Bathrooms are full of plumbing fixtures in your home. As such, it isn’t surprising that this room is prone to leaks more than other parts of your home. Unfortunately, most people don’t notice that their bathtubs are leaking until it causes serious damage or serious problems, such as mold growth.
While dripping bathtubs may not seem much for you, it's estimated that faucets dripping one drop every second waste more than 3000 gallons of water annually. In context, such an amount can fill more than sixty standard bathtubs. If your bathtub faucet leaking is extreme, this is very risky, and you should take immediate action to stop leaking water from ruining your home.
5 Main Causes of a Leaky Faucet
The fact that bathrooms are full of plumbing makes it difficult for most homeowners to identify the leak’s origin. Water is highly mobile and can travel along pipes before dripping. If you want to stop a leaking faucet, you should first identify the real source of the leak. Some causes of leaking faucets include:
Leaking Tub Spout
A leaking bathtub faucet is probably the number one cause of dripping bathtubs that can easily be fixed. Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t see this as a serious problem, especially since it traps all the drips, and thus doesn’t lead to wet floors or mold growth.
However, any leak should be a big deal to all homeowners.
This is because any leaky faucet leads to an increased water bill. Besides, constant drips will corrode the area that the drops hit, causing unsightly stains of mineral deposits. In most cases, a leaky faucet can easily be fixed by replacing the rubber washers inside the faucet.
How to Correct a Leaking Bathtub Faucet
Washers often dry out and loosen with continuous use, making it impossible to block water leaks. Simply disassemble the faucet, remove the washers, and replace them. If the faucet continues leaking after replacing, the chances are you should replace the entire faucet. Unless you have excellent plumbing experience, hire a professional plumber to replace the faucet.
Leaking drains can also lead to water seepage in your tub. Leaks that occur under the drain require intervention by a plumber. However, leaking drains may also occur due to improperly fixed seals during assembly. If that is the case, you can fix the issue without buying new materials. To achieve this effectively, search and watch videos on how to remove and fix the drain safely.
Issues with Grouting
Most tub leaks don’t occur due to poor pipework or drainage systems but are caused by shrinking grout around tiles, especially in the area where shower water hits. Pressured shower water often hits and seeps behind bathroom tiles. This causes a pool of water, making most homeowners believe that they have a serious problem in their bathrooms.
How to Correct Grouting Issues
This can easily be fixed by re-grouting tiles. For this, mix grout with silicone in equal proportions. This creates a good moisture barrier.
Any crack is an obvious cause of leakage from your tub faucet. Unfortunately, some cracks are as thin as a hairline, making them difficult to spot, especially if the source of water you see originates from the tub's body.
How to Identify Cracks
For this, a careful inspection is the only way of identifying the crack. With time, the cracked area might start forming some rust.
Leaking Overflow Pipe
Overflow pipes, typically found at the back of tubs, are another common cause of leaks. Dry or cracked washers located between the tub and overflow pipe may lead to leaks in the overflow pipes. Unlike faucet washers, replacing these washers is quite tricky since they're sealed into the wall. As such, it's best to hire a qualified plumber for assistance.
Why You Should Act Fast to Stop a Leaky Bathtub Faucet
If you find any leak in your bathroom, be it big or small, acting fast to fix a leaky bathtub is important to save on water bills and other consequences of a leaky tub faucet. As mentioned, toxic mold growth is the biggest risk of leaving the leak unattended. Note that mold is not only unsightly but also poses serious health risks.
Exposure to mold causes or worsens respiratory problems, headaches, flu-like symptoms, lethargy, allergic reactions, and more. Continuous leaks may also lead to structural damages, as water can weaken beams making them nonstructural. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to hold off on cheap leak repairs.
How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet
An old washer is the most common cause of leaking bathtub faucets. If that’s the situation with your tub, below are steps on how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet. You'll need several tools, including a seat wrench, adjustable wrench, vice grip, flathead screwdriver, screws, packing nut, spanner, and more from a hardware store.
Note that these step-by-step instructions apply to most bathtubs, including walk-in and corner bathtubs. The steps may be slightly different for freestanding tubs.
