How To Service Taps Like A Professional Plumber

Did you know that, as a homeowner, you are not legally allowed to do your own plumbing?

However, there are still some maintenance items you are allowed to do, like servicing your own taps. 


We’ve put together the video below on how to service your tapware like a professional plumber.

Find the transcript of that video below.

Hey, I’m Dan from Pasfield Plumbing. Today, I’m going to show you how to service taps like a professional plumber.

Tools and parts


To get started, these are the tools and the parts you’re going to need to service your taps. You’re going to need some good quality washers. I’ve tried about six different types and over the last ten years I’ve had the most success with these Hydroseal positive-sealing washers


Then you’re definitely going to need some tap o-rings. For most spindles you’ll want an 8.5mm but you can get a multikit if there are different sizes.


Then you’ll need to get yourself some body washers. Just a multipack is fine.


Lastly, you’ll need o-ring grease for reassembly to make sure everything’s smooth.

Getting started


First you’re going to need a drill and, with that drill, you’ll need a receding tool. This receding tool attaches to the drill. You’ll also need a pick or, if you don’t have one, a small flathead screwdriver will also do the trick.

This tool is for cleaning the bodies of taps. We call that a bonnet-cleaner.

You’ll also need some kitchen and bathroom silicone. I normally just use clear silicone. You’ll need some soapy water — here’s an old container I’ve been using for years. 

You’l also need a shifter, multigrips, and some pointy-nose pliers plus a couple of rags for cleaning and then some WD40 which is very useful for very tight taps.

First step: Turn off the water.

First, let’s turn the water off. Then we need to turn the taps on — all the way as far as they’ll go before we start servicing them. 


That will do two things. One, it’ll just mean we’ve done our job right and turned the water off. And it also means that when we go to take the spindles out of the wall they’ll come out the way they’re supposed to. 


A little handy tip is to always have something over the waste outlet so you don’t drop one of these down the drain. I always just have a bit of rag over the waste outlet so there’s no way that can happen.

Second step: Remove the tapware covers.


The next step is to take the handles off — just like so. Again, just put them to the side. Now, with our flanges, you want to be careful that you don’t scratch any of the paint or the chrome so you’ll need to be very careful when you do this. 


All that it needs is just a gentle nip just to get rid of that tightness on each side. Then, once you’ve done that, you should be able to undo them by hand. Pull those off there and put them to the side. Then same thing on the other side. All you want to do is make sure they’re coming off nice and easy and keeping everything together.

Third step: Remove the tapware spindles for service.

The next step is that we need to take the spindles out of the wall. Now, you’ll always have some hex thread that you can use with a socket. Most of the time you can get away with either using your shifter or your multies to take them off. But if you’re going to do that you need to be careful that you’re not going to strip out the threads or cause any damage to the spindles. 

Generally, if you can slide a shifter in there and get a good grip, you just want to give it a crack until it’s loose and then same again with the other side. Just give it a good crack until they’re loose again. Once you’ve done that again, they should come out with ease by hand. And you can already see here that the washer that’s in there is stuffed — that’s why it’s leaking. And then pull the other spindle out. The washer in here is actually stuck in the wall so we’re going to use our pointy-nose pliers to pull that one out like so.

Just get our pointy-nose pliers under that and peel and get that old washer out. That can go in the bin.


Now these guys here can get stuck onto the wall. If you have yourself a little pick you can actually just pop it out like so and that will get it out there like so. And while we’re at this stage — a lot of people don’t realise but the reason you might have a leaking set of taps is because the seats are scored or cut or have a wear in them. So while we’re here we want to actually get a light and inspect the seats for any scores, roughness, or anything that doesn’t give the smooth ceiling face. 


These ones don’t look too bad but for the sake of pulling these taps apart and getting it right once, we’ll recut these seats to make sure everything’s done properly before we put it back together.

Fourth step: Servicing the tapware.


Now we’re serving out spindles. So we want to remove all the old stuff, like so. And then we need to remove the bodies from the spindles so we can get to the o-rings. We’re going to need our multis and our shifter for this one


You want to grab the spade of your spindle and then you want to undo the body like so from the spindle. If they’re old they’ll be tight, like these ones. If that’s the case we want to make sure we’re using our tools properly like professional tradesmen do.


We want to separate the bodies from the spindles for both so you’ll grab your spindle at the spade head with your multis and with your shifter you’ll adjust it and get it right on the body.


Once it reaches a point, they can become fingertight but not always. When they’re ready, they’ll just pop off and separate like so. Now do the same for the other side.


At this stage we’ll clean up the spindles with our trusty rag and remove any of the old grease or buildup. Sometimes when they’re really bad you might need some WD40 just to give them a good cleanup but I always remove the o-rings first. 


