Even a slow drip from your bathtub faucet can waste a significant amount of water, causing your water bill to go up and making a racket. To avoid all of this, it’s always best to fix it fast. While you might not need a plumber, it’s always wise to consult a professional or someone with plumbing experience before tackling this job.

How to Repair a Bathtub Faucet

1. Determine What’s Causing the Dripping

There are different sources of faucet leaks. The most common ones include:

  • Cracked/Worn Washer: The washer is subject to friction every time you turn on the water, as it pushes against the valve; over time, this leads to small leaks.
  • Damaged Faucet Stem/Cartridge: When you turn the faucet handle, the stem or cartridge allows or blocks water flow; if it fails, then water will continue streaming when you close it.
  • Cracked/Rusted Handles: Over several years, wear and tear can cause the faucet handles to not completely shut off the water when you close them.

The source of the dripping can also be at the pipe leading to the faucet spout.

2. Gather Your Tools

To begin repairing your bathtub faucet, you’ll need a bath socket wrench, monkey wrench, Philips screwdriver, flat-head screwdriver, a jar gripper, handle puller, and utility knife. Some plumber’s grease is recommended as well. You’ll also need a rag and Teflon tape and maybe tub caulk or a hair dryer. If you know the source of the problem, purchase replacement parts at a local hardware before you begin.

3. Turn Off the Water

Find the shut off valve, which is often in the basement, crawlspace, or outside near the municipal water meter and turn it clockwise. Use an adjustable wrench to twist the valve if it does not turn easily. Then turn the hot/cold water handles so residual water drains from the bathtub pipe.

4. Remove the Handle

Remove the decorative cap and loosen the screws with a screwdriver. If necessary, pry off the handle insert with a pocketknife. The handle should come off with a quick tug. If it has corroded, heat the handle with a hair dryer to loosen it. If the part still won’t come off, use a handle puller or call your local plumber.

5. Dismantling the Faucet

Once you’ve removed the handle:

  • Unscrew the trim and collar by hand.
  • Safely store the handle inserts, handles, screws, trim, and collar parts in a small container.
  • Remove the stem bonnet with a bath socket wrench or vice grip.
  • Insert the seat wrench into the opening and turn counterclockwise; remove the seat.
  • Examine all parts for defects, damage, or wear.

6. Make Your Repairs

If necessary, replace the washers in the stem bonnet, or obtain a new assembly. Before you screw the components back on, apply plumber’s grease to them. Replacing the seat washer is simple too. Start by removing the seat washer screw in back of the seat; then peal off the rubber washer, grease, and replace the washer and screw using a socket or seat wrench and tighten by hand.

Repairs should go in sequence. First replace the bonnet washer next, then the packing nut in the middle of the stem bonnet, the packing washer, and the bonnet itself. The collar, faucet trim, faucet handle, faucet screw, and insert go next. Grease new parts before installing and be sure to apply pipe joint compound to the bonnet threads and grease the handle splines before replacing the handle.

7. Replace the Faucet Stem

If the leak is coming from the stem, start by cleaning the base of rust, wax, or caulk. Loosen the bolts with an adjustable wrench (or a socket wrench if the bolts are in the wall) and remove the stem. Use new bolts to install the new part. Replace the whole bathtub spout if the faucet is still dripping after completing your repair.

8. Replace the Handle

Always match the handle with the faucet type. Follow the instructions that came with the replacement part to install it. Then make sure it’s secure and moves easily before turning the water back on.

9. Examine the Faucet Spout

The pipe leading to the spout has threads accompanied by a seal that can wear out. Remove the spout by screwing it off or, for a set-screw spout, loosen it with a wrench or socket wrench. If the sealant is preventing your from removing the spout, score it with a utility knife. Then use a wrench to remove the short length of pipe, or pipe nipple.

If the pipe isn’t significantly damaged, wrap the threads on its ends with Teflon or plumber’s tape and install the nipple into the 90-degree elbow pipe, turning it clockwise until tight. Then reattach the faucet spout, turn on the water to flush debris, and apply a bead of sealant between the spout and wall.

Contact Express Plumbing Heating & Air

You can save a lot of time and money by fixing a dripping bathtub faucet on your own. However, it’s not always as easy as it sounds. There may also be underlying issues, or complicating factors, that should be addressed by a professional plumber. Call (208) 398-0309 today to have our plumber in Boise come out to check your faucet and repair it.

Brad Jordan

company icon