1. Disconnect the water supply
Shutting off the water supply is the first step when fixing a leaky tub faucet. Otherwise, forgetting to cut off the water may lead to an excessive water flow of water in your bathroom as you disconnect the faucet. In most situations, there is a simple cut-off valve that allows you to turn off the water supply to your apartment or house before you begin the repair job.
2. Remove the cap
The second step is removing the cap covering the handle and faucet body. You can do this by using a slotted screwdriver or a pocketknife. Begin by opening the faucet to drain the water, then use your tool of choice to pry the faucet cap off.
3. Remove the handle screw
With the cap removed, you can easily access the screw that keeps the faucet handle in place. Unscrew this using a flathead screwdriver and use a handle puller to remove it. Keep the screws from the handle and other screws safe as you proceed.
4. Disconnect the faucet handle
After you’ve removed the handle screw, you can easily remove the handle. This might be quite tricky if your faucet is old, as water deposits in the handle often cause corrosion on the screw and handle.
If it doesn’t come off easily, don’t apply excessive pressure as you may break it. Instead, use tricks, such as warming it using a hot water heater, blowing it with a hairdryer, or pouring white vinegar.
5. Remove the escutcheon and stem assembly
The next step is removing the escutcheon, which is the plate covering the hole in your bathroom wall. Depending on the type of your faucet, you may have to unscrew or simply twist it off. With the escutcheon out, you'll easily access the stem assembly, which is required to fix the leak. The stem bonnet can easily be removed from the stem threads or bonnet threads using an adjustable bath socket wrench.
6. Inspect and Replace the Worn Out Washer
As mentioned, the main reason why you have leaky faucets could be due to a worn-out seat washer. After removing the faucet’s stem assembly, begin by checking the seat washer. Old washers often appear hard and deformed. If your old washer appears this way, consider replacing it with a new washer. Replacing the stem bonnet washer is simple, check your seat washer, screw, and unscrew it from the faucet’s stem assembly.
Before replacing the faucet stem assembly with a new one, ensure that you inspect the faucet seat for signs of possible damage. If signs of a worn-out rubber washer are evident, ensure that you replace it. For this, you might need a seat wrench or a bath socket wrench, a special tool made for this purpose.
7. Reassemble the faucet
After inspecting and replacing it with a new seat washer, you should then reassemble everything in order. Begin by replacing the stem assembly and use the adjustable wrench to tighten it. Screw the escutcheon, followed by the handle, and lastly, the cap, using screws. With everything in place, turn back the water supply and switch the faucet on to ensure that water runs through it appropriately.
Congratulations, if the water runs properly and there are no more leaks from the faucet. If the problem persists, you can repeat these steps or consult a plumbing professional.
Pro Tips to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet
Consider the following tips when fixing a leaky bathtub faucet:
Find the right tightness
As you reassemble the faucet, ensure that everything is tight and not overly tight. This makes it easy to tear the parts apart in the future.
Test the faucet
Identifying a leaking faucet if you have a double-handle faucet model is easy, as you can simply feel if the leaking water is hot or cold. This can guide you on the faucet that needs to be repaired.
Regularly Check Your Bathtub Faucet
You'll only know if your plunge bath is leaking by paying close attention. You should conduct monthly inspections on various components of your bathroom, specifically the taps and the bathtub. Watch out for puddles, drips, mineral deposits, and stains on the faucet’s decorative collar that shouldn’t be there. If you note any, try to locate the source and find an immediate solution to the problem.
Bottom Line When It Comes to Fixing Your Leaky Faucet
Hiring a plumber for this basic home improvement task might be necessary if you have tried repairing without success. For DIY enthusiasts, you'll have to incur the cost of buying special tools, such as the seat wrench, vice grip pliers, packing nut, and Philips screwdriver, and follow the above steps to fix a leaky tap yourself. You can also fix your faucets in the kitchen with little modifications in this guide.
Hiring a professional or learning how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet saves on water bills. It also prevents stubborn stains and protects your sanity from constant annoying drips.