’s likely that a lot more water will be lost. This is more probable once you start unscrewing the plumbing. You could end up creating a sink-sized fountain and drenching the whole kitchen, as well as your own clothes.
To minimise wastage and improve your chances of staying dry, disconnect the water mains before you begin. There should be a valve somewhere in the house that connects the municipal supply to your home, so be sure to locate it and twist it shut. Remember to close the taps on the sink you’re fixing as well. They might still have residual water.
Step 2: Remove tap décor
Sink faucets often have embellishments like knobs, logos, and sparkly bits which will get in the way of your repairs. Some of these additions are purely for style, but some are functional. For example, knobs may be used to protect the inner nuts and bolts of your faucet. Removing them allows you to access the sections of the tap that you need to repair.
Inspect the tap to see how the décor is attached. Some are screwed on, so twist anti-clockwise to remove them. Others are manually banged into place, so you can wedge your flat screwdriver underneath and pry them off. You might need adhesive to put them back. If the knob is too tight, loosen it with lubricant. Remove the faucet handle as well.
Step 3: Loosen the tap
Once you’ve pulled off the handle, you’ll see a packing nut attached to the stem of the tap. Use your wrench to remove this nut. Put it in a safe, visible place so that you don’t lose it. Now you have the stem of the tap. This needs to come off as well to reveal the tap’s innards.
Check the stem to see how it’s installed. Some stems have to be unscrewed by twisting anticlockwise. Others are jammed in, just like the knobs. For this latter type, it should be fairly easy to grab the stem and pull it off. You can use your palm to gently hit the stem from its lower side, pushing it upwards and popping it right off.
Step 4: Check the ring
Look at the parts you have just removed and carefully check if they have any damage. They might have cracks, dents, gaps, or leaks that were making the tap drip. Now look at what’s left of the faucet. There’s a valve seat that has an O-ring and a washer.
Inspect these parts carefully for any kind of damage or laxity. If they need replacement, put a new part in and secure it in place. Your new O-ring and washer must fit snugly, otherwise the tap will continue to drip. Take the old parts to the hardware to get the right size and type of replacement. For O-rings, you can buy a pack with multiple sizes, just to be sure.
Step 5: Put it back together
Re-assemble the tap, placing the parts in the right order. First comes the washer, then the O-ring. Secure the stem, screw in the packing nut, then put back the handle and finish off with its decorative bits. Turn the tap to see if any water comes out, then twist it shut and check for drips. Reconnect the water mains and repeat the process, just to be sure.
If your tap is still dripping, there may be more serious problems. Possible causes include corrosion, seals, and breakages in the piping. Give your local plumber a call to further explore and resolve the leak for you.
Step 6: Look at the sink trap
Sometimes, it’s the sink itself that is dripping rather than the taps. The most likely cause is the sink trap. Shut off the mains and access the area beneath the sink. Place a bucket beneath the trap, then pour some water down the sink to spot the exact position of the drip. Using a flashlight, try to see where the leak is. Check the bottom of the sink for drips as well.
If you can identify the hole or gap, tighten it or replace that section of the trap. Replacement parts are available at hardware stores. If the drain is still dripping even after replacement, or if the drip is on the sink’s body itself rather than the trap, call leaking tap and shower plumber.
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