DIY – How To Change A Washer

DIY Projects – Pillar Taps

Taps come in all sorts of styles and designs but the actual working principle, comes down to one of the following methods to control the flow of water.

  1. Traditional taps have a capstan head and a spindle with what is called a jumper attached to the end. This jumper holds a washer in place. When the tap is turned on or off, the spindle, jumper and washer move up and down as well as rotate, this opens or closes the washer against the seat to control the flow of water.


  1. A more modern design looks the same as a traditional tap and uses a similar principle, consisting of a spindle, washer and a seat but when the tap is turned on or off, a threaded spindle and washer, rises and falls without rotating. This reduces wear on the washer due to the washer not rotating against the seat.


  1. There are also taps that contain precision ground ceramic discs that rotate against each other as they open and close with very little wear, these types of taps are supposedly maintenance free but on occasions faults can still occur.

A leaking tap is not only annoying but can also waste about 10 litres of water a day, over a year this can add up to a considerable amount and be quite costly if you have a water meter.

A pillar tap can start to leak for a number of reasons, all of them are relatively easy to repair. If water is dripping from the spout, the most common fault is the washer is damaged, though sometimes if the tap is old the seat could be worn. If water leaks when the tap is turned on from the top of the spindle or from under the shroud then depending on the type of tap either the gland packing or O-ring needs replacing.

Before you can replace the washer on a traditional pillar tap, the water supply must be isolated.

Water leaking past the gland when the tap is turned on is another common problem and indicates that the gland packing has worn. Another indication is the tap can be turned on and off very easily, which can cause water hammer (shock waves in the pipes due to the sudden closing of the water way).

The glands will eventually fail with normal wear and tear, but back pressure from a garden hose or washing machine can increase the wear and tear.


To adjust or renew the gland there is no need to isolate the water supply. Remove the capstan head by removing the tiny retaining screw (this can be on the side of the head or under the red or blue plastic coloured plug in the centre of the head). Lift off the head by either rocking it from side to side or tap it from below with a wooden hammer.


If the head won’t come off you will need to isolate the water supply, for instructions see how to drain cold water or drain hot water then fully open the tap, unscrew the metal cover and insert wooden blocks between the cover and the base. Close the tap and this will cause the capstan head to lift off the spindle.

Remove the cover and tighten the gland nut to see if that can stop the leak. If there is no more adjustment or the tap still leaks then fully unscrew and remove the gland nut, then using a small blade screwdriver pick out the old gland packing.

Replace the packing with special gland packing string or twist some PTFE tape and wrap around the spindle and pack it into the gland with a screwdriver.

Replace the gland nut and tighten down to a point where the tap can be opened and closed easily but not too easily. Refit the cover and capstan head.

Some taps have an O-ring instead of the gland packing, in this case use the same method as above but remove the damaged O-ring and replace with a new one.



Before you begin make sure the water is isolated, then fully open the tap. If the body of the tap has a metal cover, unscrew this by hand or use a wrench (cover jaws with tape or a cloth to protect the tap). Lift up the cover and using a slim spanner unscrew the headgear nut, until the whole assembly can be removed.


The jumper and washer normally lift out with the headgear, but sometimes the jumper and washer can remain in the bottom of the tap body and just needs lifting out.


The washer can be held on by a small button in which case to you can prise the washer over the button with a screwdriver. If the washer is held on by a nut then hold the jumper stem with a pair of pliers, unscrew the nut, remove the washer and clean the jumper. (If the nut is seized try penetrating oil to loosen the corrosion, otherwise fit a new jumper and washer). Fit a new washer and reassemble.


DIY Projects – Supatap

Supataps also known as Reverse Pressure Taps differ somewhat from a normal tap in that you can replace the washer without isolating the water supply.

When the nozzle is removed don’t be tempted to push the pin back in as you will end up getting wet.


Open the tap slightly and with a spanner unscrew the retaining nut at the top of the nozzle, turn the tap on and keep on turning. The flow of water will increase but then it will stop when the check valve falls into position. Keep on turning and the nozzle will drop off into your hand.


