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What are the different types of water tap?

What are the different types of water tap?

It seems like there are endless types of water tap when looking at the possible designs and finishes, but when it comes to the mechanics there are four main varieties of household tap: compression washer, ball, disk and cartridge.


Drips and leaks are caused by different things and solved in different ways, depending on the type of tap you are dealing with. In this article, we explain to you all the different types of water tap as well as the benefits and common problems which can occur.

Compression Taps

Compression washer taps are the oldest and most common type of tap and also the ones which can cause the most problems.


A washer tap works by moving a washer covered nut up and down against the seat, controlling the water flow. These always have separate hot and cold water taps. 

Tap reseaters are used with compression washer taps. Other repairs that may be required on a compression washer tap include replacement of the washer (rubber stopper) or O-ring (rubber sealer).

Ball Taps

Taps with a ball fitting are usually recognisable by their single lever handle and rounded cap.


They are what is known as a mixer tap; where the hot and cold water supply is controlled by the same handle. The ball rotates, lining up different holes to allow water to pass.

There are repair kits or individual spare parts available for ball taps. The ball, O-rings, valve seals and springs are some of the parts that can be replaced in ball taps.

Disk Taps

Disk taps are also single handle mixer taps and are identified by their wide cylindrical body. They work using two ceramic disks which have holes that, when aligned, allow the water to pass. This means that disk taps only ever require a quarter turn to reach full capacity and are easily handled.


Ceramic disk taps are very long lasting but there are a few parts that could need repair. Eventually the disks will wear out and the cylinder or whole tap will need to be replaced.

Occasionally, small particles of dirt, grit or other foreign body can get trapped between the ceramic washers preventing them from closing correctly, so It is worth removing and cleaning the discs before considering a replacement disk tap.

Cartridge Taps

Cartridge taps have components similar to all of the other three types of tap, this is what makes it difficult to determine which type you have until it has been disassembled. Cartridge taps have an internal cartridge which, when twisted, allows the water to pass. They can be single or double handled. 

If a cartridge tap is leaking, this may be due to a damaged cartridge, spring or washer. All of these can be replaced. 


It is also possible for leaks to occur due to problems with other parts of the fixture, for example, a build-up of lime can cause problems for the pipes and spout. If the tap still leaks after the fixing and replacement of parts of the mechanisms, then it is probably best to contact a plumber.

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