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A leaking tap handle is a common household problem that can cause significant water waste and damage if left unaddressed. The constant dripping sound can also be annoying and disruptive. While a leaking tap handle may seem like a complicated issue, the repair process is relatively simple and can be completed by most homeowners with basic DIY skills.

In this article, we will guide you through the steps necessary to identify the cause of the leak and repair your tap handle effectively. By following our instructions and using the right tools and materials, you can save money on professional plumbing services and restore your tap to its proper functioning state.

Don’t let a leaking tap handle continue to waste water and cause damage to your home. With a little patience and the right guidance, you can confidently tackle this repair project and enjoy a leak-free tap.

Tools and Materials Required

Before you begin the process of repairing your leaking tap handle, it’s essential to gather the necessary tools and materials. Everything you need will make the repair process smoother and more efficient. Here’s a list of the tools and materials you’ll need:


  • Adjustable wrench or spanner
  • Pliers (needle-nose and slip-joint)
  • Flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers
  • Allen key (if required for your specific tap)
  • Cloth or rag for cleaning and drying


  • Replacement washers (rubber or ceramic, depending on your tap type)
  • Replacement O-rings
  • Plumber’s grease or silicone grease
  • Penetrating oil (like WD-40) for loosening stuck parts
  • White vinegar or limescale remover for cleaning mineral build-up
  • Replacement cartridge or valve (if necessary)

It’s a good idea to have a few different sizes of washers and O-rings on hand, as the exact size needed may vary depending on your tap model. If you’re unsure about the specific parts required for your tap, it’s helpful to bring the old components to a hardware store for comparison or consult your tap manufacturer’s website for guidance.

Having these tools and materials ready before you start will help you avoid unnecessary interruptions and ensure you can complete the repair process efficiently.

Identifying the Type of Tap

Before you start the repair process, you need to identify your tap type, as the repair steps may vary slightly depending on the tap design. There are three main types of taps: compression, ceramic disc, and ball.

Leaking Tap Handle Repaired

Compression Taps

Compression taps are the most common type of tap, particularly in older homes. They have separate hot and cold handles that control the flow of water by compressing a rubber washer against a valve seat. Compression taps have a hexagonal nut directly below the handle, which can be unscrewed to access the inner components.

Ceramic Disc Taps

Ceramic disc taps are a more modern design that uses two ceramic discs to control water flow. They are known for their durability and smooth operation. Ceramic disc taps often have a wide, cylindrical body and a single lever handle that controls both temperature and flow.

Ball Taps

Ball taps, also known as basin mixer taps, use a ball-shaped mechanism to control water flow and temperature. They are commonly found in kitchen and bathroom sinks. Ball taps have a single handle that moves over a rounded cap, which houses the ball mechanism.

To identify the type of tap you have, follow these steps:

  1. Look at the shape and design of the tap handles. Separate hot and cold handles suggest a compression tap, while a single lever indicates a ceramic disc or ball tap.
  2. Examine the base of the tap, where it meets the sink or basin. A hexagonal nut points to a compression tap, while a wide, cylindrical body suggests a ceramic disc tap.
  3. Move the handle and observe its range of motion. A handle that rotates 90 degrees is likely a compression tap, while a handle that moves up, down, and side-to-side is probably a ceramic disc or ball tap.

Once you have identified your tap type, you can proceed with the appropriate repair steps for that specific design.

Step-by-Step Repair Guide

Repairing Taap Handle


Before starting the repair process, it’s essential to take some preparatory steps. First, locate the water supply valves beneath the sink or basin and turn them off completely. This will prevent any water from flowing through the tap during the repair. If your sink doesn’t have individual supply valves, you may need to turn off the main water supply to your home.

Next, place a cloth or a small container over the drain opening to prevent any small parts, like screws or washers, from falling in and getting lost. This simple step can save you a lot of frustration and time.

Disassembling the Tap

With the water supply turned off and the drain covered, you can now begin disassembling the tap. Start by removing the handle, which is usually held in place by a small screw at the base or under a decorative cap. Once the screw is removed, gently pull the handle off the tap.

Beneath the handle, you’ll find a cover or shroud, which can be unscrewed or pried off with a flathead screwdriver. Removing the cover will expose the retaining nut, which holds the valve or cartridge in place. Use an adjustable wrench or spanner to loosen and remove the retaining nut.

With the retaining nut removed, you should be able to extract the valve or cartridge from the tap body. Be careful not to damage any parts as you remove them, and keep track of their order and orientation for reassembly.

Identifying the Problem

Once the valve or cartridge is removed, inspect its components for signs of wear or damage. Check the rubber washers and O-rings for cracks, fraying, or flattening. Look for any mineral build-up or corrosion on metal parts.

In most cases, a leaking tap handle is caused by a worn-out rubber washer or O-ring, which can no longer create a watertight seal. However, if you notice damage to other components, like the valve seat or cartridge, you may also need to replace those parts.

Replacing Worn Parts

After identifying the worn or damaged parts, replace them with new components. Take the old washers, O-rings, or other parts to a hardware store to ensure you get the correct replacements for your tap model.

When replacing washers and O-rings, coat them lightly with the plumber’s grease or silicone grease. This will help them create a better seal and prevent them from sticking or twisting during reassembly.