Tap the nozzle on a block of wood and the anti-splash device should come out, if not tap the end of the nozzle on a block of wood, then turn upside down to remove the anti-splash device.


The anti-splash device contains the combined jumper and washer, prise off the jumper with a screwdriver or even a coin will do. Replace with a new combined jumper and washer and refit the anti-splash device into the nozzle.


Screw the nozzle back on to the tap (remember that it has a left-hand thread) as the nozzle is screwed up water will start to spray out until the nozzle is completely refitted.



DIY – How To Bleed Radiators

DIY Projects – Radiators

Radiators come in a range of sizes and designs. The larger the radiator the more heat it gives out, to increase the heat output even further, radiators can come with fins on the back to increase the convected area or even have two radiators back to back which creates a double radiator.

Most of the heat given off by radiators is actually convected heat, as the air touching the radiator warms up it rises towards the ceiling, cool air then replaces this warm air, which is also heated by convection and rises upwards, this process continues slowly warming the room until the radiator is switched off by a roomstat or TRV.


A radiator will have a handwheel valve or thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) which is used to control the flow and thus the temperature of the radiator.

The lockshield valve is used to balance the system and is not normally adjusted.

The bleed valve is used to release any trapped air that has built up in the radiator. Trapped air prevents the radiator from heating up properly.


DIY Projects – Fitting radiators

A radiator can be fitted on any wall, a popular place to fit radiators is under a window, this used to be ideal because any draughts from the window encouraged the air to circulate. Nowadays this has little effect due to many homes having double glazed windows but it is still a popular position because usually the wall space below a window is not used for anything else. Air needs to circulate freely around the radiator, so if you have long curtains it would be more efficient to place the radiator on another wall. Try to avoid placing furniture in front of radiators, due to the radiated heat being absorbed by the furniture.

  1. Mark the centre of the window or the centre position of where the radiator is going to be.
  2. Measure the distance between the centre of the radiator fixing lugs and divide by 2
  3. Mark two more vertical lines this distance either side of the centre line.
  4. Hang a fixing bracket onto the fixing lug and measure from the floor to the top of the bracket. Add 150mm floor clearance to this measurement and mark a horizontal line through the bracket vertical line.
  5. Hold the bracket with its top inline with the horizontal line and the bracket holes in line with the vertical lines and mark the drilling position.
  6. Drill and plug the holes and screw the brackets in place.


Thermostatic radiator valves can sometimes be directional. Use the arrow marked on the valve to ensure it is fitted correctly.

Hang the radiator on the brackets and connect the valves to the bottom of the radiator. Line the feed and return pipes up with the bottom of the valves and connect up.


DIY Projects – Bleeding radiators

If a radiator feels cool at the top and warm at the bottom it will probably have air trapped in it which must be removed. To remove any air trapped in a radiator you need to ‘bleed’ the radiator. All radiators have a bleed valve on one of the top corners.

Switch off the boiler and wait for the circulating pump to stop, place a jar or rag under the bleed valve and using a special bleed key or in some cases a flat screwdriver, turn the valve anti-clockwise approx 1/2 turn. You should hear a hissing sound as the air releases.


Be careful when bleeding a radiator, the water can be very hot. Keep children and animals away.


If you place your hand on the top section of the radiator you will feel the heat rising.

Keep the key on the valve so it can be closed as soon as water starts to come out.

Don’t remove the valve completely or you won’t be able to stop the water coming out.


How Does A Water Softener Work?

The ion exchange process of softening water is basically the same for all water softeners. Hard water contains calcium and magnesium ions. Water softeners use resin beads, which hold sodium ions. When hard water passes through the resin beads inside the softener, the beads attract and hold the calcium and magnesium ions and give off the sodium ions. After this ion exchange process, the water leaving the softener is soft.

