How to Fix a Bathtub Faucet Leak

How to fix a leaky faucet bathtub: A Guide to a Common Problem

This is a guide to fixing a common household plumbing issue. A leaky bathtub faucet not only leaves an unsightly mess around the faucet and in the bathtub, but it can also waste a lot of water and money. The good news is knowing how to fix a leaking bathtub faucet is easy and affordable.

What Causes a Leaky Faucet?

All faucets operate by regulating the flow of water through the use of a cartridge or a stem. This cartridge or stem is incorporated with neoprene or rubber seals or washers that close and open against water inlet ports inside the faucet body. 

When these washers don’t fit properly, it lets a small amount of water continue up to the faucet spout, where it makes that frustrating and annoying dripping. The failure to seal can be caused chiefly by seals or washers that have lost their sturdiness and fail to seal correctly. 

Other causes of a leaking bathtub faucet can be caused by foreign material inside the faucet body or simply corrosion.

Tip: Not all faucets are the same. If your faucet looks especially difficult to disassemble, you must research the best steps to suit your particular model. Don’t worry because we’ve included some popular bathtub faucet brands to fix in this guide.

Tools Required for the Repair a Leaking Bathtub Faucet

channel lock pliers

Materials Required to Fix a Leaking Faucet

  • Seals and Washers
  • White Vinegar
  • Replacement Faucet Cartridge (if needed)
  • Spray Penetrating Oil (optional)
  • Stem Valve Repair Parts
  • Lumber’s Grease (optional)
  • Hairdryer (optional)
  • Boiling Hot Water (optional)

Steps Required in How to Fix a Leaky Faucet in a Bathtub

The most frequent cause of a leaky faucet is an old washer that requires to be replaced. Here are the steps in how to fix a bathtub faucet leak.

Fact: These steps apply to most types of bathtubs, such as corner bathtubs, walk-in bathtubs, etc.

leaking bathtub faucet

Step 1. Shut Off the Water Supply

When fixing a bathtub faucet leak, the first step is to shut off the water supply. If you happen to forget to turn it off, you’ll end up splashing water everywhere when you begin to take out the bathtub faucet from its place.

There could be a simple valve in your apartment or home that enables you to turn off the water to the bathtub. If there’s none, you’ll need to turn off the water supply to your entire house before you can move on to step two – you should find a lever near the water meter that will let you do this.

Step 2. Remove the Cap From the Faucet

Now, pry off the cap that covers the faucet handle screw. To do this, you can either use a slotted screwdriver or a small pocket knife.

First, open your faucet all the way to drain any water left, and then pry the cap off with the slotted screwdriver. Put the cap somewhere safe where you can easily find it later.

Step 3. Unscrew the Handle Screw

After removing the cap, you’ll notice the screw inside the faucet handle that holds the handle in position. You must remove this using a screwdriver. Unscrew the screw and put it somewhere safe as well.

Step 4. Remove the Handle

Once you remove the screw, you can then take out the handle. Depending on your faucet’s age, this step can be slightly tricky because water deposits and corrosion can make the handle fuse to the stem.

If you can’t remove it, don’t force it, or you might break it. Instead, you can try pouring boiling water over it or warming it using hot air from a hairdryer.

If you can’t still remove it, you might have to resort to utilizing a handle puller, a unique tool made for this very purpose.

Step 5. Remove the Escutcheon

Now, remove the escutcheon, which is the plate that covers the hole in the wall. Depending on the faucet, you may have to unscrew it, or you may be able to twist it off.

Step 6. Remove the Stem Assembly

Once the escutcheon is removed, you should be able to access the stem assembly now. This is the part you must reach to fix the leak. You can use an adjustable wrench to take out the stem assembly.

Step 7. Check the Washer

The most likely reason for a bathtub faucet to start leaking is that its washer must be replaced. When you take out the stem assembly, you should first check the washer on end. You should be able to tell whether it needs to be replaced or not quickly. An old washer will be deformed and hardened, and this is what allows the water to leak.

Step 8. Replace the Washer

If the washer is the cause, you must change it. If you have extra washers, just go ahead and install a new one. This is an easy task- you simply unscrew the washer screw, take out the washer, put the new one on, and replace the screw.

faucet washer

But if you don’t have extra washers, you should go to the hardware store to purchase one. If you do this, it’s an excellent idea to take the old one with you so you can get the right one for your needs.

