Leaky faucets can cost you a lot of money in extra water bills over time, and the water constantly dripping into you tub will also eventually leave an unsightly stain. However, you may be hesitant to spend money on a plumber because you know they can be expensive.
In fact, fixing a leaky bathtub faucet is not a particularly difficult job, and with a few basic tools, you should be able to carry out the repairs by yourself. If you’re interested in trying, here’s our step-by-step guide for how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet.
If you want to see some of things we’ll be talking about, you can check out this video before you read on.
How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet
The most common reason for a leaky faucet is an old washer that needs to be replaced. Here are the steps for how to do it – and these steps apply to most kinds of bathtub, including walk-in bathtubs, corner bathtubs and so on.
However, for a freestanding bathtub with a separate faucet, the steps would be slightly different.
Step 1. Shut off the water supply
The first step when fixing a leaky bathtub faucet is shutting off the water supply. If you forget to do it, you will end up spraying water everywhere when you start to remove the faucet from its fitting.
There may be a simple valve in your house or apartment that allows you to turn off the water to the bathtub.
If not, you will have to turn off the water supply to your whole house before you can move to the next step – there should be a lever near the water meter that will allow you to do this.
Step 2. Remove the cap from the faucet
The next step is to pry off the cap that covers the faucet handle screw. To do this, you can either use a small pocketknife or a slotted screwdriver.
First, open the faucet all the way to drain any water (the same as if you wanted to run the water) and then pry the cap off with your chosen tool. Place it somewhere safe where you will be able to find it again later.
Step 3. Unscrew the handle screw
Once the cap has been removed, you will see the screw inside the faucet handle that holds the handle in place. You now need to remove this with a screwdriver.
Unscrew the screw and place it with the cap so you don’t lose it.
Step 4. Remove the handle
After removing the screw, you can then remove the handle. Depending on how old your faucet is, this part can be a little tricky since corrosion and water deposits can cause the handle to fuse to the stem.
If it doesn’t want to come off, don’t force it – you might break it. Instead, a couple of tricks that might help include warming it with hot air from a hairdryer or pouring boiling water over it.
If it still refuses to move, you might need to resort to using a handle puller, a special tool that is designed for this purpose.
Step 5. Remove the escutcheon
The next step is to remove the escutcheon, the plate that covers the hole in the wall. Depending on your faucet, you may need to unscrew it, or you may be able to simply twist it off.
Step 6. Remove the stem assembly
With the escutcheon out of the way, you now have access to the stem assembly. This is the part you need to reach to fix the leak.
You can use an adjustable wrench to remove stem assembly.
Step 7. Check the washer
The most likely reason for a faucet to start leaking is that the washer needs to be replaced. When you remove the stem assembly, the first thing you can do is check the washer on the end.
If it needs to be replaced, it should be quite obvious – an old washer will be hardened and deformed, and this is what lets the water drip through, causing the leak.
Step 8. Replace the washer
If the washer is the culprit, you need to change it. If you have spare washers, simply go ahead and put a new one on. This is an easy job – you just unscrew the washer screw, remove the washer, put a new one in and replace the screw.
However, if you don’t have one, you will need to go to the hardware store to buy one. If you do this, it’s a good idea to take the old one with you so you can show the staff in the store. This way, they will be able to find the one you need.
Step 9. Check the seat for damage
Another possible reason why you might have a leak is that the seat is damaged. The seat is the part that is in contact with the washer, and it may become damaged either as the washer wears away or through corrosion.
A damaged seat may cause a leak itself, and it can also quickly damage the new washer you have just fitted, causing the leak to return.
For these reasons, before you replace the stem assembly with the new washer installed, you should also check the seat for any signs of damage.
Step 10. Replace the seat if necessary
If you find any signs of damage to the seat, you will need to remove it and replace it. To remove the seat, you need to use a seat wrench, a special kind of tool made for this purpose.
Step 11. Put everything back in place
Once you have replaced the washer and checked and replaced the seat as necessary, it’s time to put everything back in place.
Replace the stem assembly and tighten it with the adjustable wrench, replace the escutcheon and screw it back into place as required and then screw the handle back into place.
With the handle firmly attached and screwed back into place, you can replace the cap that covers it.
The next step is to turn the water back on and test the faucet to see if the water runs the way it should. If the water is now running correctly and the faucet is no longer leaking, you have successfully completed the repair job.
Save yourself some cash and try to do it yourself
Calling in the plumber for such a basic job can seem like a waste of money. While you might need to spend some money buying specialist tools like the seat wrench, it’s still cheaper than paying a professional, and you’ll always have the tool ready if you ever need it again.
Repairing a leaky faucet is one of the simplest plumbing jobs there is, and if you’re feeling adventurous and up for a challenge, by following our step-by-step guide, you should be able to do it yourself without too many problems.
10 thoughts on “11 Easy Steps to Fix a Leaking Bathtub Faucet”
Emma great article. A leaky faucet while not the most destructive plumbing issue, is the most annoying one our clients have! haha. I think your blog has inspired me to start one on my site about other annoying plumbing problems!
I really like working with Pricer Pfister. The older style, especially because Price Pfister is relatively easy to fix, and are very common. Also, the Moen brand is pretty easy you just need a cartridge puller. When I have worked on other brands that I have fixed including Moen and Price Pfister. Many at times after being repaired they may commence to leak. Especially when there old. So I usually mention to the customer if they would like a new tub shower valve. So not to have the inconvenience of it breaking down so often. And wasting water.
I replaced the cartridge in my bathtub and now the faucet is dripping when I cut the water off. What is the issue?
THANK YOU!!! This helped me greatly. I had a few hiccups.. however, once I YouTube solutions… and three trips to the hardware store… everything went well. And, I got it done for $50 bucks and two hours of my labor! This video was a great start! Thank you!
I have paid two different plumbers almost $700 for a leaky tub spout. They replaced the Delta tub spout and the all-in-one Delta faucet. Three months later, the tub is leaking worse than ever. When I called them back, one plumber said I need a new hot water heater, and the other one said a new PRV. I’m at my wits end. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
After reading this I suggest buying a 3/4 in. Water Pressure Test Gauge
by Watts, it attaches to your hose bib and left on overnight will cheaply tell you if you have high water pressure issues. Your sleuthing won’t end there though sorry.
But to start with do you have a PRV? PRV’s limit the homes pressure to between 50 and 75 psi, having a PRV doesn’t stop pressure issues, just ones from the city supply.
Ok now we have a properly working PRV but still have issues found with our handy dandy Water Pressure Test Gauge?
Sleuthing stage two, thermal expansion caused by HWT, a water heater expansion tank prevents unwanted increases in pressure. Water expands by roughly 2% as it heats up from 50° F to 120° F and can definitely cause leak as you described.
Ok we have a PRV and a expansion tank that is working, but still have a leak?
Its the Delta faucet cartridge.
Hope this helps.
In a four story condo building built in the 60’s with one stack between floors are there other reasons for a leaky bathtub spout other than the hardware itself? I’m on the third floor of a four story building.
I bought a old house the tub leaks
I followed the video but this faucet doesn’t have a rubber gasket it looks more like a thin metal diaphragm how does one fix these is there a video on it. ! Or do I have to replace it
Thank You! Well done
All I need is a small washer to fix a Sunrise Specialty cold water faucet in my free-standing tub. I have been to every place that sells plumbing supplies in my area, and no one has it, nor has anyone seen one like it. It’ about 5/8″ in diameter, brass on the inside with a flexible white covering. Where can I get one? Will another type of washer work?