Once the resin bed is loaded with calcium and magnesium ions, it must be cleansed (or regenerated) so that it can continue to soften water. Salt water is used to wash the resin beads. The brine solution loosens the hardness ions, which have built up on the resin beads; then the system backwashes and flushes the hardness minerals away. Once again, the resin beads hold sodium ions, and the system is ready to soften more water.

The difference in water softeners is not in the process of softening water but in how the softener operates.

The Kinetico valve, uses the energy of moving water, not electricity. So there’s nothing to plug in, no buttons to push, timers to set and reset, adjustments to make and no increase in your electricity bill. Without the use of electricity, your system is remarkably reliable.

The Kinetico valve, using a turbine and gears, measures the amount of water that is used and determines when a regeneration is ; needed. Since it regenerates only on demand, it won’t waste water or salt. Other systems must be programmed to regenerate usually , during the night. So, if you use more water than usual during the day’, you may end up with hard water. And if you use less water than usual, you’ll be wasting salt and water with unnecessary regenerations.

The Kinetico Block Salt Water Softener will only regenerate when necessary-at any time of the day. The twin cylinders in the Kinetico system ensure you’ll have a continuous supply of soft water. You won’t run out of soft water. The Kinetico Block Salt Water Softener is comprised of twin softening, resin-filled cylinders to provide you with a continuous supply of soft water any time of day, even through the regeneration process.

When one cylinder needs to regenerate, service automatically switches to the other cylinder. Twin softening cylinders also enable the system to clean itself (or regenerate) with clean, soft water. Other water softening systems operate with hard water and use hard water to regenerate. The fine mesh resin used in the Kinetico Block Salt Water Softener works extremely well in this compact system. The smaller size creates more surface area allowing for a more efficient regeneration.


Block salt

The system utilises easy to use and easy to load blocks of salt. Handling block salt is much easier than fussing with heavy bags and salt tablets. No more struggling to load salt into the system or spilling salt tablets and making a mess of your floor. The 4kg blocks of salt (about the size of a standard brick) are clean and simple to insert into your system.

The brine measurement system draws the dissolved salt into the cylinders at controlled amounts for the regeneration process. Only the precise amount of brine is used, so your system operates properly and efficiently.


Salt efficiency

The Kinetico system ensures salt, which is required for the regeneration process, is not wasted with unnecessary (or too frequent) regenerations. Unlike other systems that regenerate at a predetermined time-no matter what the water use has been, the Kinetico system only initiates a regeneration after a predetermined amount of water has been used. It doesn’t matter if it takes a few hours or a few days to use the water, the system will only regenerate when necessary. And that saves salt and water.

Adding salt is about the only thing you’ll have to do to maintain your system. Adding blocks of salt won’t be a problem; the system is designed to let you add salt effortlessly. Once the blocks of salt dissolve to about 1/3 of their size, you can simply pop in another salt block on top of the current ones. And there’s no need to worry about exactly when you must add salt. As long as there is some salt in the system, it will continue to work.


Advantages of soft water

Since 1970, Kinetico has been designing and manufacturing innovative water treatment systems that solve a variety of water problems. When first introduced, the competition didn’t take Kinetico or its unique system seriously. Then, as the number of satisfied customers grew, Kinetico began to attract serious attention in the marketplace. It didn’t take long before Kinetico’s patented water softening system changed the water treatment industry forever. Expanding into international markets, Kinetico is now meeting water challenges in more than 100 countries worldwide.


Kinetico drinking water systems

Complement your Kinetico Block Salt Water Softener with a Drinking Water System by Kinetico. It takes good water from your water softening system and makes it even better for your drinking and cooking needs. Contact your Kinetico dealer for more information on how you can get excellent quality drinking water.

Save on water heating costs. Since there is no scale-build up with soft water, it costs much less to heat than hard water.

Save money on soaps and cleaning products. With soft water, you’ll use fewer detergents and cleaning products yet still have better result.

Detergents work better in soft water, so you’ll notice better cleaning results, and whiter, brighter laundry.

