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A leaky bathtub faucet is more than an annoying drip. The gallons of water wasted by a leaking faucet can add up to higher water bills and can break down the interior faucet parts. Repairing a leaky faucet is generally an easy fix. This guide takes you through the steps of identifying the cause of the problem and how to fix a leaking bathtub faucet without calling for the services of a plumber.
What Causes Bathtub Faucets to Drip?
There are many bathtub faucet designs, from single-hole wall-mounted versions to three-hole center-set tub faucet spouts. A stem or cartridge regulates the flow of water from the mixing valve that the hot and cold water lines run into.
- A cracked or worn washer in the stem is a common source of a dripping bathtub faucet. Each time the water is turned on the washer is pushed against the valve. This repeated friction over time causes the washer to wear out.
- The tub faucet stem or cartridge itself may be the cause of the leak. The faucet stem or cartridge raises and lowers when the faucet handle is turned. This prompts the water flow. If the stem or cartridge is failing, it may not be fully blocking the stream of water.
- Old or worn faucet handles can also be the source of a dripping bathtub faucet. Handles can rust and crack after years of use and may not completely shut off water after each use.
- The pipe to the bathtub faucet spout may be the source of the leak.
Shut Off the Water Supply
The first task is to shut off the water supply to the bathroom. This stops the full flow of water to the house. The shut-off valve is commonly found in the basement or crawlspace of the house. Turn the shut-off valve clockwise to stop the water flow.
In many homes the shut-off valve may be installed outside where the municipal water meter is located. The valve may not have been turned in years, so use an adjustable wrench to twist the valve shut.
Once the water flow has been stopped, turn the handle (or handles) to the “on” position and let any remaining water from the pipes drain into the bathtub.
Remove the Faucet Handle
Dismantle the faucet next to get access to the faucet hardware and check the hardware for wear and tear.
Take off the decorative cap and use a screwdriver to loosen the screws in the center of the faucet handle.
Once the screws are removed, tug on the handle to detach it.
Assess the Parts
After removing the handle, examine the stem or cartridge and the inside of the handles to determine what kind of condition they’re in.
Examine the washer, the valve stem or cartridge and the handle, and take note of any parts that appear weak or eroded.
Replace the Faucet Washer
The exposed rubber part at the top of most faucet stems or cartridges is the washer. Many washers are used for specific brands of stems or cartridges, so you may have to have the washer checked to make sure you get a new one that is compatible with the faucet parts.
Replace the washer if it appears cracked or worn.
- Use a socket wrench to loosen the screw holding the washer together.
- Remove the washer and insert a new one, then put the screw back on.
If your tub faucet is still leaking after swapping out this piece, you may need to replace the faucet stem.
Replace the Faucet Stem
The stem or cartridge may be the problem if replacing the washer fails to stop the leak. These steps show how to stop a leaky bathtub faucet if the stem or cartridge is the source of the problem.
- Clear any rust, wax or caulk from around the base.
- Use an adjustable wrench to loosen the bolts that hold it together. If the bolts are located in the wall, use a socket wrench to remove them.
- Remove the stem and install a new one in the fitting using new bolts. Many stems or cartridges are used with specific brands of faucets, so you may have to have the stems or cartridges checked to make sure you get a new one that is compatible with the faucet parts.
- If the bathtub faucet is still dripping after replacing the handle, washer and stem, you may need to replace the entire bathtub spout.
Replace the Handle
Replace the bathtub faucet handle with a new one according to your faucet type.
Turn the water supply back on. Run water from the bathtub faucet and turn it off. Watch if the leak persists.
Check the Faucet Spout
A worn seal on the threads of a short length of pipe leading to the spout may be one more reason for a leaking faucet.
- The first step is to remove the faucet spout. The spout is either a thread-on spout that can be screwed on and off, or a set-screw spout. A small hexagon screw underneath the spout indicates that it is a set-screw spout. Use a wrench or socket wrench to loosen the screw and remove the spout.
- Use a utility knife to score the sealant where the spout and bathtub wall meet for easier removal.
- Remove the length of pipe, called a pipe nipple, with a wrench.
- Wrap the threads of both ends of the nipple with plumber’s tape or Teflon tape.
- Install the nipple into the 90-degree elbow pipe within the wall. Turn the nipple clockwise until it tightens.
- Reattach the faucet spout.
- Turn on the water to flush out any debris.
- Apply a new bead of sealant between the faucet spout and wall.
Knowing how to fix a leaking bathtub faucet can save time and money. Need help identifying a tool or material for fixing a leaking bathtub faucet? Download The Home Depot App to find plumbing repair supplies fast. If the bathroom faucet leak persists, it may be a more serious issue. The Home Depot’s plumbing services can connect you with a professional to find the problem and come up with the solution.