A leaky tap might seem like an insignificant problem, certainly not one worth calling a plumber out for. But aside from creating an irritating sound, it can also be symptomatic of several issues which, if left unchecked, can lead to more serious problems. The good news is, it can be fairly simple to fix yourself without the need to call out a plumber. All you need is the right tools and this simple guide.

Diagnose the Problem

There are a number of issues which could be causing the leak but the most common two are the O-ring and the washer. If the leak is coming from beneath the handle then you will need to replace the O-ring. However, if the leak is coming from the spout, the washer is your problem.


Before you start, make sure you have the right tools for the job and have purchased the right materials. Your manufacturer’s instructions will inform you of the correct materials to buy, in terms of whether you need a ceramic or rubber washer and which is the correct size for your tap. You will need:

  • A screwdriver
  • Safety goggles
  • Adjustable spanner
  • Allen Keys (for a ceramic disc valve)
  • Box spanner (to replace a spout O ring)

Before you start work, make sure you have the plug in the plug hole in order to prevent any small items falling down the drain and, as with any plumbing work, be sure to switch off the water supply using the stop cock.

Compression valve tap

A compression valve tap uses a mechanical device that uses a rubber washer at the base of the tap to control the flow of the water. A compression valve tap will require a full turn or more to reach full power.

First, remove the handle cap if there is one, and then use your screwdriver to unscrew the handle and expose the mechanism within. Then unscrew the rest of the valve cover.

Use an adjustable spanner to loosen the valve and remove it. Then hold the valve with the adjustable spanner and remove the screw that holds the washer in place. Replace the washer with the new one, making sure you are replacing it with a washer the same size, and screw the new washer into place. Then replace the valve in the tap, using the adjustable spanner to tighten it, though do be careful not to over tighten as this will cause undue pressure on the joint.

Finally, replace the handle and handle cap before switching the water supply back on.

Ceramic Disc Valve Tap

A ceramic disc valve has a similar mechanism to a compression valve, but makes use of a ceramic disc rather than rubber washer. Taps which require half a turn or less to achieve full power will almost certainly have a ceramic disc.

To begin, unscrew the handle cap to expose the valve. You may need to use an allen key for this, depending on the style of tap. Use an adjustable spanner to loosen and remove the valve. Check the ceramic disc for any signs of wear and replace it if required. Then secure the valve and handle cap back in position.

Replacing a valve O Ring

Follow the instructions above to remove the valve from your tap. Then use your screwdriver to remove the O Ring. Replace it with a new one, being sure to replace it with one the same size and then screw back into place. Replace the valve as per the above instructions.

Replacing a Spout O Ring

Using your box spanner, loosen but not remove the nut that holds the tap to the sink. You will find this directly beneath the sink. This will allow you to twist the tap round to gain better access to the grub screw. Remove the grub screw with your screwdriver.

Lift the spout to give you access to the o-ring, which you will find near the base of the spout. Use a screwdriver to lever the o-ring off the spout and then replace it with a new one by rolling it into position.

To replace the spout, line up the marker with the groove in the tap body and slot it into place before retightening the grub screw. Then turn the tap to its original position and retighten the nut beneath the sink. At Frank Key, we have all the tools and components you need to complete a wide range of DIY tasks. Our staff are also on hand to provide expert guidance and advice where needed. Take a look at our plumbing supplies to get your hands on the tools you need to complete your household repairs.