Save time spent cleaning. Scale, soap scum and hard water stains are eliminated with soft water. Shower-heads, sinks, baths and fixtures stay cleaner longer.

Eliminate hard water-marks. Don’t be embarrassed by water-marks any more. Hard water stains are gone when dishes, glasses and silverware are washed in soft water.

Discover softer, smoother hair and skin. With soft water, you’ll be amazed at how much better your hair and skin look and feel. Soft water washes soaps and shampoos completely away, leaving you with nothing but soft, clean, silky skin and hair.

Using A Water Softener In Your Home

Some people in the UK are fortunate to have naturally soft water to use in their homes. Those living in Scotland, Cornwall and the Lake District can generally enjoy the benefits of soft water by simply turning on the tap.

Many of us, however, must live with very hard water. Often, people with hard water don’t even realise what they’re missing until they visit someone with soft water. But it isn’t necessary to live with the problems caused by hard water.

It’s a fact- hard water is hard to live with. It scales up hot water tanks, pipes, boilers and washing machines, reduces their efficiency and adds to your heating bills. These systems will eventually require service or replacement. It costs you more in soaps, detergents, shampoos, descalers and bleaches. It’s hard on your clothing, skin and hair. It’s hard on your wallet. And you don’t have to live with it any longer!

Instantaneous Direct Acting Electric Showers

Electric showers

Electric showers are the easiest showers to install in terms of compatibility with existing water heating systems and locations throughout the home. They draw water direct from the mains water supply and heat it as it is used for showering. It can be used in most domestic showering applications e.g. over the bath, shower cubical’s, shower rooms etc.

(Redring Colour Moods shower shown)



  • Provides a shower that is independent of the main hot water heating system in the house, thus reducing the risk associated with breakdowns.
  • Can be installed in almost any home throughout the UK new & old.
  • Instantaneous shower; it can be used at any time of the day.


  • Requires electrical wiring from the shower unit to the main fuse box.
  • Flow rate tends to be lower than showers that use the homes main water heating system, and it will vary between summer when the incoming water is warm, and the winter when the flow rate will reduce because the incoming water is significantly colder..
  • Cost wise, the installation costs may be higher than showers that use the homes main water heating system due to the need for plumbing and electrical work.

Higher kilowatt output showers have gone a long to help overcome some of the disadvantages of poor flow; (10 kilowatt showers are the equivalent of over 3 emersion heaters or 10 x 1 kilowatt bars on an electric fire) but to some an electric appliance fitted in the bathroom is perceived as a safety risk. This is not the case, providing it is properly installed, by a trained professional who knows what he is doing. Electrical appliances are often associated with water for example the kettle, washing machine or the electric cooker, which needs frequent washing.

If this is the shower solution for you make sure its fitted correctly and use a reputable brand that has an established reputation within the UK.

Gravity Fed Mixer Showers

Showers that are fed from a stored hot water system, that can only feed hot water to the taps if the water has been pre heated in the cylinder.

Imagine a set of taps with a temporary, rubber, hand-shower attachment. The idea is very simple, you pre heat the water in your cylinder then turn the hot and cold taps to blend the water to achieve a comfortable showering or rinsing temperature. Mixer showers work on the same principal they are easy to install as they do not need any electrical connections, and work by blending hot and cold water together. They are ideal if you have an abundant supply of stored hot water.

The success of these types of shower is determined by the capacity of stored hot water that is available, and from a users point of view, the flow rate of water that is achieved from the shower rose. I shall attempt to explain without over complicating the issue.


The flow rate of water from the shower rose

Imagine a container of water with a hose connected to the bottom of it. If you hold the end of the hose above the level of water in the bucket no water will come out.

If you hold the rose just below the level of water in the container the water will come out, but it can be held quite easily by squeezing the end of the hose. The pressure of water is low because the water is almost finding its own level.

