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How to Fix a Bathtub Faucet From Leaking & Dripping

A leaky bathtub faucet is not only an annoyance but can also lead to wasted water and potential water damage if left unaddressed. The constant drip-drip-drip can disrupt your peace and increase your water bills. Fortunately, with a little know-how and the right tools, you can fix this common household issue yourself.

In this guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of fixing a leaky bathtub faucet. From identifying the cause of the leak to disassembling the faucet, replacing damaged components, and reassembling it correctly, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also provide tips on post-repair testing and knowing when it’s time to call in a professional plumber. So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to restore functionality and peace to your bathroom with our expert advice. Let’s dive in and conquer that leaky bathtub faucet once and for all!

Identifying Why Your Bathtub Faucet Leaks Or Drips

Getting to the root of your leaky bathtub faucet issue is an integral part of the resolution process. While several factors can contribute to this problem, three of the most common culprits include worn-out components, damaged seals, and the buildup of hard water minerals. Let’s delve deeper into each of these.

Worn-Out Components

Every faucet consists of several components, all of which experience wear and tear over time. One such critical component is the diverter valve. This handy little piece of hardware is responsible for redirecting the water flow from the tub faucet up to the showerhead. Over time, the constant water pressure, along with regular wear and tear, can take a toll on the diverter valve, so the leaking bathtub faucet can even break down entirely. When this happens, the water continues to flow through the tub spout, causing a leak even when the shower is running.

Damaged Seals

Just like any water fixture, your bathtub faucet contains several seals designed to prevent leaks. These seals can be found in various parts of the faucet assembly, such as around the diverter valve and at the base of the faucet where it connects to the pipes. These seals can wear out over time or become damaged due to excessive water pressure or chemical reactions with harsh water elements. When a seal deteriorates or breaks, it allows water to leak out around the faucet or spout, causing the annoying drip you’re trying to stop.

Mineral Deposit Buildup

If your home receives hard water, your plumbing fixtures, including the bathtub faucet, are prone to mineral deposit buildup. Hard water contains high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can accumulate within your faucet over time. This buildup can obstruct the diverter valve, causing it to function inefficiently and thereby resulting in the annoying leak you’re experiencing. The presence of these minerals can also contribute to the deterioration of the faucet’s components and seals, compounding the problem.

Now that we’ve identified the potential causes of a leaky bathtub faucet, it’s important to note that determining the exact cause in your case may require a bit of investigative work. Observing the nature and extent of the leak, examining the condition of your faucet’s components and seals, and knowing if your water supply is hard or soft can all provide valuable clues.

Types of bathtub faucets

Before you can roll up your sleeves and get down to the business of fixing your leaky bathtub faucet, you need to understand what kind of faucet you’re dealing with. Faucets come in many varieties, but the three most common types you’ll find in homes are ball, cartridge, and compression faucets. Each type has a unique design and operates slightly differently, affecting the steps you’ll take to resolve leaks.

Ball Faucets

Ball faucets are single-handle faucets that swivel back and forth to control water temperature and up and down to control water flow. The name comes from the ball-shaped component that sits atop the faucet’s base. Inside, there are several parts including seals, springs, and inlet holes, which can wear out or fail over time leading to leaks. Identifying a ball faucet is easy, look for the signature “ball” on its cap.

Cartridge Faucets

Cartridge faucets can be single-handle or double-handle, but the telltale sign is the action used to control the water flow and temperature. If your faucet involves a smooth upward-downward motion for water flow control and a left-right motion for temperature control, you have a cartridge faucet. The cartridge inside these faucets can wear out or become blocked with mineral deposits, causing water leaks.

Compression Faucets

Compression faucets are a bit old-school, but they are still commonly found in many homes. These are typically double-handle faucets, where you turn each handle to open the valve and increase water flow. The more you turn, the higher the water flow. The main parts that can fail in compression faucets are the rubber washers. Over time, these washers can wear out, and water can start to leak around the handle or from the spout.

