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Whether you need to repair a leaky bathtub faucet or simply want to add new fixtures to spruce up your bathroom, it’s useful to know how to replace a bathtub faucet. This guide reviews how to remove and replace bathtub faucets, handles and other parts.
Before You Replace a Bathtub Faucet
Bathtub faucets tend to operate similarly but have slightly different configurations. Before replacing a bathtub spout, determine whether it has a slip-on or threaded design.
- A slip-on spout is made to “slip” onto the water stub-out pipe attached to the wall plumbing. A set screw secures the spout to the pipe.
- A threaded spout, also called a screw-on spout, has threads that fit over the end of the stub-out pipe. It doesn’t need a set screw.
- Whether your bathtub has two handles or a single handle design, it's installed with thin stems that connect to the pipes and will also need to be removed or replaced.
- Before detaching any parts, shut off the water supply to the house to prevent the plumbing from spraying.
- Open the faucet to drain any residual water and then close it.
- Use a putty knife to scrape off any old caulk where the spout or handles meets the wall.
Tip: Cover the drain with a cloth or rag to keep screws and other small parts from going down the drain pipe.
How to Remove Bathtub Handles
Removing bathtub faucet handles is essentially the same whether you have a one- or two-handled design.
- Begin by using a flat-head screwdriver to pry off the handle’s plastic cover (also called the plastic insert or index).
- Unscrew the handle screw with a flathead or Phillips-head screwdriver as needed.
- Wiggle the handle and pull it off. You may need a faucet handle puller if the handle will not come off by hand.
- Place a socket wrench over the bathtub faucet stem until it covers the hex nut. Turn the wrench counterclockwise to loosen the nut until you can pull the stem free.
- Repeat the steps if you have a two-handle system.
Tip: Use penetrating oil to loosen stubborn screws or fittings.
How to Remove a Bathtub Spout
- When removing a slip-on spout, remove the set-screw at the bottom of the spout. Use an Allen wrench or appropriate screwdriver based on the type of screw.
- Pull the spout from the wall with both hands.
- When removing a threaded spout, place the jaws of locking pliers or a pipe wrench around the spout and tighten until secure. Turn the wrench counterclockwise until the spout is free.
Tip: Place a rag or duct tape between the spout and the jaws of the tool to keep from scratching the spout. (If you plan to recycle or dispose of the old spout, this may not be needed.)
How to Replace a Bathtub Cartridge
Bathtub cartridges regulate water flow and temperature.
- To change a bathtub cartridge, begin by removing the handle as described in Step 1.
- Remove the screws holding the escutcheon plate in place and slide out the escutcheon.
- Remove the retaining clip that holds the cartridge in place with a screwdriver.
- Remove the cartridge with pliers. You may need a cartridge-pulling wrench depending on your plumbing configuration.
- Check the O-rings and replace as needed. New O-rings will reduce the chance of leaks.
- Insert the new cartridge (or repaired old one) and slide in the retaining clip to hold it in place.
- Follow the steps to replace the handle.
How to Replace Bathtub Faucet Handles
- Make sure your replacement handles and stems match the old ones in size and configuration (for example, don’t try to replace a one-handle system with a two-handle one). You can confirm this by bringing the old ones with you to the store when you buy the new ones.
- Put the new stem in the hold and turn clockwise to tighten. After you’ve secured it by hand, tighten it with a socket wrench.
- Slide the new handle over the stem until it comes into contact with the wall.
- Tighten the screw to secure the handle to the stem.
- Snap the plastic cover back in place.
- Repeat the steps if you have a two-handle system.
Tip: If the handles aren’t water-tight at the walls, use caulk to make a seal.
How to Replace a Bathtub Spout
- Make sure your replacement faucet will match your original fittings.
- If you have a threaded spout, wrap fresh plumber’s tape or thread-seal tape over the threading of the wall pipe.
- Put the new spout in place and turn it clockwise until it’s secure, and then tighten it with an adjustable wrench or a pair of pliers. Use a rag or duct tape to protect the finish (and remove when the spout is tightened). Make sure the spout is pointing straight down into the tub.
- If you have a slip-on spout, slide it onto the pipe until the base meets the wall and make sure it’s facing directly downwards.
- Insert and tighten the set screw to secure the spout in place.
- Apply caulk where the base of the spout meets the wall.
- When all the new fittings are in place, turn the water supply to your house back on.
Tip: If you added new caulk, make sure it has dried to manufacturer’s specifications before running water in the tub.
Knowing how to replace a bathtub faucet can help you troubleshoot dripping bathroom leaks or give old fixtures a new look. The Home Depot is your DIY headquarters. Looking for a product to complete your project? We have options to deliver online orders when and where you need them.