Reassembling the Tap

With the new parts in place, you can start reassembling the tap. Begin by reinserting the valve or cartridge into the tap body, making sure it’s oriented correctly. Replace the retaining nut and tighten it securely with an adjustable wrench or spanner.

Next, replace the cover or shroud and screw it back into place. Finally, reattach the handle, making sure it’s properly aligned, and secure it with the small screw.

Testing the Repair

It’s time to test your repair work with the tap fully reassembled. Turn the water supply valves back on and check for any leaks around the base of the tap or beneath the sink. Open and close the tap handle a few times to ensure it moves smoothly and the water flow is consistent.

Double-check that all parts are installed correctly and tightened securely if you notice any leaks or issues with the tap’s function. If the problem persists, you may need to disassemble the tap again and recheck the components or consider seeking the help of a professional plumber.


You may encounter some common issues even with careful attention to the repair process. Here are a few problems that may arise and their potential solutions.

Issue 1: Difficulty removing the retaining nut

If the retaining nut is stuck or difficult to remove, it may be due to mineral build-up or corrosion. To address this issue, apply a penetrating oil like WD-40 to the nut and let it sit for a few minutes. This will help loosen the nut and make it easier to remove. If the nut remains stubborn, try gently tapping it with a hammer to break up any corrosion before unscrewing it again.

Issue 2: Incorrect size of replacement washers or O-rings

Using the wrong size washers or O-rings can result in a persistent leak or difficulty reassembling the tap. To avoid this problem, bring the old components with you when purchasing replacements. Compare the sizes carefully or consult the tap manufacturer’s specifications to ensure you get the correct fit.

Issue 3: Continued leaking after the repair

If your tap continues to leak after you’ve completed the repair, there are a few potential causes. First, double-check that all components are installed correctly and tightened securely. Ensure the new washers and O-rings are seated properly and not twisted or pinched.

If the leak persists, there may be damage to other components, such as the valve seat or the tap body itself. Inspect these parts closely for cracks, chips, or wear. If you find damage, you may need to replace these components or consider installing a new tap altogether.

Issue 4: Low water pressure after the repair

If you experience low water pressure after reassembling your tap, there may be an obstruction in the water flow. Check that the aerator, located at the tip of the spout, is not clogged with debris or mineral build-up. Unscrew the aerator and clean it thoroughly, then reattach it to the spout.

If cleaning the aerator doesn’t resolve the low water pressure, there may be an issue with the water supply lines or valves. Ensure the supply valves are fully open and check for any kinks or damage to the supply lines.

Preventive Maintenance

Cleaning Tap Handle

To keep your taps functioning properly and prevent future leaks, it’s important to practice regular preventive maintenance. Here are some tips to help you maintain your tap handles:

  • Clean your taps regularly with a soft cloth and mild cleaning solution to prevent mineral build-up and corrosion.
  • Be gentle when turning your taps on and off. Rough handling can cause damage to the internal components and lead to leaks.
  • Check for signs of wear or dripping water periodically. Addressing minor issues early on can prevent more serious problems from developing.
  • Replace washers and O-rings every few years, even if there are no apparent leaks. These components can degrade over time and cause leaks if not replaced proactively.

Regular inspections and timely repairs are crucial for maintaining the longevity and efficiency of your taps. Check your taps for signs of wear, corrosion, or leaks every few months. If you notice any issues, address them promptly to avoid water waste and potential damage to your home.

Take Control! Repair Your Home Leaks

Repairing a leaking tap handle is a straightforward process that most homeowners can accomplish with the right tools, materials, and guidance. By following the step-by-step instructions outlined in this article, you can successfully identify the cause of the leak, disassemble your tap, replace worn components, and reassemble the tap for proper function.

We encourage you to tackle this repair yourself and take pride in your DIY skills. Not only will you save money on professional plumbing services, but you’ll also gain valuable knowledge and experience in home maintenance.

However, if you encounter persistent issues or feel unsure about any aspect of the repair process, don’t hesitate to call our Melbourne plumbers at WP Plumbing. They have the expertise and tools to diagnose and resolve more complex problems leaking tap issues effectively.

FAQs Leaking Tap Handles

Can I replace just the washer, or do I need to replace the entire valve?

In most cases, replacing the washer will resolve a leaking tap handle. However, if you notice damage to other components, like the valve seat or cartridge, you may also need to replace those parts.

How often should I replace the washers and O-rings in my taps?

It’s a good idea to replace washers and O-rings every few years, even if there are no apparent leaks. These components can degrade over time and cause leaks if not replaced proactively.

What should I do if the leak persists after I’ve replaced the washer?

If the leak persists after replacing the washer, double-check that all components are installed correctly and tightened securely. If the problem continues, there may be damage to other parts, like the valve seat or tap body, which may require professional attention.

Can I use any type of grease on the new washers and O-rings?

It’s best to use a plumber’s grease or silicone grease specifically designed for use with plumbing components. These greases are waterproof and help create a better seal, preventing sticking or twisting during reassembly.

How can I prevent mineral build-up and corrosion in my taps?

Regular cleaning with a soft cloth and mild cleaning solution can help prevent mineral build-up and corrosion. Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbers, which can damage the tap’s finish and promote corrosion.

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