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How to Replace a Bathtub Faucet the Right Way

Updated
13 easy steps to replace your bathtub faucet.

Bathroom faucets are among the most important parts of any home, providing you with the water you need to keep yourself clean. When a faucet starts leaking or stops working entirely, it might be time to replace it. Or, you might simply want to refresh your bathroom’s appearance.

Bathtub faucet replacement is a relatively simple plumbing task, with modern faucets designed to be installed and removed without the need for specialist tools. However, if you have never done it before, it is important to familiarize yourself with the process to avoid any accidental floods.

In this article, we will explain how to replace a bathtub faucet, including how to remove one and install the replacement. We will also answer some commonly asked questions regarding bathroom faucets and how to change them.

How to Remove a Faucet

Removing a faucet, whether it is single-handle or double-handle, should be very straightforward. You will need these tools, most of which could already be in your home:

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

1. Turn off Water Supply

First, turn off the water supply to your bathtub. If your bathtub has an isolator valve, you can simply close that.

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

Keep In Mind

If you use your home’s main shut-off valve, all the water fixtures in your house will stop working. Plan ahead and replace the faucet when there is no demand for water in your household.

2. Drain the Faucet

To avoid flooding your bathroom, you need to drain the faucet before you remove it. Open a tap to allow the water to empty from 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 plastic piece at 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 size of the plastic cover will vary depending on the design of the faucet.

4. Remove the Screws

Cover the drain to prevent any screws from disappearing down it if you drop them.

Once the screw is revealed, use the screwdriver to remove it by turning it counterclockwise. There may also be a screw or multiple screws on the cover plate. If you find any, you can turn them counterclockwise as well.

Place the screws somewhere safe so you can reuse them later.

5. Remove the Stem

The stem of a faucet is the part that sticks out from the wall. It resembles a pipe and controls the tap. To remove it, you can either use pliers or a socket wrench, depending on the setup.

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

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

6. Remove the Spout

Take Note

You might need some pliers during this step. Wrap a cloth around the faucet before using the pliers to prevent scratches.

Inspect the spout to find the screws that hold it in place — these are usually located underneath. Use an Allen wrench to turn it counterclockwise to loosen it. Once you have removed the screw, you can easily pull the spout off the pipe.

Some spouts have an internal thread — these usually don’t use screws. To remove one of these faucets, simply rotate the tap counterclockwise.

7. Measure the Pipe

Once you have removed the faucet, measure the reach of the pipe that extends from the wall. You can use a standard measuring tape for this, and don’t forget to make a note of the measurement.

This measurement is critical when buying a replacement — the new tap will need to be slightly longer than the pipe.

How to Install the New Faucet

1. Buy a New Faucet

To ensure you choose the right stem, we recommend taking the previous faucet when you go shopping. Buy new stems that are the same size as the previous ones, so you can be sure they will fit your pipes.

Choose whichever handles you like. However, if you previously had a single handle, you can’t install multiple handles. Look for faucet kits that include both handles and stems. This will make installation easier as everything will be made to fit together.

2. Install the Stem

Once you have bought a new faucet and stems, place the end with threads where the previous one was. Turn it clockwise and tighten it by hand. Once it is hand-tight, use your pliers and socket wrench to seal the connection further.

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

Be Careful

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

3. Install the Handles

Once the stem is secured, 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 and secure it.

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 leaks into your wall. Caulk is a sealant used to close gaps between materials. It is commonly used around bathtubs, sinks, and toilets (1). There are two main types of caulk: acrylic latex and silicone. You can buy bathtub caulks and the relevant tools at any hardware store.

How to Install the Spout

1. Buy a Brand New Spout

You can buy spouts at any hardware or supply store — take the time to find one you like. Make sure it complements the handles in terms of style and finish.

Bring your pipe measurement along. Your new spout should be slightly longer than the pipe — and attach in a similar way to the previous one. To make sure you get the right size spout, take the old one to compare.

2. Use Plumber’s Tape

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

If you don’t have any plumber’s tape at home, you can buy it from a supply or hardware store. Don’t attempt to replace a faucet using any other tape. Plumber’s tape is waterproof and can prevent 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. Turn until it becomes difficult to continue — if this places it in an uneven position, turn it back counterclockwise until the tap is aligned properly.

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 connects the pipe and spout. Attach it to the pipe first, then rotate the tap onto the extension.

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

FAQs

Why Does My Faucet Leak After Replacing the Stems?

This can be caused by the valve seat, a circular ridge that the washer touches when closed. The seats can become worn, in which case they will need to be replaced.

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

When Can I Shower After Replacing a Faucet?

You can shower immediately after replacing a faucet, as long as the replacement went as planned. However, if you applied caulk around the faucet, you will need to wait for it to dry.

Experts recommend that you leave caulk to dry for 24 hours, depending on the type. Unless it is fast-drying, it shouldn’t be exposed to water for at least the first eight hours. It might feel dry to the touch much sooner than that, but you must wait for it to fully cure.

How Much Is a Bathtub Faucet?

Bathtub faucet prices vary depending on the brand, quality, parts included, and finish. Spouts can cost between $100 and $150, but keep in mind that you might also need to purchase additional parts.

In most cases, it is a better option to purchase a full kit that includes a stem, handles, and the spout. Although these kits cost more, you will get everything you need, and every part will match.

Should a Spout Fit Securely on the Wall?

Your bathroom faucet’s spout should be tightened by hand to the point that it is difficult to turn. You shouldn’t force it any further, as this could damage the pipe.

If this leaves the tap facing the wrong way (upwards or sideways), you should move it back counterclockwise to correct its alignment. Avoid turning it clockwise, even if it’s only slightly. Make sure you use plumber’s tape on the threads to prevent leaks.


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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.