How to Replace a Bathtub Faucet the Right Way

Updated
13 easy steps to replace your bathtub faucet.

Is your faucet starting to leak? Maybe you want to give your bathroom an upgrade with a brand new tap? Replacing a bathtub faucet is a pretty simple process. Fortunately, it’s one of the home DIY tasks that you don’t need expensive tools for.

You can use the same technique whether your faucet has a single or double handle. If you only want to replace the spout, you can do that in just a couple of minutes too.

Table of Contents

    Replacing the faucet is as simple as it gets. Here are the tools you need:

    • Flathead screwdriver.
    • Pliers.
    • Socket wrench tool.
    • Allen wrench.
    • Plumber’s tape.

    How to Remove the Faucet

    1. Turn off Water Supply

    The first thing you should do is shut the water supply. If your bathtub uses a separate valve, simply turn that off.

    Most shut-off valves are placed outside your house or in the basement. If you can’t locate the valve or are unsure of its location, contact your plumber for guidance.

    Keep in mind

    Once you turn off the valve, all the water fixtures in your house will be off. Choose a time of the day when you’re alone, or there’s no need for water.

    2. Drain the Faucet

    To avoid a wet mess spilling everywhere, you need to drain the faucet before you remove it. Open a tap and allow the water to empty through the spout. Once the spout and pipes are empty, close the faucet.

    3. Remove the Cover of the Handle

    The cover is usually a small piece of plastic that sits in the center of the handle. It covers the screw that holds the handle in place.

    Use a flathead screwdriver to pry it out by sliding it under the side of the plastic cover. The plastic cover varies in size depending on the handle or handles.

    4. Remove the Screws

    Cover the drain in case any of the screws try to make a run for it.

    Use the screwdriver to remove the screw underneath the cover by turning it counterclockwise. There will also be one or more screws on the cover plate. If these are present, turn them counterclockwise, too.

    Set the screws aside to easily find them when needed again.

    5. Remove the Stem

    The stem of the faucet is what sticks out of the wall. It resembles a pipe and controls the tap. For this, you can either use pliers or the socket wrench, depending on the setup.

    If the nut is on the outside of the wall, use pliers to loosen the stem quickly. But, if the nut isn’t visible or accessible, use the socket wrench.

    Slide the hollow wrench over the stem and use pliers to rotate it counterclockwise to loosen. When it’s loose, simply pull it from the wall. If there are two handles, use the same method for both.

    6. Remove the Spout

    Take Note

    You might need some pliers to get started with this step. Place a cloth around the faucet before using the pliers to avoid scratches.

    Inspect the spout and locate the screws that hold it in place — these are usually found underneath. Use an Allen wrench to rotate it counterclockwise to loosen. Once you’ve removed the screw, you can easily pull the spout off of the pipe.

    Some spouts have an inside thread — these usually don’t use screws. To remove a tap like this, simply rotate the tap counterclockwise.

    7. Measure the Pipe

    Once you’ve removed the faucet, measure the reach of the pipe that extends from the wall. You can use a regular measuring tape for this, and don’t forget to write the measurement on a piece of paper.

    This measurement is crucial for buying a replacement — the new tap has to be slightly longer than the pipe.

    How to Install the New Faucet

    1. Buy a New Faucet

    To ensure you get the correct size stem, we suggest you bring the previous faucet when you go shopping. Buy new stems that are the exact size as the previous ones, so they’ll fit your pipes.

    Choose any handles that you like. However, if you had a single-handle, you can’t install multiple handles. Preferably, look out for faucet kits that include handles and stems. This can make installation easier as everything is sure to fit.

    2. Install the Stem

    After buying the new faucet and stems, place the end with threads where the previous one was. Turn it clockwise and tighten by hand. Once it’s hand-tight, use the pliers and socket wrench to seal the connection further.

    If you have multiple handles, you’ll need to screw a stem in for each one.

    Be careful

    Over-tightening the stems can cause damage to the pipes.

    3. Install the Handles

    When the stem is securely in place, it’s time to attach the handle. Place the handle onto the stem and push it back until it reaches the wall. When the handle is over the stem, use a screwdriver to tighten the screw, securing it into place.