Step 9. Check the Seat for Damage

Another possible cause why you might have a leaky bathtub faucet is that the seat is faulty. The seat is that part that is in contact with the washer, and it may become damaged either through corrosion or as the washer wears away.

A faulty seat may cause a leak itself, and it can also rapidly damage the new washer you just put on, causing the leak not to get fixed. That’s why, before replacing the stem assembly with the new washer installed, you must also inspect the seat if it’s damaged or not.

Step 10. Replace the Seat if Necessary

If you spot any signs of damage to the seat, you must remove it and replace it. To take out the seat, you must use a seat wrench, a particular type of tool made for this purpose.

Step 11. Put Everything Back in Place

After you have replaced the washer and inspected and replaced the seat as necessary, it is time to put everything back in its proper place.

Replace the stem assembly and fasten it using an adjustable wrench, replace the escutcheon, and screw it back into its original place as needed, and then screw the handle back into its correct position.

With the handle firmly installed and screwed back into its place, you can replace the cap that covers it.

Now, turn the water back on and test your bathtub faucet and see if the water runs the way it should be. If the water is currently working the right way, and your faucet is no longer dripping, you just have successfully finished the repair task.

How to fix a leaky faucet bathtub

Tips in How to Fix a Slow Leak in Bathtub Faucet?

Find the Proper Tightness

As you reassemble your bathtub faucet, make sure that everything is tight and not overly tight. By doing so, you’ll easily disassemble the parts in the future.

Test the Faucet

Determining a leaky faucet if you have a double handle unit is easy since you can simply feel if the dripping water is cold or hot.

Frequently Inspect Your Bathtub Faucet

You will only know if your plunge bath is dripping by giving close attention. It would help if you did at least monthly inspections on the different parts of your bathroom, particularly the bathtub and the taps. 

Check for stains, mineral deposits, drips, and puddles on the faucet’s decorative collar that must not be there. If you spot any, try to find the source and find a quick solution to the issue.

How to Fix a Leaky Delta Bathtub Faucet

Even though products like the Delta bathtub faucet are manufactured for durability and quality, that doesn’t imply that they can’t have leaking issues.

delta bathtub faucet

With that said, here’s how to fix a leaky Delta bathtub faucet:

Take Out the Faucet Handle

Loosen the faucet handle, using either an Allen wrench to remove a setscrew on the side of the handle or using either a screwdriver to remove the screw on top of the handle. Lift the faucet handle straight up to take it out from the faucet stem.

Tip: You may have to remove a decorative cap from the top of the faucet handle to access the handle screw.

Remove the Bonnet Nut

Unfasten the bonnet nut securing the faucet stem. Use tongue and groove pliers or an adjustable wrench to turn the nut counterclockwise. Unfasten the nut entirely and take it out from the stem.

Remove the Stem

Make sure to write down the position of the stem before taking it out. You should reinstall it in precisely the same position for the faucet to operate correctly. Stems typically have one or more tabs that fit into notches in the stem housing to aid you. Alternatively, you can take a photo of the stem for future reference.

Now, take out the stem by pulling it straight up and out of its housing. If necessary, use pliers holding just the spindle at the top of the stem.

Remove the Valve Seat and Spring

Take a look inside the stem housing and search for the neoprene valve seat in a hole at the bottom of the faucet casing. The valve seat is a small, black rubber cap that has a hole in its top part. Sitting inside and below the valve seat is a tiny metal spring. Take out the seat and spring by putting an Allen wrench or small screwdriver into the hole of the valve seat and pulling up both components together.

Write down the spring’s orientation inside the valve seat for future reference. The spring must be a bit larger in diameter at the bottom compared to the top. You should install the new spring and seat with precisely the same orientation.

Fit a New Seat and Spring

Install the new seat and spring onto the end of an Allen wrench or screwdriver in the exact position as the original seat and spring. Use the wrench or screwdriver to guide the spring and seat into the hole in the stem casing. They should fit all the way down into the hole. Take out the wrench or screwdriver and confirm the valve is positioned correctly.

Reinstall the Stem

Put a small amount of plumber’s tape to the O-ring at the bottom of the valve stem. If you want, you can also replace the O-ring, which is occasionally included with stem-and-spring kits or the whole stem. Install the stem into its casing, aligning the tabs on the stem with the slots in the casing. Drive the stem all the way down until you can’t push anymore.