Now let the hose fall to its lowest point. This time the water has a high flow rate and it is difficult to squeeze the pipe to stop the flow of water. The pressure of water is high because it is free to run and because it has the whole weight of the water in the container forcing the water out. This is commonly referred to as the head of water: the difference between the bottom of the water header tank and the water outlet i.e. the tap of shower rose. The bigger the difference the faster the water comes out, it’s as simple as that.

To find out if you have gravity system; first check to see if you have a lagged ‘hot water cylinder’, these are most commonly located within an airing cupboard.

Secondly check to see if you have a ‘cold water storage tank’, this will most likely be situated in your loft or in older properties, perhaps in the top of a cupboard within your bathroom.

With a gravity system, cold water from the mains water (1) is piped into a ‘cold water storage tank’ (2) usually located within the loft space.

Using the principal of gravity the water flows to feed the hot water cylinder (3) then when a tap or shower(4) is turned on, water is allowed to flow around the system under the ‘head of pressure’ created by the cold water storage tanks (2) location. Therefore the higher your cold water storage tank the greater the pressure available = and a more powerful showering experience.


Shower pumps

When selecting a mixer shower for use on a gravity system, the most important thing to consider is the flow rate that is achievable from the shower rose. Unless you have water pressure of at least 0.5 bar, which is equivalent to a gap of five meters between the bottom of the cold water storage tank (2) and the shower rose (4) you will need to select a ‘Low Pressure’ shower valve, capable of supplying a satisfactory shower at water pressures as low as 0.1 bar, (which is approximately one meter difference).

You will be able to get a rough idea simply by observing the flow rate of water that you receive from the bath taps. Remember that you will be mixing hot and cold water but if it appears slow then the chances are that the showers performance will be disappointing.


The capacity of stored water.

If you opt for the pumped solution you must ensure that you have plenty of hot water storage capacity, for pumped showers can deliver anything between 11 – 25 Litres of blended water per minute, and this will drain the average sized cylinder very quickly.

You will have an idea of the amount of hot water that you have available by looking at the physical size of your cylinder and monitoring your everyday usage. For example the depth of hot water that you are able to achieve when running a bath before the hot water runs out. If you do not have large volumes of stored water, do not use a pump unless you alter the system to cope with it. Alternatively fit an electric shower.

Mains Pressure Showers

Showers that are fed from a domestic heating system that feeds hot water to the taps instantaneously on demand.

Combination boilers have become increasingly popular over the last 10-15 years as the number of one and two person homes as increased dramatically.

The combination boiler takes the practicality of an instantaneous ‘Multipoint’ water heater and combines it with a traditional boiler, hence the name ‘combination’ boiler. The great advantage is that you only use the water that you need.

You can establish whether you have an instantaneous boiler by the lack of any storage water cylinders. A simple test is to turn the central heating off, so that the boiler is not running; then turn a hot water tap on, the boiler should fire to supply water to the tap.

A combination boiler will switch all its heat output to water heating when demanded. This means that you will have a boiler capable of heating your whole house feeding your mixer shower.

Therefore if you have this type of water heating system you will need a shower that blends or mixes the hot and cold water to a safe showering temperature that can be maintained. Mixer showers that are compatible with instantaneous boilers will have a higher flow rate than electric showers, and are generally easier to install because there are no electrical connections.

(DEVA Modern Thermostatically Controlled Exposed Valve Shown.)



  • High flow rates, similar to a powered shower because these showers are mains fed and designed for pressurised water systems.
  • Easy to install, no problems with system design, location or compatibility with your existing water system, providing you have an instantaneous boiler that has been installed correctly.
  • Instantaneous shower only heats the water when you need it.


  • If your boiler breaks down you have no hot water for your taps or showering.
  • Combination boilers start to heat water when a tap or shower is turned on. The length of pipe from the boiler to the shower determines the time taken for hot water to reach the shower, and it is often the case that large volumes of water need to be drawn off, before water of the correct temperature is achieved, this can be costly and frustrating. Good system design and installation helps to overcome this problem in most cases.



