It may be out of necessity or you may just fancy a change. Whichever it is, replacing a tap is a fairly simple operation. The following guidelines apply to both kitchen and bathroom taps but, before you start, make sure you have enough access to the pipes that connect to your taps.
Essentials: * Taps or conversion units * Tap wrench * Screwdriver * Pliers * Large and small adjustable spanners * PTFE tape * Flexible tap connector * Penetrating oil
Choosing a replacement tap
There are two kinds of tap mechanism: Washer and Ceramic disc.
Washer taps are available in a wide variety of styles but they all work in the same way. Turning the handle closes a washer against the water inlet inside the tap, shutting off the supply. With reverse pressure taps ('Supataps') you can fix a leaking washer without having to turn the water off. However, it is always preferable to turn off the water supply before you start.
Ceramic disc taps have revolving discs instead of washers. They usually go from off to fully on in a quarter turn, making them convenient for elderly or disabled people. Wear is less of a problem than with washer taps, but if there is a problem you have to replace a disc cartridge, which is more expensive than fitting a washer.
Check your existing taps. Older taps have longer tails than modern ones (the tail is the threaded part at the bottom of the body, which connects to the water pipe). If so, you will need a tap extender or flexible tap connector to join your new taps to the supply pipe.
* Turn off the water supply at the main stopcock.
* Close the valve on the cold feed pipe to the hot water cylinder.
* Switch off the boiler or immersion heater.
* Close the valve on the feed pipe from the cold water cistern to the taps.
* Turn on the taps to drain the system.
* Put in the plug on the sink or basin to avoid losing small parts down the outlet.
Fitting a new tap
1. Apply penetrating oil to the tap connector nut (which joins the tap to the supply pipe), and to the back nut, which clamps the tap to the basin.
2. Loosen the tap connector and then use a tap wrench to loosen the back nut. It helps to have someone to hold the tap while you do this. (If the nuts are firmly stuck, it's best to call in a plumber because too much force can easily damage the basin or pipework).
3. Undo the back nut and remove the tap. If necessary, tap gently upwards on the tail with a soft mallet to break the seal between tap and basin.
4. Clean the area around the hole thoroughly.
5. Fit the new tap, seating it on the plastic bedding washer if supplied. If not, surround the hole with silicone sealing compound or sanitary sealing compound before putting the tap in place.
6. Refit the back nut and tighten by hand to clamp the tap to the basin. Make sure the spout is facing the right way and tighten the back nut gently with the tap wrench.
7. When fitting onto some thin baths or sinks you may require the use of a Top Hat spacing washer. This will ensure that the back nut can be tightened for a firm fixing.
8. Put a new fibre washer on the tap connector and screw it to the tap tail.
9. Don't strain the pipework. Fit a tap extender if there's a small gap. If that doesn't work, shorten the supply pipe and fit a flexible tap connector.
10. Make sure all joints are tight and turn on the water. Check for leaks and re-tighten if needed.
Fitting a new tap top
Plastic handled taps On these taps the handle simply pulls off or is held in place by a screw. Lever off the 'hot' or 'cold' insert on top of the cover with a screwdriver to reveal the screw.
Metal handle taps
Turn off the water.
Remove the screw holding the head to the spindle and tap the head free with a soft headed hammer.
If the head won't come off, unscrew the shield cover with a wrench (wrap the jaws in rag to avoid scratching the tap). Turn the tap full on and place two pieces of wood between the shield and the tap body. Turning the tap off will lever off the head.
If it's the shield cover that is stuck, carefully pour boiling water then cold water over it and try again.
Undo the headgear nut and lift out the spindle assembly.
Fit the new tap tops, following the maker's instructions carefully.