Reinstall the bonnet nut and fasten it slowly using an adjustable wrench or pliers. Make sure not to overtighten the nut, which might damage the stem housing.

Check for Leaking and Reinstall the Handle

Switch the water supply back on by turning the water back on the main or by opening the shutoff valve (which you can find under the sink) counterclockwise all the way until you can’t rotate it anymore. Now, inspect for leaks around the faucet stem. If it drips, tighten the bonnet nut until the dripping stop.

Tip: Always make sure not to overtighten any screw or nut!

Install the handle onto the stem and secure it with the setscrew or screw.

Here’s more in-depth instructions on how to fix a leaky Delta bathtub faucet.

How to Fix a Kohler Bathtub Faucet Leak

Fixing a Kohler bathtub faucet leak is pretty simple. It takes a bit of skill with a wrench and screwdriver, but so long as you have the correct Kohler replacement parts, it shouldn’t take more than one hour to finish the task.

Tip: Fixing Kohler bathtub faucet needs special parts.

Tools You Need for This Task:

  • New Kohler cartridge or stem part
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Allen wrench
  • Small knife
kohr bathtub faucet

Step 1: Turn off the water supply to the bathtub by shutting the water valves behind the tub or shower wall. There is usually an access panel in the wall.

Step 2: Take out the cover on the faucet’s handle that is dripping by prying it off using a small knife. Unfasten the screw underneath using an Allen wrench and slide the handle off of the faucet stem.

Step 3: Take out any retainer clips around the cartridge on the stem using needle-nose pliers. Pull the cartridge or stem out of the handle.

Step 4: Put a new stem part or cartridge into the handle after positioning the notches on the side of the stem part with the faucet head. It must fit flush into the head of the faucet.

Step 5: Slide the handle back on the stem, fasten the screw through the handle and tighten it using the Allen wrench.

Step 6: Replace the cap cover on the handle by pressing it hard into place. Then turn the water valves on. Now, turn on the faucet and test it. Check for drips around the handle.

How to Fix a Loose Bathtub Faucet

Bathtub faucets are made up of several parts that wear out easily, and once they do, they end up damaged, leaking, or loose. So, with that said, here’s how to fix a loose bathtub faucet.

Step 1: Turn off the water supply valve to prevent flooding to the bathroom. If you can’t find any valve installed for the tub faucet, simply turn off the main water supply.

Step 2: Search for the set screw that holds the bathtub faucet in position. In many bathtub faucets, it is found at the faucet itself. Use an Allen wrench and turn the screws clockwise to unfasten them. If you cannot see the screws clearly, you can use a flashlight.

Step 3: When you have taken out the screws, get your screwdriver to open the top. Put its tip at the end of the tub faucet. Twist it slowly and remove it. If you are successful with this step, you must be able to slide the fixture over.

Step 4: On the other hand, if the faucet doesn’t have any set screw, you just need to twist and take it out. Keep in mind to turn it in a clockwise direction. There is a chance that you won’t be able to turn it effortlessly. Just do so more carefully, or you can just wrap the fixture using a towel and then use the wrench to turn it. The towel will safeguard the faucet from the wrench’s teeth.

Step 5: Now, if the faucet is simply loose but not dripping, you can go ahead and put it back, ensuring that you will tighten the connection at this point. Otherwise, you will need to replace the worn-out parts. To ensure that you will use the correct components, bring the fixture to the plumbing supply shop and get some assistance from the store clerks to acquire the proper replacement.

Step 6: After you have acquired the correct components, including stem, O-ring, and washer, reassemble the bathtub faucet. Slide it back in place and then use an Allen wrench to fasten the set screw. You also need to wrap the water pipe using Teflon tape to make the connection drip-free. Keep in mind that you need to wrap the tape using one direction only. After you are finished, turn on the water supply valve and run the tap. Inspect for leaks.

Why Hire Someone?

Every house owner understands that nothing stays in good working condition forever and needs regular maintenance and repairs. It could be faulty appliances, mold-infested floors, cracked wall pain, clogged bathroom drains, or leaky bathtub faucets.

There will always be something that either requires a repair or an entire overhaul. As tempted as one may be to start a do-it-yourself project at home, some problems are best left to professionals, mainly when dealing with issues like leaky bathtub faucets.

These types of time-consuming tasks, if not handled with care, might lead to further damage and cost. That’s why it is sometimes better just to hire a professional.

Last update on 2022-10-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API