DIY Plumbing: How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet

One drop of water may not seem like much, but did you know that a leaky faucet dripping one drop per second can waste over 3,000 gallons of water per year? That’s enough water to fill over sixty average-sized bathtubs! The most common cause of a leaky tub faucet is a worn out washer. You can save yourself a ton of money on your water bill by replacing the old washer with a new one.

Replace the Washer in Your Tub Faucet

Washers in bathtub faucets are usually made out of plastic or rubber. Over time, contact with water can cause the washers to dry out and crack, making it impossible to create a tight seal. This is what leads to leaks. Of course, you can close the faucet more tightly to stop the leak in the short term, but this will only put more pressure on the old washer and cause it to wear out even more quickly. The only long-term solution to this problem is to replace the washer.

Shut off the Water

It is impossible to make any repairs with the water in your tub still running. Some homes allow you to turn off the water from under the sink. If that is not an option in your home, you may need to turn off the main water supply to the house while you make your repairs. Once the water is turned off, turn the handles of your bathtub faucet as if you were trying to run a bath. This will allow you to drain any excess water from the pipes before you start.

Take the Tub Faucet Handles Off

In order to replace the washers in your tub faucet, you will first need to remove the handles. Start by using a pocketknife to pry off the handle inserts. These are the coverings on the handles. They are usually plastic and often have “hot” or “cold” symbols on them.

Once the inserts are removed, you will see a screw on each handle. Remove the screws with a screwdriver. With the screws removed, you will be able to disconnect the handles from the stems. This is often the most difficult step in this repair, as corrosion can cause the handles and stems to stick together. If you can’t get them off on your own, try using a special tool called a handle puller. Whatever you do, don’t force the handles off, as that can significantly damage your faucet. If the handle puller isn’t working, consider hiring a professional plumber to help.

Replace the Washer

Now it is time to replace the washer. First, use a screwdriver to remove the seat washer screws from the stems. This will allow you to take the old washers off. You may need to use your pocketknife to pry them off in some cases. Next, replace the washers and the seat washer screws with brand new ones. Use some liquid thread sealant on the stem’s threads and put them back into the faucet openings.

Put it Back Together and Test it Out

Screw the faucet handles into place and secure the handle inserts onto the faucet handles. Once they’re secure, turn the water supply back on and turn the faucet on to test everything out. When you turn the faucet off again, there shouldn’t be a leak.

While an old washer is the most common reason for a bathtub faucet leak, it isn’t the only one. Issues with the grout, cracked pipes, and corrosion are a few other common causes that can lead to severe damage in your home if they’re not repaired properly. If you have replaced the washer but your faucet is still leaky, it may be best to hire a professional. If you live in the Raleigh or Wilmington areas of North Carolina, consider scheduling an appointment to fix any plumbing issues you have in your home.

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