Selecting The Right Shower

Selecting The Right Shower

Hot water for showering is provided either by a stored hot water system or by an instantaneous heater of some description that heats the water on demand. One could argue therefore that; ‘in general terms’, that there are only two different types of showering system:


Instantaneous electric shower

A direct acting appliance such as an electric shower, which heats the water as it is drawn through the unit.


Mixer valve shower

A shower that uses the same water system, that feeds your taps in the bathroom, kitchen, and utility room etc. Often referred to as a mixer shower.


However, hot water heating systems can also be divided into two ‘generic categories’:

  • Water that is heated; for example by an electric element (emersion heater) or a separate heating boiler; and then stored in a cylinder (which traditionally formed the airing cupboard)
  • Water that is heated on demand via an instantaneous boiler commonly known as a combination or multipoint type boiler.

Combination or instantaneous water heating boilers now account for approximately 50% of the UK, water and domestic heating market. Therefore when deciding which shower to choose you will need to consider three main options, follow the links to gain a brief over view of the benefits and pitfalls of each type of showering solution.

Reducing Condensation

What is condensation?

Condensation is formed when warm moist air, produced by everyday activities such as cooking and bathing, comes into contact with a cold surface. It helps to think of it as an invisible bubble of water that is produced in your kitchen or bathroom. The bubble then moves around your home until it either goes outside through an air vent or window, or hits a cold surface where it bursts as condensation.


It can happen in many areas of your home, for example

  • On windows where moisture droplets will form.
  • Around window frames where black mould will grow.
  • On outside walls where black mould will grow.
  • On all cold surfaces – even furniture and clothes – as it does not discriminate.


What can be done about condensation?

To combat condensation you need to balance four factors:



Cold areas in your home should be avoided, as these are where condensation can occur, so whole home heating is best. Heating systems and controls should be used efficiently. This will save you money, and make you more comfortable.



A loft should be insulated when you have one. This will cut heating bills, and keep your home warmer for longer. Windows, external doors and kitchen and bathroom doors should be draught proofed. This stops draughts, which make your home cold, and prevents moisture escaping elsewhere in the home. Walls can be insulated by filling the cavity with insulation material, or by dry lining with insulation board to warm up cold surfaces. Double-glazing can be fitted – but there most still be adequate ventilation of the room.



Humidstat extract fans fitted in the kitchen and bathroom will automatically get rid of moisture where it is produced. Windows opened during cooking or after a bath will let out moisture, but remember to close them again. Draught-free, permanent vents in all rooms should be provided to let out moisture. Remember – blocking up air-bricks, flues or ventilators can be dangerous if you use certain types of heaters.


Moisture Reduction

Drying clothes indoors produces a lot of moisture, so always dry outside if possible. If you have to dry clothes indoors, use the bathroom with its window open and door shut. Portable gas or paraffin heaters produce a lot of moisture. 1 pint of paraffin produces 1 pint of water when it burns. If you use these heaters you will need a lot more ventilation. These kinds of heaters are also often banned by landlords for safety reasons.

Some of these measures can be taken by you at very little cost. Condensation can be reduced, and often cured. If the points above are followed, condensation should not be a persistent problem in your home. However, you must remember that a balance is needed between the four factors.


Ways you can reduce moisture in your home

Avoid using portable gas and paraffin heaters. Open windows in the kitchen and bathroom, or use extractor fans if you have them when you are cooking or having a bath or shower. Remember to close them afterwards.

Keep kitchen and bathroom doors closed to stop moisture moving around your home. Draught-proofing these doors will also help. Don’t block vents or flues, as this can be dangerous. Covering boiling pans also helps and saves energy too.

Don’t dry clothes indoors if at all possible. If you have to, open the window and close the door to the room. This also applies to cloths or towels used to mop-up moisture from windows. If you dry them indoors, the moisture is just re-circulated in your home. If you have a tumble-dryer, make sure it is vented to the outside if it is designed to be.

Keep radiators clear of furniture and other obstructions. This will make sure that the maximum amount of heat gets into the room, and allows air to circulate more easily. This is also a wise safety precaution.