If your bathtub faucet is leaking constantly, you are paying a higher water bill than you should have to. While many homeowners would rely on a professional plumber to repair a leaky bathtub faucet, this is one of the easiest types of leaks to repair on your own. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how you can repair a leaking bathroom faucet.
Removing the Faucet Handles
It may surprise you to learn that in most cases, you can repair a leaking bathtub faucet without removing the faucet itself. Instead, you will be replacing worn-out parts inside of the faucet handles. Before you begin your repair, be sure to shut off your home's water intake.
If your faucet handles do not have exposed screws, you will have to remove the handle inserts to reveal them. The inserts are the round covers on the front of the handles that are usually labeled "hot" and "cold." To remove the inserts, wedge a pocket knife or flathead screwdriver under their edges and pry them off.
Once you have removed the screws holding the handles in place, you will be able to pull the handles off of the stems. You will next remove the stems by turning them counterclockwise. If the stems are too tight to remove by hand, you can use a shower valve socket wrench to remove them, or you can attempt to dissolve corrosion holding them in place with penetrating spray lubricant.
Replacing Seat Washers
Once you've gotten the faucet handle stems out of the wall, you will see small rubber washers on the ends of the stems. These are the seat washers that are responsible for cutting off the flow of water to your bathtub faucet. Over time, grooves will wear into these washers as you turn the bathtub faucet on and off, preventing them from sealing the valve correctly.
Removing the seat washers from the stems is as simple as unscrewing the screw in the middle of each washer and prying the washers off with a knife or screwdriver. Take the old seat washers and screws with you to a local hardware store so that you can find exact replacements, and be sure to pick up some liquid thread sealant as well.
After you slide the new washer over the end of the stem and install the new screw, coat the threads of the stem with the liquid sealant. Screw the stems back into the walls, replace the handles, and in many cases the leak will be solved without any further repairs.
Replacing the Valve Seat
If you have repaired the seat washers and you still find that your tub is leaking, it means that the valve seats are damaged and need to be reseated. The valve seats are the brass pieces that the seat washers seal against to shut off water to your tub faucet. When a seat washer wears down too low, it can allow the metal stem to grind against the seat, making the seat uneven and preventing the new washer from sealing properly.
To repair the seats, first remove the faucet handles and stems. You will need a faucet valve reseating tool to reach into the wall and file down the seats until they are even again. Screw the reseating tool into the wall where the stems were removed and turn the handle on the tool three to four times using moderate pressure. Remove the tool, replace the stem, and test for leaks again. Repeat this process until the leak disappears, but be careful not to overdo it, as filing the seat too much can create a permanent gap that will require you to replace the seat.
Repairing a leaky bathtub faucet is one of the easiest and most valuable skills to add to your DIY repertoire. Use these steps the next time you notice that your tub faucet is leaking so you can avoid losing money down the drain.