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Fix a Leaky Tap: DIY Mixer Repair – Useful Tips

Fix a leaky tap. Even the most reliable and expensive taps can develop water leaks over time. It starts with an annoying drip and can escalate into a constant stream.

Delaying the repair is not advisable, as the leak won’t fix itself. In this guide, we’ll explore what to do when your tap is dripping and how to fix it, with insights from home expert handyman.

Typically, water taps develop leaks due to worn-out seals in the shut-off valves – the mechanisms responsible for turning the water flow on and off.

Most modern mixers can be repaired without the need to call a plumber or replace the entire taps. Armed with a thin flat-head screwdriver and an adjustable wrench (300 mm), you can take matters into your own hands.

Identifying Your Tap Type

Before you start the repair, it’s essential to know the type of tap you have. There are two main types:

  1. Single-Lever Taps: These have a single handle for adjusting water pressure and temperature.

  2. Double-Handle Taps: These come with separate taps for hot and cold water.

Now, let’s delve into the steps to fix your leaking tap.

Fixing a Single-Lever Tap

The primary component of a single-lever tap is a special cartridge resembling a barrel with three openings at the bottom.

This cartridge is responsible for fine-tuning the water pressure and temperature.

At the top of the cartridge, there’s a stem onto which a lever is fitted, regulating the water flow and temperature from the tap. If the tap is leaking when closed, worn-out sealing rings at the bottom of the cartridge are likely to blame.

Alternatively, the cartridge might be clogged with rust or deposits due to hard water.

If there’s no leakage but the lever operates stiffly with distinctive sticking and squeaking, and the cartridge is covered in rust deposits, you can attempt to revive it.

To do this, rinse the cartridge in a solution of citric acid and lubricate the moving parts and rubber seals with plumbing silicone grease.

However, if the cartridge itself is broken, unfortunately, it cannot be disassembled and repaired at home.

The solution is to replace it with a new one. But before doing so, you need to know its specifications.

Different models of single-lever taps use cartridges of varying sizes, typically with diameters of 28, 32, 35, or 40 mm. Cartridges with diameters of 35 and 40 mm may come in low (47 mm without the stem) or high (50 mm) variations.

The specifications for the required part are usually indicated on the taps’s box. If the tap model is unknown, extract the old cartridge, measure its diameter and height, and only then proceed with your purchase.

Alternatively, take the old cartridge with you when you go to the store.

**Now you’re equipped with the knowledge to troubleshoot and address issues with your single-lever tap. Happy fixing!

Please book a professional plumber if you still need a help.

Replacing the Cartridge

  1. Turn Off the Water Supply: Shut off the water at the building’s mains, open the taps of the leaking mixer, and confirm that water is no longer flowing.

  2. Remove the Lever: Carefully, without scratching, use a screwdriver to remove the cap at the bottom of the lever. Unscrew the screw beneath it that secures the lever. Gently rock the lever off the stem. To prevent small parts from escaping into the sink’s drain, cover it with a stopper.

  3. Take Off the Chrome Cover: Unscrew the upper decorative chrome cover by hand (some models may not have this). Underneath it, you’ll find a nut that secures the cartridge. Unscrew it using an adjustable wrench.

  4. Extract the Cartridge: Remove the cartridge and inspect it. If you plan to continue using it, clean it from rust and limescale by soaking it for a few hours in a water solution of citric acid and then rinse it with soap and water.

  5. Prep the New Cartridge: Before installing the new or cleaned cartridge, it’s recommended to treat all visible moving parts and rubber seals with silicone grease. This ensures smooth operation of the lever and prolongs the life of the cartridge.

  6. Install the New Cartridge: Place the new or cleaned cartridge back in the reverse order. Position it firmly (but not excessively), tighten the nuts, install the lever, and secure it with the screw.

  7. Check for Leaks: Carefully partially open the valves at the entrance to the apartment and ensure that no water is splashing from under the lever. If there’s a leak, you may not have tightened the nut sufficiently.