When you remove the o-rings, always work it away from yourself so you don’t stab yourself in the fingers like I have on many occasions. You just want to put your pick under the o-ring and slide it out just like so — just like that. And the same for the other side. Just pick it under, get it to that point, and snap it over just like that.


Now once you have these off you don’t want to mix them up with the new ones so straight away put them out of the way. To go the extra mile, I might just give these a bit of a cleanup like so, just to work out any grease or anything we don’t want in there.


Now our spindles are clean. However, you always want to inspect and make sure that none of this is in bad condition. These are starting to wear here. It’s so-so but they’ll do for a little bit longer until they need to be replaced.

Now we want to clean out the bodies.

Grab your bonnet-cleaning tool. With the body in the rag, it’s a good idea to spray some WD40 in there just to clean out any of the muck. You can already see that discolouration coming out now.


To clean the bodies, work the bonnet cleaning tool through the tap. Sometimes when they’re tight we want to go back to using our shifter. Just lock it in there, nice and tidy, so you’ve got plenty of room. Then you want to work your body cleaner through.  Keep a rag under at the same time so you can pick up or see anything that comes through that’s dirty. You can already see that there’s a bit of dirt and brass coming through there. Then we want to work it all the way back through, like so.


Once we’ve done that we want to give it another good clean out with the WD40 to clear out any dirt and grime. As you can see, that’s the kind of stuff that comes out A lot of brass there too which indicates that you want to look at replacing these next time.


Another thing we want to do is to get a clean bit of rag and then just slide this through and give that a good clean. That’ll clean out anything stuck in there and then we’ve got a good clean body. Repeat for the other one.

Now we want to put our o-rings, body washers, and washers in.

The first thing we want to do is put on our o-rings. Some spindles will come with two o-rings and other will come with just one. These ones have groove recesses so they get one o-ring each. We just want to feed our o-rings over the top like so, then just slide them over there like that and then same for this side too. Peeling it over like that and getting it over there. 


Next step is to put on some o-ring grease. This is a very important stage. We just want to feed this in like so. Always be generous with your o-ring grease because we’re doing this once and we don’t want to be coming back. Once you’ve got that you don’t want to put it down or you’ll contaminate it. You want to put it straight onto your body wash like so. Then start doing it all the way back on. It’ll reach a stage where you’ll probably need to use your multis just so you can it all the way back on flush. Repeat on the other one.


Then you want to wipe off the excess before we put our two body washers on. So one goes on like that. And then the same for this guy. Just straight on like that. With your new jumper valve on each one, your spindles are serviced, ready to go back in.

Step five: Cleaning the tapware sets.

So this is stage is where we’re going to recut the seats and get them clean again and looking shiny. So this is our recutting tool, one that goes onto the end of the drill. 

It’s very important to remember you want the drill on a low speed. You don’t want it on a high speed — that’s bad. If you’re not 100% sure about recutting your seats, I’d probably recommend leaving it to a professional only because if you don’t get it right or if you cut too deep you can damage the in-wall pipe work so you need to be very careful.


When these are brand new they’re super sharp and they only need the smallest touch-up to get them good. If you go too far you might damage your pipework inside the wall. So the first thing you want to do is screw it in as you would with your normal spindle, so just push it into the wall. I only ever do these up hand tight — I don’t get a wrench onto them. Now that that’s int here you want to set up your drill and make sure it’s all free. Go nice and slow at the start so you can get a gauge of how sharp or how clear it’s going to cut.


That might be all you need. As we can see, just from that small cut, the seats are already looking good there. Now we want to do the same for the other side. Even from that small time spent on it has already cut away a fair amount of material. I’ll retrieve some brass files just so you can see what I mean by only needing to touch it a small amount. You don’t need to go hard and fast to get a good result and that’s a mistake a lot of people make.

Step six: remove the shower head.

Now we’re going to remove the showerhead because we don’t want any of those big files coming out through the showerhead when we flush it out. First, grab your shifter. Now a big no-no for anybody watching is never use the arm as a level. You never want to damage the o-rings or bend that lever. Always use the shifter the way it’s intended. It’s alright to spin it because it’s already loose but you’re tightening it you definitely wouldn’t do that.


So one of the reasons in particular that you always want to take your showerhead off when you’re flushing out filings is that many showerheads with have a flow restrictor. As you can see, there’s only a small orifice for the water to pass through to achieve 9L a minute. As you can appreciate, have brass files caught in there is going to block your shower head so it won’t work properly.

Step seven: Flushing out the brass files.

Now that we’ve done all that, we’re just about ready to flush out our files. A little tip I’ll give everyone is that, when you turn your water back on, we don’t want any water to dribble down and into the wall. So what we want to do if we can is silicon the bottom of the penetrations so when it does dribble it goes onto the tile face rather than the wall space.


