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How taps work


Modern taps tend to look so streamlined that many householders are afraid to meddle with them. But getting a plumber to mend a leaking tap is expensive and very often unnecessary.

In fact, most dripping taps are simple to repair. Replacement parts are cheap to buy and can usually be fitted in a few minutes, once you have found how to take the tap apart.

There are a number of different taps in household use but most of them work in the same basic way: turning the handle raises or lowers a spindle with a rubber or nylon washer on the end in its seating. When the spindle is raised water flows through the seating and out of the spout; when it is lowered, the flow is cut off. But when the washer becomes worn and disintegrates, water can still creep through, irrespective of the position of the spindle. This is what usually causes the tap to drip. If the seals around the moving spindle are worn as well, leaks will also appear around the handle and the outer cover. Because you will have to dismantle the tap to replace both the washer and the seals, it is usually worth doing both jobs at the same time. If fitting new ones fails to cure the drips, the washer seating itself is probably worn. This is a common problem with older taps, especially in hard water areas, and the cure is to reseat the tap.

The most common type of household tap is the pillar tap. The bib-tap is similar in operation, but fits into the wall above an appliance or on an outside wall. The patented Supatap is a type of bib-tap incorporating a valve which enables you to complete repairs without having to turn off the water supply. Modern baths and sink units often have a mixer tap with a fixed or a swiveling nozzle. This is really two pillar taps combined and they are repaired in the same way.

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