  8. Fully Open the Valves: If everything is in order, fully open both incoming valves at the mains (for hot and cold water), and use the mixer as usual.

By following these steps, you should successfully replace the cartridge and resolve the issue with your taps. Enjoy your newly repaired fixture!

Please book a professional plumber if you still need a help.

Repairing a Two-Valve Mixer

If your two-valve mixer is leaking and you hear a distinctive howling sound when you open the tap, the culprits are likely the valves themselves—ceramic cartridges.

Their seals have worn out, and mineral deposits and rust may have accumulated.

The repair process for such mixers depends on their construction type.

For Mixers with Half-Turn Valves and Ceramic Seals:

If the valves rotate only half a turn (180°) from closed to fully open, it’s a mixer with half-turn valves and ceramic seals. Each of the two seals has an off-center hole.

When you turn the valve, the holes align, allowing water to flow. Ceramic half-turn cartridges are durable but can develop leaks if the seals’ surfaces wear out or accumulate deposits.

Unfortunately, they are not repairable and need replacement.

For Mixers with Multi-Turn Classical Cartridges:

If you need to make several turns from open to closed, you have a mixer with classical cartridges. These valves consist of a threaded stem and a rubber or silicone plug attached to the lower end.

When the valve is closed, the plug seals the opening underneath. The valve itself is robust, but the seals are susceptible to damage from pressure fluctuations, hot water, and abrasive particles over a few years of use.

However, you can easily repair a multi-turn cartridge with a stuck or damaged seal by purchasing a repair kit containing standard seals and replacing the worn-out ones.

However, this repair is advisable for relatively new mixers. If your mixer is old and affected by rust, attempting to disassemble it may lead to the cartridges seizing or the entire structure falling apart. In such cases, it’s better to replace the entire cartridge or even the entire mixer if it’s corroded.

Before purchasing anything, identify the suitable cartridges for your mixer, considering the various sizes and head shapes. Some cartridges typically have a standard ½-inch thread and a square head for attaching the handle. Ceramic (half-turn) and multi-turn cartridges for domestic mixers are usually interchangeable.

For other cartridges, the heads are typically toothed. However, the number of teeth may vary between manufacturers. Buying an incompatible cartridge could result in the handle not fitting. If you don’t know your mixer’s model, remove the handle and take it with you to the store to choose the right cartridge.

Please book a professional plumber if you still need a help.

Replacing Seals on a Cartridge Valve

  1. Identify the Leaking Valve: Determine which valve is leaking based on the temperature of the dripping water — whether it’s for hot or cold water.

  2. Turn Off the Water: Shut off the water supply to the apartment at the mains and ensure the valves on the mixer are securely closed.

  3. Remove the Handle: Take off the handle from the faucet. Pry off the colored cap with a screwdriver and unscrew the screw beneath it.

  4. Inspect the Cartridge Valve: Unscrew the cartridge valve using an adjustable wrench and inspect it closely.

  5. Replace the Rubber Gasket: If you have a multi-turn valve, replace the rubber gasket with a new one from the repair kit. In most cases, leakage is due to a worn-out rubber gasket. Imported cartridge valves might also have a sealing gasket (usually a silicone ring of blue or red color); replace it with a suitable one from the repair kit.

  6. Check Ceramic Seals (For Half-Turn Valves): If the ceramic seals of a half-turn valve are worn or cracked, unfortunately, they cannot be repaired. You’ll need to purchase and install a new cartridge valve.

  7. Reassemble the Mixer: Assemble the mixer in reverse order, ensuring all parts are securely in place.

  8. Turn On the Water: Partially open the water supply valves in the apartment and confirm that everything is in order. If there are no more drips and leaks, fully open the valves and enjoy the results.

**By following these steps, you should successfully replace the seals on the cartridge valve of your faucet. If you encounter any challenges or have further questions, feel free to ask for assistance.

Please book a professional plumber if you still need a help.