Short-term fix for broken tap washer?
July 6, 2008 7:59 AM   Subscribe

My friend has a broken tap washer, but we can't source a replacement washer tonight. He turned off the mains to stop the water from gushing out. Is there a short term fix that we can apply to the tap-with-no-washer to stop water from coming out of that tap, so that we can turn the mains back on and use water in the rest of the house?
posted by hAndrew to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
There should be a shut-off valve under the sink where the hot and cold water pipes come up from the floor.
posted by moosedogtoo at 8:05 AM on July 6, 2008

Response by poster: We searched for a shut-off valve but couldn't find one. More information: This is the hot tap for a bath.
posted by hAndrew at 8:13 AM on July 6, 2008

A lot of times, you can shut it off further down the line, but before the tap. So you'll kill water to half the house, or whatever. But trace the pipes, you HAVE to have other cut off points. If not, you're really going to want to get some added. A plumber can do this fairly quickly and fairly cheaply.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:21 AM on July 6, 2008

Depending on how your friend's house is arranged, you might find something in the crawlspace, vertically in line under the bathtub.
posted by boo_radley at 8:35 AM on July 6, 2008

If it's the hot water tap, you should be able to shut off the hot water at the water heater, which at least gives you cold water for the night.
posted by eriko at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2008

Response by poster: Update: We turned off the hot water pressure at the gas hot water heater, so now we can use cold water throughout the house without the broken tap gushing water. Thanks for your replies.

I'm still interested in the academic question of whether MacGyver could fashion a makeshift washer from the contents of a typical house.
posted by hAndrew at 8:42 AM on July 6, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks eriko :).
posted by hAndrew at 8:42 AM on July 6, 2008

You could cut a piece of plastic or rubber or synthetic cork from a wine bottle to fit. Even a small rubber ball, or a rubber foot from an old radio could work. You don't need the hole through the middle, or the screw. The water pressure will prevent anything from disappearing down the hole, but you may have to pick it out later with a dental tool or something--with the main water off, of course.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:50 AM on July 6, 2008

This happened in my old house a few years ago. We were able to cut down a piece of rubber to the appropriate size and it was almost water tight. The tap dripped but it was very effective.

I second cjorgensen's suggestion to install a few more shut-offs down the line of the main shut-off valve.

Also, for what they cost he should buy a few extra washers and keep them on hand for this kind of emergency.
posted by KevCed at 8:53 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

If the tap you shut off is at the outlet for the water heater, you're OK. If it's at the inlet, you should also turn off the gas, lest the heater run without being full of water.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:58 AM on July 6, 2008

McGyver would likely find a piece of leather, cut it down to size, put a hole in that and put the screw through the hole. Before the wide availability of rubber that was the main sealing element in valves of many kinds including flapper valves in well pumps.
posted by jet_silver at 1:23 PM on July 6, 2008

When I was sharing a house with MacGyver and some other guys after college, we once repaired a tap by trimming down a piece of hard rubber from an old shoe. It worked pretty well for a ten-minutes-with-a-pocketknife kind of repair. In retrospect I wonder about the wisdom of running your drinking water over someone's old shoe sole, but I guess MacGyver has a good immune system.
posted by hattifattener at 7:25 PM on July 6, 2008

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