Leaking bathtub faucets can cause a major headache. Not only is the dripping annoying, but it can waste nearly 700 gallons of water each year. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a master plumber in order to learn how to fix this common problem. Most leaks are caused by worn-out washers or loose connections. Depending on the kind of bathtub faucet you have, the steps for fixing it can vary slightly. But in most cases, you only need a screwdriver or a wrench to stop the drip. No matter the cause, these steps explain how to fix a dripping bathtub faucet.
How To Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet
1. Turn Off the Water
Before you do anything, it’s important to turn off the water supply. The shut-off valve is typically located in the basement or crawlspace of the house and should be turned clockwise to close it. Depending on how often you use the valve, you may need an adjustable wrench to shut it off.
Shutting off the water stops water from flowing through the drain during repairs. This limits the potential for accidental leaks or flooding during repairs.
Once the water is off, open the faucets to drain the pipes. Once the water stops running, you can close the faucets.
2. Take Off the Handles
Next, you need to take off the faucet handle. Most handles have a cosmetic cap that covers the screw. Use a flat-bladed screwdriver to pop off the cover. Then use a Philips head or x-shaped screwdriver to remove the handle.
Most faucets then have a cosmetic cover that hides the inner workings of the faucet. With the handle out of the way, the cover usually slides right off. However, some models are screwed into the faucet assembly.
3. Inspect the Faucet Parts
With the faucet assembly accessible, you can inspect the parts. You may need a screwdriver, hex or Allen wrench, or another tool to open up the faucet.
Start by removing the faucet stem. This is the part that comes out of the wall where the handle attaches. Look for leaks along the threads. Next, check the cartridge.
It is the mechanism that actually turns the water on and off. Although unlikely, a worn-out cartridge can cause a leak.
Lastly, tighten all of the connections on the faucet assembly. You do not need to strain yourself to overtighten them, but they should be tight enough that the screw or nut takes moderate force to loosen.
4. Replace the Washer, Faucet Stem, or Cartridge
Most leaks are caused by the washer, the stem, or the cartridge.
If the faucet washer is dried, cracked, or worn out, you need to replace it. Washers are also very inexpensive, so it’s a quick and easy fix that can stop your dripping faucet.
While many faucet washers are a standard size, some brands or models use specific sizes. Take the washer with you to the hardware store to ensure you get the right fit.
In some cases, you may need to replace the faucet cartridge or stem. Replacing the cartridge is relatively easy. However, replacing the stem can be more difficult.
Most cartridges will pull free without any tools once the faucet assembly is exposed. But some have a screw you need to remove first.
However, you will need a wrench to remove the existing stem.
Stems and cartridges are unique to the brand and system you use, so take them with you to the hardware store to ensure you get the right part.
In some cases, you will need to replace multiple parts. In most cases, these parts are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. If you can’t find the exact cause of the leak, just replace them all.
5. Reinstall the Handle
Once you have replaced the washer, stem, and or cartridge, you need to reinstall the handle. Put it over the faucet stem, then screw it in place. Then replace the screw cap, making sure that the hot and cold indicators are correctly placed.
6. Look at the Spout
In some cases, a leaking or dripping bathtub is caused by the spout. The spout has a seal that keeps water following smoothly through the faucet spout.
To check the spout, unscrew it from the wall. Most faucets screw onto the wall, so turn them counter-clockwise. But some have a small hex screw you need to loosen first. In most cases, this is under the spout near the wall.
With the spout out of the way, look at the seal or rubber gasket on the pipe. Replacing the seal is usually an inexpensive fix, but look for cracks or dried-out material.
7. Turn the Water On and Check for Leaks
After fixing the problem, turn the water back on and check for leaks. Run the faucet for about a minute then shut it off. Watch the handles and faucet spout for several minutes to make sure you fixed the problem.
If you have consistent leaks or drips even after replacing parts, call a professional plumber to assess the problem.
What Causes Bathtub Faucet Drips?
The first major cause of a dripping bathtub faucet is a worn-out or cracked washer in the stem that regulates the flow of water coming out of the mixing valve. This happens when a person turns on the faucet over and over again, and each time, the washer is pushed against the valve, causing friction. Over time, this repeated process causes the washer to become worn out, leading to a drip.
Another potential source of a dripping bathtub faucet could be an issue with the tub’s stem or cartridge itself. If something has been knocked out of place in these parts, it can create an obstruction that can result in water leaking from the fixture instead of going where it should. In order to remedy this type of problem and fix the leaky faucet, homeowners would need to replace or repair the damaged part.
However, there are several other causes of a bathtub faucet drip. Here are the most common issues to check for:
- Worn-out washers: Over time, the washers inside the faucet handle can become worn out or damaged, leading to leaks and drips.
- Corroded valve seat: The valve seat is the connection point between the faucet and the spout. If this area becomes corroded or worn out, water can leak through and cause dripping.
- Loose parts: If the parts inside the faucet become loose, water can leak out and cause dripping.
- High water pressure: If the water pressure in your home is too high, it can cause damage to the faucet and cause it to drip.
- Broken O-ring: An O-ring is a small rubber ring that helps to seal the faucet handle. If this ring becomes damaged or broken, it can cause water to leak out and cause dripping.
- Improper installation: If the faucet was not installed properly, it can lead to leaks and drips.
To fix a dripping bathtub faucet, it is important to identify the root cause of the problem. In some cases, you may be able to fix the issue yourself by replacing worn-out parts or tightening loose connections. However, if the problem is more serious, you may need to hire a plumber to fix the issue.