How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet With Ease

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Severe problems like leaking water supply pipes inside the walls are better left to the professionals, but this isn’t one of them!

Learning How to Fix leaky bathtub faucet is among the least complicated DIY projects!

We’ll guide the way for you, and with our tips, it’ll feel the easiest!

Considering the bathtub’s frequent use, it’s no surprise to encounter an annoying leaky faucet. It’s just going to happen with parts wearing over time. 

But here’s the thing…

Leaks are generally spotted coming from either the bathtub faucet or showerhead.

With the cartridges located behind the handles or washers wearing out, It’s a very common problem and one of the main culprits for forming stains in your bathtub. 

While it’s not the most destructive plumbing issue, hearing the loud drips from your faucet in the next room can undoubtedly drive you crazy. 

If you don’t rectify the problem, not only will you waste quite a bit of water, resulting in increased water bills, but it can cause structural damage requiring urgent repairs and renovations.

That’s the last thing you’ll want….

…especially If you don’t want to pay a fortune for a plumber to come and replace your faucet. 

Let’s get started!

How Does a Tub Faucet Work?

You probably use it every day. We rely on them much for the modern conveniences of hot and cold water running when the knobs are turned on.

No wonder!

It’s pretty straightforward from the outside, with the knobs being used for temperature adjustment.

But how does it work inside? 

By turning the faucet handle, the stem rotates. Suppose you were to turn the faucet on by screwing or turning the handle clockwise.

In that case, externally, it’s attached to the stem, and the washer would rise, releasing the pressure against the seat, which allows water to flow. 

Turning the faucet off in the opposite direction would result in the washer coming down until, eventually, it’s pressing hard against the two edges at the end of the stem.

But then…

The moment you turn the water off, down comes the rubber washer and what that does is: it closes the hole off there, and the water can’t get through anymore, applying pressure on the faucet seat and washer. 

Once it’s time to replace the washer, it’s that bit of the bottom that you’re replacing because sometimes bits of grit can get underneath it and wear a hole. 

Think about it!

Most people tighten down on that handle very hard against the metal, which leads to little holes in the washer resulting in inadequate pressure and water seeping through.

That’s why a worn washer or seat occasionally needs to be replaced in instances of water dripping from your faucet.

Essential Tools and Materials Required for This Project

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Monkeywrench
  • Bath socket wrench or grip pliers
  • Handle puller
  • Seat wrench
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • Plumber’s grease
  • Washers, screws, and bolts
  • Rag and cleaning cloth
  • Teflon tape
  • Bathtub caulk
  • Hairdryer

Instructions on How to Fix a Leaking Bathtub Faucet

Before you get started with the actual repair, you’ll want to make sure that you have all the necessary parts. 

Most homeowners have at least some, if not all, of the needed parts. If not, make a quick trip to the nearest home center or hardware store. 

There’s a large selection of unique parts for different faucets. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to bring the old parts to the store to determine a proper match for your leaky bathtub faucet. 

For worn-out finished or severely corroded valves, you’ll be best off replacing the entire faucet, which saves you more money in the long run.

1. Turn Off the Water Supply

When fixing a leaky bathtub faucet, you’ll want to avoid making a mess, so start by shutting off the water supply to the faucet. 

Most houses have a line that controls the water flow, particularly for the bathroom.

If that’s not the case with yours, close the main water shutoff line for your property, usually located in your basement. 

Before dismantling the faucet, be sure to open the hot and cold valves to relieve water pressure and empty out any remaining water from the pipes.

To avoid losing any screws or parts, you’ll want to either plug the drain on the tub or lay down a towel.

2. Remove the Faucet Handles

While the steps don’t differ, it’s worth pointing out two types of bathroom faucets: single handle and two-handle faucets.

With that said….

….on two-handle faucets, you’ll need to determine which one is leaking. 

If you’re not able to figure it out, don’t worry, as fixing both might be better anyway. 

  • Start unscrewing the handles by locating the retaining screw.
    • To gain access to the faucet’s screw, you may need to use a pocket knife or a slotted screwdriver to remove the coverings on the handles. Insert a Phillips head screwdriver into the hole and turn the screw counterclockwise.
  • Once you’ve removed the screw, avoid breaking the handle and use moderate force to pull it away from the wall.
    • If you’re having trouble taking out the handle due to corrosion, heat it with a hairdryer to help loosen it up. If it’s not coming out, don’t apply excessive force, instead use a unique tool for this purpose called a handle puller.
  • If your faucet doesn’t have a screw, to prevent damage, cover the faucet spout with a rag and use a wrench to loosen the faucet with counterclockwise turns. Once it wiggles, get it undone by hand.