Identifying your faucet type is crucial to the repair process because different faucet types have different parts that can fail and cause leaks. Knowing what kind of faucet you have will guide you toward what part to look for and how to replace or repair it. Understanding your faucet type can also help you find more specific guidance or video tutorials online, as the process can vary between faucet types.

Tools to replace or fix bathtub faucets

Tackling a leaky bathtub faucet is easier when you’re armed with the right tools. Depending on the severity of the leak and your faucet type, you may need to replace some components. Here’s a checklist of items you should have on hand before you start the repair:

Adjustable Wrench

An adjustable wrench is a must-have tool for any plumbing job. You’ll need this to remove the faucet handle and other parts that are typically screwed on tightly.

Philips Head Screwdriver

A screwdriver is usually necessary to remove the handle of the faucet, as well as other parts depending on your specific model. It’s helpful to have both a flat-head and a Phillips-head screwdriver since different faucets may require different types.

Teflon Tape

Teflon tape, also known as plumber’s tape, is used to ensure a tight seal on threaded pipe connections. This can be crucial in preventing new leaks from developing after you’ve completed your repair.

Plumber’s Grease

Plumber’s grease is a handy tool for lubricating parts during reassembly. It can also help to ensure the smooth operation of your faucet and extend the lifespan of its parts.

Replacement Parts for the Faucet

If you’ve identified a specific component of your faucet that is worn out or broken, you’ll need to have a replacement part on hand. This might include seals, cartridges, washers, or even an entirely new faucet if your current one is beyond repair.

CLR or White Vinegar

These are useful for breaking up any mineral deposits that may be causing your faucet to leak. You can submerge your faucet or faucet parts in a solution of these to help clear away the buildup.

Container and Old Toothbrush

These will be necessary if mineral buildup is a problem. You’ll use the container to soak the parts in a CLR or vinegar solution, and the toothbrush to scrub away any stubborn deposits.

Remember, before you start, it’s crucial to shut off the water supply to your bathtub to prevent any water mishaps while you’re working. Once you have your tools gathered, you’re ready to dive into the repair!

How to Fix a Leaky Faucet

Replacement parts for leaky faucet

Before diving into the repair process, it’s essential to properly prepare your work area and ensure safety.

  1. Turn off the water supply: Locate the water supply valves for your bathtub. These are usually found behind the wall of the tub or in an access panel in an adjacent room. Turn these valves clockwise to shut off the water supply.
  2. Protect the work area: To prevent damage to your bathtub, lay down a towel or a non-slip mat where you will be working. This also provides a place to hold the small parts and prevent them from sliding down the drain.

Disassembling the Bathtub Faucet

This process may vary depending on your faucet type (ball, cartridge, or compression). However, the general steps are as follows:

  1. Remove the handle: The handle is typically held in place by a screw, which may be hidden under a decorative cap. Remove the cap (if present) and unscrew the handle. Gently pull to remove it from the assembly.
  2. Unscrew the packing nut: With your adjustable wrench, carefully unscrew the packing nut that secures the faucet stem. Be careful not to scratch the finish of your faucet.
  3. Remove the faucet stem: Depending on your faucet type, the stem may be removed by unscrewing or pulling it out. Make a note of the orientation for reassembly.

Identifying and Replacing Damaged Faucet Components

Inspect the disassembled parts for signs of damage or wear. Pay particular attention to seals and the diverter valve for any mineral deposits.

  1. Clean or replace damaged parts: If the seals are worn out or the diverter valve is clogged with mineral deposits, you need to clean or replace them. Submerge the faucet parts in a CLR or vinegar solution for about 15 minutes, then scrub away any stubborn deposits with an old toothbrush.
  2. Purchase replacements: If a part is too worn or damaged, you must replace it. Take the old part to your local home improvement store to find an exact match.

Reassembling the Bathtub Faucet

Once you’ve replaced or cleaned all necessary components, you’re ready to reassemble your faucet.

