A Guide to Repairing a Leaky Tub Faucet

Leaky faucets are caused by a worn-out washer. Fortunately, all it takes is the right tools, some patience, and seven simple steps to fix a leaky bath faucet.
Written by Annette Maxon
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Updated on Sep 27, 2022
Leaky faucets are a common maintenance problem caused by a worn-out faucet washer. With the right tools, this problem is easy to tackle and can save you the cost of calling a plumber. 
The telltale dripping sound caused by a leaky faucet is common to homeowners and renters alike. Though the leak may be tempting to ignore, this problem should be fixed sooner than later to prevent your water bill from skyrocketing or from additional damage happening to the plumbing system.
Fortunately, leaky faucets can be remedied without having to call the pros. What’s more, doing the fix yourself can save you money on the repair. All you need is some time, patience, and the right tools to tackle this easy maintenance task. 
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How to stop a leaky faucet in seven steps

Before getting started, make sure to gather the materials needed to fix your faucet. Most of the tools for this repair can be found at your local hardware store. Here’s a look at the things you’ll need:
  • Faucet repair kit
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Faucet seat wrench

Step one: Determine if the faucet is leaking hot or cold water?

Determining the water temperature will help you know which washer needs to be replaced. Turn the water on and run your fingers underneath to feel the water temperature.
The water temperature will likely be hot/warm when dealing with a leaky tap because the hot water causes the washer to expand and deform, wearing it out faster than cold water would. 
If you noticed that the faucet puts out both hot and cold water, you’ll need to replace both washers.

Step two: Turn off the water to your house

Don’t skip this step—you could flood your bathroom while attempting the repair if you don’t shut off the water supply.

Step three: Remove the faucet handle

Remove the faucet handle by prying off the small cap on the front of the faucet with your flathead screwdriver.
Then, grab your Philips screwdriver to remove the long screw that attaches the handle to the stem. After removing this screw, you can slide the handle out. 
Be careful—if the handle doesn’t easily come off, don’t try to force it! You may need a handle puller (available at most hardware stores) to unscrew the handle. 
Depending on your faucet, there may be a cover plate (also known as an “escutcheon”) around the faucet. Remove this piece by unscrewing the screws on either side of it as well. 

Step four: Remove the faucet stem and seat

To remove the faucet stem and seat, grab an adjustable wrench and loosen the stem nut by turning it counterclockwise. Remove the nut when it is loose enough to pull out. 
Now you can check to see the condition of the washer—you’re looking for the small rubber piece at the tip of the stem, typically held in place by a screw. For many leaky faucets, a worn-out washer (i.e. cracked or worn) is the root of the problem.
Before continuing, check the condition of the faucet seat. The faucet seat is a small brass piece just inside the opening—if you spot any rust, wax, or caulk around the base, you will need to replace this piece as well. If you don’t spot any residue, you can skip removing the stem altogether. You’ll likely need a flashlight for this. 
To remove the faucet stem, you’ll need an Allen or faucet seat wrench. Insert the wrench into the faucet opening, engage the seat by pressing in, and turn the piece counterclockwise. Once it is loosened, pull it out.

Step five: Replace the faucet washer and stem

On the front of the stem, you’ll find a screw holding the black rubber washer in place—remove this using a Philips screwdriver. You can then lift the washer off. 
Use a rag or cloth to clean the groove the washer sits in before installing a new one. Install the new washer by pushing it into the groove so that all edges are inside it. Once securely in the groove, screw on a new faucet seat screw to hold it in place.
Then, attach a new faucet seat piece to the end of the wrench and screw it back onto the faucet stem, holding the faucet seat in place. 
If the faucet stem is the source of the problem, you’ll need to replace this altogether. You can buy this piece at a hardware store or online, depending on your faucet brand. 

Step Six: Replace the faucet handle with a new one

Reinstall a new faucet handle, reversing the steps taken to remove it. 
Once the handle is reinstalled, you may turn the water supply back on.

Step Seven: Test the faucet

Turn the faucet on and off to confirm that the problem has been solved. If you’re still experiencing a leak, don’t be shy to call a plumber to diagnose the problem.

What causes a leaky faucet?

Leaky faucets commonly happen when the faucet washer gets cracked or worn from general wear-and-tear.
To back up, faucet washers are the piece creating a watertight seal inside the faucet itself. It does this by pressing against the faucet seat. Over time, the friction between these two pieces will wear down the faucet washer in the valve assembly
Unfortunately, there are no preventative measures to keep your faucet washer from wearing out. If you do notice a leaky faucet, however, it is best to do the repair sooner than later so the worn-out washer doesn’t cause damage to other pieces in the valve assembly.

Does homeowners insurance cover leaky faucets?

Generally, no. If the leak was caused by a burst pipe or another unexpected plumbing issue, then you might get coverage. But for the most part, the general wear and tear to your faucet will not be covered by insurance. 
Regardless of whether
home insurance
covers leaky faucets, having the right coverage for your house is important in case an
unforeseen event
causes more serious damage to your property. 
If you want homeowners insurance but don’t want the price tag, meet
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