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How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet: A Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re tired of listening to the drip-drip-drip of water leaking from your bathtub faucet, we have good news! This is one home repair you can tackle without smashing your thumb with a hammer, hitting your head on a beam, or spending a huge sum of money.

While many plumbing jobs are better left to the professionals, this isn’t one of them. Fixing a simple leak in the bathroom is a DIYers dream.

We’re so confident you can do it yourself we’re sharing a few plumber’s secrets. Grab your tools and read our step-by-step guide that shows you how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet.

The Tools of the Trade

Gather your tools first. Most homeowners have at least some of the tools needed for the job. If not, make a quick trip to the hardware store.

Here’s the list:

  • Vice Grip Pliers
  • Phillips Head Screwdriver
  • Flat Head Screwdriver
  • Jar Grip
  • Rag
  • Bathtub Caulk

Any old rag works. The caulk is optional but recommended (you’ll see why later). And if you’re adding to your tool collection anyway, consider buying a pipe wrench—pipe wrenches come in handy for many DIY plumbing tasks.

Turn Off the Water

Before you take anything apart, turn off the water.

Find the water cutoff and turn off the water to the bathtub faucet. After you shut off the water, open the faucet. This relieves water pressure and drains any water left in the pipes.

Now you’re ready to remove the faucet handle!

Remove Screws and Nuts

The Set Screw

First, find the screw on the faucet handle. Check underneath the spout for a hole with a screw in it. Use your Philips head screwdriver and turn the screw counterclockwise.

Once you remove the screw, pull the spout away from the wall.

Your faucet may not have a screw.

In that case, grab your rag and the pipe wrench. Put the rag over the faucet (spout) and the wrench in the middle of the handle. Turn the wrench counterclockwise until you can move the faucet by hand.

The Escutcheon

You’ll see a collar that snugs up against the wall. This is called the escutcheon. Unscrew it.

Sometimes the escutcheon gets stuck to the wall. Grab your jar gripper and pliers. Now you can loosen it without damaging the metal or tile.

Next, loosen the bonnet nut. The bonnet nut holds the faucet stem in the housing.

Now you'll have access to the valve stem.

Replace the O-Ring

If you have a single handle faucet, you may have a worn-out O-ring. The O-ring fits around the valve stem and when it wears out, the faucet springs a leak.

Replacing the O-ring is simple. Just pull the valve stem out and remove the old O-ring. Put a small amount of petroleum jelly or silicone on the new O-ring and slide it on the stem.

Before you reattach the escutcheon, you can apply a little bathtub caulk. This ensures a tight, waterproof fit.

See how easy that was? Now you know how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet!

Final Thought on How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet

Before you put away the tools, turn the water on and make sure you’ve fixed the leak. Beyond that, there are a few other tips on how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet.

Keep in mind you may have a washer-less faucet. In that case, you’ll replace the cartridge, not the O-ring. Also, if the stem isn’t in great shape, you should consider replacing it.

Finally, if you prefer letting someone else do the plumbing work in your home, give us a call. We’ve been fixing bathtub leaks and other plumbing problems since 1966.

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