Generally speaking, the bigger the job, the scarier it is to tackle in the eyes of homeowners. Unclogging a pipe in the sink is one thing, but fix a leaky bathtub faucet in the master bathroom? That’s an entirely different beast altogether.

Want to know a dirty little secret, though? Both of them are pretty easy.

Now, “easy” is obviously a relative term – what’s easy to a master DIY’er is not always easy to a first-time homeowner – but with a few tools, a little elbow grease, and a touch of patience, you can get that bathtub faucet off your wall and cleaned in no time.

How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet

Step One: Get the right tools.

If you have these tools in your plumbing arsenal already, good for you! If not, look at it as a convenient time to stock up on some basic necessities.

  • Wrench – Adjustable (crescent) or monkey wrench. If you have a bath-socket wrench (most homeowners do not), get that instead. It’ll make this job easier.
  • Screwdrivers – Grab both a Phillips and flat-head screwdriver. You’ll need both for different purposes.
  • Jar Gripper – Go into the kitchen and grab the one you use to open the jar of pickles. It’ll work fine.
  • Replacement Parts – You’ll either need a washer or stem bonnet to fix the leak, but you may not know which until you take it apart. If you know what kind of stem bonnet you need already, head down to the hardware store and pick it up; if you don’t, the employees may be able to help. If you’d rather wait til you’ve disassembled the unit, that’s fine too.
  • Rag – Things could get messy.
  • (OPTIONAL) A hairdryer – Not necessary, but may come in handy in a pinch.

If you want a more visual demonstration of how to do the following, here’s an excellent video that explains it all step-by-step.

Step Two: Shut the water off to the house

Find the main cut off to the water valve for the entire house and switch it off. Since you’ll be playing around with the pipes, the last thing you want is for a geyser to shoot out from the wall and make a mess, or even injure someone in the process. Make sure you tell the rest of the people in the house that the water will be going off. This includes sinks, faucets, and toilets. Once you return back to the bathtub faucet, turn both the hot and cold handles to drain out the rest of the water left in the immediate piping area.

Step Three: Take the Faucet Handle Off the Wall

Depending on the style of faucet handle you have, this could go a couple of different ways, but don’t worry, this is usually the hardest part of the job. Generally speaking, you’ll take off the handle insert on the decorative part of the faucet, which will reveal a screw underneath. Use your screwdrivers to remove the screw and jiggle the handle a little bit to remove the cap. DO NOT FORCE THE CAP OFF. Doing so could break the handle and/or cause a bigger leak. If the handle is too stubborn to take off, use the hairdryer to heat up the faucet and try to wiggle it off that way. If it’s still too stubborn, call a plumber. If you break it, call a plumber ASAP.

Step Four: Remove the Stem

Use a wrench to remove the stem from the wall, and examine the unit. If the stem looks fine, slide a new washer on it and reassemble the unit. If they both look corroded, it’s better to stick the new stem inside. If you are planning on replacing the bathtub faucet with a new decorative one, get those parts out at this time.

Step Five: Reassemble the Unit

Do everything we just mentioned in reverse. Tighten the stem back into the wall (but not too tight or it will break), put the faucet on top of the stem, replace the screw and tighten it, and then put any decorative coverings in place.

Step Six: Test the Bathtub Faucet

Now comes the moment of truth. Have someone in the bathroom area to monitor the faucet (if possible), and turn the main water valve back on. If there’s no immediate leak, turn on the handle to test the water pressure. If there’s still no leak, you’re done!

And that’s how you fix a leaky bathtub faucet. Not as hard as you thought, right?


Still stuck and need someone to help replace your leaky bathtub faucet? Call Fountain Plumbing today for a free quote!

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