3. Unscrew the Escutcheon and Companion Pieces

So what’s next? 

The collar that snugs up against the wall, which is called the escutcheon. You’ll need to either unscrew it or twist it off.

Unfortunately, it can often get stuck to the wall. 

FORTUNATELY, grip pliers can help loosen it up while avoiding metal or tile damage.

There might be a decorative piece laid around the outside of the faucet that’s threaded and unscrews relatively easily along with the collar. 

Now…

You’ll need to reconnect the removed components once you’re done fixing the faucet, so grab a small container and securely set them aside in order.

4. Take Out the Stem Bonnet

To gain access to the valve stem, you’ll need to remove the stem bonnet nut that holds the faucet stem in place.

Loosen the stem bonnet by sliding a special bath socket wrench onto the bonnet and unscrew it with a counterclockwise motion.

Hold onto the stem bonnet with grip pliers to break it loose and pull it out. 

5. Remove the Stem Seat

With overtime usage, the seat washer located at the top of your faucet stem can become powerless.

If it’s worn out, you’ll need to replace it.

Use a seat wrench, insert it firmly into the seat’s center, and remove it with counterclockwise turns. 

Remember…

To avoid hassle changing the entire faucet stem would be best for your peace of mind.

If you’re going that route, make sure you’re purchasing the right one, and take the old faucet stem on a trip with you to your local store.

6. Examine the Removed Parts

Take your storage container with the removed parts and identify faulty ones.

And let me tell you this…

While the most common reason for a leaky faucet is weared-out washers to fix the leak successfully, you’ll want to replace all the weared-out parts on both of the faucet valves. 

Depending on the frequency of maintenance, it’s no surprise to find your stem and bonnet nut rusted and covered in mineral deposits. 

  • To remove any build-up from the stem, you’ll want to pour white vinegar and use a scourer to get rid of mineral deposits before giving them a good rinse. 
  • Once everything is clear, inspect the washer on the end of the stem. Should it need a replacement, an old washer will be hardened and deformed. 
  • If your washers are in good condition, shift your focus to the seat that’s in contact with the washer. A seat can deteriorate through corrosion or as the rubber washer wears out due to high water pressure, resulting in a leaky faucet.

7. Replacing the Worn-out Parts

Now that you’ve inspected and separated the parts that need to be replaced, insert the new parts in reverse order.

Also…

When dealing with a washerless faucet, keep in mind that you’ll be replacing the cartridge instead of replacing the washer. 

To reinstall the stem, be sure to lubricate the parts with the plumber’s grease and DON’T over-tighten the faucet so it can easily be removed in case of future repairs. 

  • First, replace the inner parts of the stem bonnet.
    • Swap the washers with new ones. While you’re at it, it’s recommended that you replace the entire stem and bonnet portion of the faucet. Before sliding the new parts in place, apply the plumber’s grease and firmly tighten them.
  • Next, cut off the rubber seat washer with a utility knife.
    • Then grease the new seat washer and the screw’s threads. Use a seat wrench to screw the seat back into its place. 
  • Look for a washer at the end of the bonnet.
    • If it’s in poor condition, pull it off and coat the new one in the plumber’s grease before sliding it in place.
  • In the middle of the stem bonnet, there’s a packaging nut.
    • Extract the rubber-packing washer from the nut with a screwdriver. Grease the front threads on the stem and place the new rubber-packing washer from the nut into the bonnet.
  • Onto the replacement packaging washer.
    • Coat it in the plumber’s grease and slide it on top of the packaging nut.
  • When replacing the bonnet.
    • Be sure to apply pipe joint compound to the bonnet threads. To reinstall it, use a bath socket wrench to tighten it in the faucet’s body.
  • Finally, reinstall the escutcheon, companion pieces, and handles.
    • Before you reattach the escutcheon to achieve a waterproof tight seal, it’s recommended to apply a little bathtub caulk and let it cure.

8. Restore the Water Supply

Before you put your toolset away, test out your handy work and ensure you’ve fixed the leak.

Restore the water and run the faucet.

While an old washer is the most common culprit for leaky bathtub faucets, If the leak persists, don’t hesitate to hire a plumber.

Conclusion

Dealing with an annoying dripping tub faucet is no fun!

It can increase your water bills and stain your bathtub. BUT, calling a plumber for such a straightforward job can seem like a waste of money. Dare to give it a go yourself — following this step-by-step guide, and if you’ve found it helpful, don’t forget to give it a share! 

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