    If your handle has a cover plate, attach it to the wall before the handle. Tighten the screws clockwise using a screwdriver.

    You might need to caulk around the handles if they aren’t watertight to ensure no water enters the wall. Caulk is a sealer used to close gaps between materials. It’s commonly used around bathtubs, sinks, and toilets (1). There are two main types of caulk: acrylic latex and silicone. You can buy caulk and the correct tools at any supply store.

    How to Install the Spout

    1. Buy a Brand New Spout

    You can buy spouts at any hardware or supply store — take a good look around to find one you like. Make sure it matches the handles when it comes to style and finish.

    Bring the note with the pipe measurement. Your new spout should be slightly more extended than the pipe — and be attached in a similar way to the previous one. To make sure you get the right size spout, bring the old one to measure against.

    2. Use Plumber’s Tape

    Wrap the plumber’s tape around the threaded part of the pipe that comes out of the wall a couple of times. Cut it and use your finger to seal it by pressing down. The tape will prevent any leaks from the spout.

    If you don’t have plumber’s tape at home, you can purchase it from a supply or hardware store. You shouldn’t attempt to replace it using other types of tape. Plumber’s tape is waterproof and can handle potential leaks.

    3. Attach the Spout

    Place the new tap over the pipe and turn it clockwise. The spout should only be tightened by hand to avoid damaging the pipes. Continue turning until it becomes difficult to continue — if you land in an uneven place, rotate it counterclockwise until the tap is straight.

    You might need a spout adapter if the spout won’t screw on due to the pipe being too short. The adapter is an extension that goes between the pipe and spout. Attach it to the pipe first, and then rotate the tap onto the extension.

    Use an Allen wrench to tighten any screws at the bottom of the faucet.

    FAQs

    My Faucet Still Leaks After Replacing the Stems

    This could be due to the valve seat, which is a circular ridge the washer touches when closed. The seats are most likely worn and require a replacement.

    To fix this, use a specific wrench that fits in the ridge. Spin it counterclockwise to loosen and remove. Place some plumber’s tape around the threaded part of the new seat to help prevent leaks.

    When Can I Shower After Replacing the Faucet?

    You can shower right away, assuming the replacement went as planned. However, if you had to apply caulk around the faucet, you’ll have to wait for it to dry.

    Experts recommend that you leave the caulk to dry for 24 hours, depending on the type. Unless it’s fast-drying, it shouldn’t be exposed to water for the first eight hours. It might feel dry to the touch shortly after applications, but you must allow it to fully cure (2).

    How Much Is a Bathtub Faucet?

    Faucet prices vary depending on the brand, quality, parts included and finish. Spouts can cost between $100 and $150; however, keep in mind that you also need to purchase other parts.

    In most cases, it can be a better choice to purchase full kits that include a stem, handles, and the spout. Although these kits are higher priced, you get everything you need, and it’ll all match.

    Should the Spout Fit Securely on the Wall?

    The spout should be tightened by hand to the point of it being difficult to turn. You shouldn’t force it any further, or it will damage the pipe.

    If the tap is facing the wrong way (upwards or to the side), move it counterclockwise to correct its position. Avoid turning it clockwise even if it’s only a small turn. Make sure you’re using plumber’s tape on the threads to avoid leaks.


    Replacing a Bathtub Faucet the Easy Way

    Bathtub faucets are easy to replace and don’t require any complicated techniques or tools. Replacing the spout and handles is an excellent way to make over your bathroom as small details can make a big difference. If needed, you can easily replace the spout only — simply screw it off and attach the new one.

    Make sure you buy the correct size — bring your old stem and spout to measure out the new one when buying. Be careful not to over-tighten any joints as this will damage the pipes. If this happens, call in a plumber to either fix or replace them.

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    About the Author

    Peter Gray

    Peter has been a homeowner for 35+ years and has always done his own repair and improvement tasks. As a retired plumber, Peter now spends his time teaching others how they can fix leaks, replace faucets, and make home improvements on a budget.
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