So we’re just going to seal up the bottom of the penetrations so when we turn the water back on we don’t get any water going into the wall. So just like that — do yourselves a favour and have some soapy spray. Give them a bit of a spray and with a bit on your fingers just kind of feed that away from the actual combination itself to make sure it’s going to be watertight, which is the whole purpose of using the silicone in a shower cubicle. 


Now we’re ready to turn the water on and blast out those files.

Step eight: Reinstalling the serviced tapware.

Now that we’ve flushed out all our files and things are looking squeaky clean, it’s time to put our spindles back in position like so. Finger tight first, all the way. Then we want to use our shifter or our multis to tighten these up. Now you want to make sure these are properly tight because we don’t want any leakage into the wall space once we’ve put the flanges and handles back on.


You can use tube spanners, you can use a shifter, often I just use multigrips as long as you’re not going to damage the threads. Just get that little extra bit of leverage on them and know that they’re nice and tight. Same for that one too. That one’s nice and tight, so they’re both in.


We we want to use one of our handles to turn these off. And the reason why we don’t just reassemble everything back together now is because we actually want to look at our taps that we’ve just screwed back into the wall with the water on because we assume there are no leaks. 


They’re both off right now and we also keep the shower head off too in case any brass files might have made their way up into the breach. 


Now we want to make sure we flush them all out before we put everything back together.


I’ll turn the water back on now.

Step nine: Checking the tapware/silicone into the wall.

Now we just want to inspect our spindles and make sure there are no leaks or drips coming through. They’re both looking fantastic so we can now proceed to resealing the penetrations which is a vital stage, in particular in showers because you do not want water going through into the wall space.

I’ll show you how we seal them. Now we kind of feed it in as best we can like this first. Same for the other side, feeding it in in a circular motion. Once you’ve done that you need to spread it in and stitch it to the tile. So now we want to get our soapy spray and spray each side. Spray a bit on your finger. Now we want to stitch or massage it in. That way, there if there are any little openings or holes where water can go, they’re gone and it’s now sealed as best it can be.

Same again for the other side. Now, whatever you do, please don’t try doing this without soapy water. It’ll go everywhere — all over your fingers, your shirt, your tools, and it’ll just be a horrible mess you don’t want to deal with. 

Now we want to get a bit of rag and blast out anything again that might have gotten stuck in the breach piece.

Step ten: Reassemble handles and flanges.

So now it’s time to reassemble. I’m going to grab our handles, our buttons, our flanges. One at a time. Now that you’ve got silicone around here you want to be careful with these dress rings that you don’t get them messy with silicone.


I always try to push it back to the wall with one hand and then, with the other hand, screw that flange on while trying to keep that dress ring flush to the wall so you don’t drop it onto the new silicone that you’ve just put on.


This just keeps things tidier — some things you pick up on when do these things hundreds and hundreds of times. Same thing with the other side, you want to put your dress ring on if you have them up against the wall. See, almost dropped it!


You want to start screwing your flanges back on while keeping that dress ring against the wall there so you don’t drop it on the silicone. I always do them up tight but not ridiculous because you want to get them off in the future again when you need to service them. So make them tight until it just kind of stops. Now, put your handles back on like that.


Push them back as far as they’ll go. Now, make sure that with your buttons you’re putting them back on the right. If you’re in Australia, it’s most often hot on the left, cold on the right, but it’s not always the case. So when putting your button on, start that thread nice and even so they screw on to the thread properly.


It’s only fine thread so you want to make sure that you’ve got your buttons on 100% — don’t cross-thread them or you’ll just wreck the thread. Once you’ve got them on you can start tightening your buttons on.


Cool, now we’ve got our taps back on it’s time to put our shower head back together.

Step eleven: Reinstalling the shower head.

Before we put our showerhead back on, the last thing we need to do is flush out any brass files that may have gotten caught in the breach piece when we turned the water back on. So just grab yourself a bit of rag, cover it over the hole, and turn it on like so. As you can see, I usedthis one to clean some dye last time which is why it’s a bit yellow. And there you can see we did actaully get some extra brass files out.


Now time for some teflon tape for your threads. So you get your teflon tape. I always kind of start mine with my left finger touching it and my right finger to follower and then just kind of use your fingers to guild it around and keep the teflon on the thread as you’re going around. I usually go six to eight wraps, sometimes more.


Like I said, do not use this as a lever to tighten it. You can for a little bit but as soon as it starts getting tight, don’t touch it or you’ll wreck it. That’s when you want to use your shifter, like so, and then get it up straight. And then that should be.

Step twelve: All done!

So there you go guys. That’s how we service taps at Pasfield Plumbing and I hope that I’ve shown you something that can help you at home.