  1. Reinstall the stem: Insert the stem back into the faucet body in the same orientation as before.
  2. Secure with the packing nut: Replace the packing nut and secure it with your adjustable wrench. Be careful not to overtighten it as it could damage the parts.
  3. Replace the handle: Position the handle back onto the stem and secure it with the screw. If a cap was present, snap or screw it back into place.
  4. Test the faucet: Turn the water supply back on and test your faucet. Both the tub spout and the showerhead should work without any leaks. If you still notice leaks, you may need to tighten the packing nut slightly more or replace additional parts.

Congratulations! You have successfully repaired your leaky bathtub faucet. The next time you find yourself dealing with a similar issue, you’ll know exactly what to do.

How to Fix a Leaky Faucet | The Home Depot

When to Call a Professional Plumber

As we all strive for independence, there are certain times when the job at hand is beyond our DIY capabilities. Knowing when to call a professional plumber is crucial in maintaining the integrity of your home’s plumbing system, saving you time, stress, and potential further damage. Here are signs that it might be time to call a professional:

  1. Persistent Leaking: If, after replacing components and ensuring everything is properly installed, your bathtub faucet continues to leak, it might be time to seek professional help. There could be underlying issues, such as a problem with the water pressure or the plumbing in the wall, that need to be addressed.
  2. Multiple Failed Attempts: If you’ve tried to fix a leaking bathtub faucet multiple times without success, it’s time to call in the experts. A professional plumber has the expertise and equipment to diagnose and solve the problem accurately.
  3. Signs of Water Damage: If you notice signs of water damage, such as discoloration, dampness, or a musty smell in the area surrounding the faucet or beneath it, a professional should inspect your plumbing. This could indicate a more serious problem that needs immediate attention.

As for the cost, the price to hire a plumber can vary based on your location, the complexity of the job, and the plumber’s experience level. On average, you might expect to pay between $50 to $200 per hour for a professional plumber’s services. Keep in mind that while this may seem costly, it can save you money in the long run by preventing further damage to your plumbing system or home structure. Be sure to ask for an estimate before any work begins to avoid any surprises.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is my bathtub faucet still leaking after replacement?

Even after replacing parts, your faucet might continue to leak due to several reasons. There could be an issue with the installation process or the replacement parts themselves. If the replacement components are not compatible with your faucet or are installed improperly, the faucet might still leak. A worn-out O-ring, damaged cartridge, or a problem with the valve seat can also lead to persistent leakage.

Can a leaky faucet increase my water bill?

Absolutely! A dripping faucet can waste significant amounts of water over time. Depending on the severity of the leak, it could lead to an increase in your water bill. Hence, it’s always a good idea to address such issues as soon as you notice them.

How often should I replace my faucet components?

The frequency of component replacement depends on several factors including water hardness, usage, and the quality of the original parts. However, as a general rule of thumb, you may need to replace parts every three to five years. If you notice consistent leaks or drips, it might be time for a replacement.

How long does it take to fix a leaky bathtub faucet?

If you have all the necessary tools and replacement parts at hand, fixing a leaky bathtub faucet is a job that can be done in a few hours. However, if you are new to DIY plumbing repairs, it might take a bit longer as you familiarize yourself with the process.

What are some common bathtub faucet brands?

There are many reputable brands in the plumbing industry that produce quality bathtub faucets. Some of the more common ones include Moen, Delta, Kohler, Pfister, and American Standard. Each of these brands offers a range of designs and finishes to match your bathroom’s aesthetic.


Repairing a leaky bathtub faucet is a task that many homeowners can successfully tackle on their own with the right knowledge and tools. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can save money on plumbing costs and restore functionality to your faucet.

We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with the knowledge and confidence to tackle your leaky bathtub faucet. Remember to exercise caution, follow the instructions carefully, and always prioritize your safety. Happy repairing!

Last Updated on August 15, 2023

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