Many things in a home can wear out over time, including a bathtub faucet. Whether it’s rust, a leaky spout or handles, or constant dripping, it can be a nuisance every time you step into the tub. Luckily, replacing a bathtub faucet is a fairly simple job that you can tackle without much experience.
What causes a leaky bathtub faucet?
Several sources could account for your dripping faucet. Below we review some of the most common causes:
A worn-out washer
This is one of the most common causes of a leaky faucet. During each use, the washer is forced against the valve seat, and this constant friction causes it to wear out. As a result, dripping is noticed around the spout. Dripping caused by worn-out rubber washers can be fixed by replacing the washer. This type of leak is found in a compression faucet.
Problem with the O-ring
A stem screw is used to hold the handle of a faucet in place. This stem screw includes a small disc attached to it, known as the O-ring. This is a common spot for dripping to develop. The O-ring can become loose or wear out over time, causing the faucet to drip near the handle. Replacing the damaged O-ring will fix this issue, which occurs specifically in cartridge faucets.
Corroded valve seat
A valve seat serves as a connection between the faucet and the spout in the compression mechanism. The accumulation of water sediments can cause the valve seat to corrode, prompting leakage around the spout area.
Improper installation of the washer
Often, if the washer is not installed properly or is not the right size, it can cause a leaky faucet.
How a faucet works
Bathtub faucets can have slightly different configurations: They can have one handle, two handles or even a third handle that acts as a shower diverter. There are different types of spouts, as well. 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. You can use the same technique whether your faucet has a single or double handle.
Once you’ve decided to try to replace the faucet yourself, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you with the task.
Faucet repair tools
Here are the tools you’ll need:
- A 4- or 6-way screwdriver
- Groove joint pliers
- A socket wrench
- An Allen wrench
- Plumber’s tape
How to remove bathtub faucet
Turn off the water supply
The first thing you should do is shut off the water supply. If your bathtub uses a separate valve or valves, simply turn that off. Most main shut-off valves are placed outside your house or in the basement. Keep in mind that once you turn off the main valve, all of the water fixtures in your house will be off.
Drain the pipes
To avoid a wet mess spilling everywhere, you’ll need to drain the faucet before you remove it. Open a tap at a low point in the house such as a basement sink and allow the water to empty through the spout. Once the spout and pipes are empty, close the faucet.
Remove the cover of the handle
The cover is usually a small piece of plastic that sits in the center of the handle. It covers the screw that holds the handle in place.
Use a flathead screwdriver (or knife blade) to pry it out by sliding it under the side of the plastic cover. The plastic cover varies in size depending on the configuration of the handle or handles.Be careful not to scratch the handle or the cover.
Remove the screws
Use the screwdriver to remove the screw underneath the cover by turning it counterclockwise. There will also be one or more screws on the cover plate. If these are present, turn them counterclockwise, too. It’s always a good idea to cover the drain in case any of the screws drop into the tub. Set the screws aside nearby to easily find them when needed again.
Remove the valve stem
The valve stem of the faucet is what sticks out of the wall. It resembles a pipe and controls the tap. For this, you can either use groove joint pliers or the socket wrench, depending on the setup.
If the nut is on the outside of the wall, use pliers or an adjustable wrench to loosen the stem quickly. But if the nut is neither visible nor accessible, use the socket wrench.
Slide the hollow wrench over the stem and use pliers to rotate it counterclockwise to loosen. When it’s loose, simply pull it from the wall. If there are two handles, use the same method for both.
How to remove bathtub spout
Determine your spout type
Whether you have a slip-on or threaded spout will determine how you remove it. Inspect the spout and locate the screws that hold it in place; these are usually found underneath. Use an Allen wrench to rotate it counterclockwise to loosen. Once you’ve removed the screw, you can easily pull the spout off of the pipe.
Some spouts have an inside thread; these usually don’t use screws. To remove a tap such as this, simply rotate the tap counterclockwise. To avoid scratching the spout, place a cloth around the faucet before using the pliers.
Measure the valve stem pipe
Once you’ve removed the faucet, measure the reach of the pipe that extends from the wall. You can use a regular measuring tape for this; don’t forget to write the measurement on a piece of paper. This measurement is crucial for buying a replacement. The new tap has to be slightly longer than the pipe.
How to install a bathtub faucet
To make sure you buy the correct size, take along the previous faucet when you go shopping. Buy new stems that are the exact size as the previous ones so they’ll fit your pipes.
Choose any handles that you like. However, if you had a single-handle faucet, you can’t install multiple handles. Preferably, look for faucet kits that include handles and stems. This can make installation easier, as everything is sure to fit.
If you had multiple stems, most manufacturers have a base cover plate accessory that will allow you to use a single-handle faucet while covering the holes where the stems were located.
Install the valve stem(s)
Grab your new faucet and place the end with threads where the previous faucet was. Turn it clockwise and tighten it by hand. Once it’s hand-tight, use the pliers and socket wrench to seal the connection further. If you have multiple handles, you’ll need to screw in a stem for each one. Do not overtighten, as this can cause damage to the pipes.
Install the handles
When the valve stem is securely in place, attach the handle. Place the handle onto the stem and push it back until it reaches the wall. When the handle is over the stem, use a screwdriver to tighten the screw, securing it in place. If your handle has a cover plate, attach the plate to the wall before the handle. Tighten the screws clockwise using a screwdriver.
You might need to caulk around the handles if they aren’t watertight to ensure no water enters the wall. Caulk is a sealer used to close gaps between materials. You can buy caulk and the correct tools at any supply store.
Installing a bathtub spout
Buy a brand-new spout
You can buy spouts at any hardware or supply store. Take a good look around to find one you like. Make sure it matches the handles when it comes to style and finish.
Bring the note with the pipe measurement. Your new spout should be slightly more extended than the pipe and attached in a similar way to the previous one. To make sure you get the right size of spout, bring the old one to measure against.
Use plumber’s tape
Wrap the plumber’s tape clockwise a couple of times around the threaded part of the stem pipe that comes out of the wall. Cut it and use your finger to seal it by pressing down. The tape will prevent any leaks from the spout.
If you don’t have plumber’s tape at home, you can purchase it from a supply or hardware store. You shouldn’t attempt to replace it using other types of tape.
Attach the spout
Place the new tap over the pipe and turn it clockwise. The spout should be tightened only by hand to avoid damaging the pipes. Continue turning until it becomes difficult to continue; if you land in an uneven place, rotate it counterclockwise until the tap is straight.
You might need a spout adapter if the spout won’t screw on due to the pipe being too short. The adapter is an extension that goes between the pipe and spout. Attach it to the pipe first, then rotate the tap onto the extension.
Use an Allen wrench to tighten any screws at the bottom of the faucet.
Time and cost of repair
Depending on the style of the faucet and your specific issue, the cost of a faucet can range from less than $100 to more than $1,000. It should typically take about 6 hours to complete this repair.
Get a remote diagnosis with Anew
If a bathtub faucet continues to leak or have other issues, it could be a problem with the parts you’ve purchased or the installation technique. You might want to hire a professional to do the job. Anew offers an easy, efficient and affordable repair service with remote diagnosis for only $20.
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