How To Fix a Leaking Faucet

by Dave The Handyman on December 4, 2009

Back again with some more do it yourself home repairs, as this can save you a bundle of money rather than calling out a plumber because you do not know how to fix a leaking faucet. I am going to try to explain this as best as I can so that everyone can understand it and make the plumbing repair by themselves. But as with just about all of the do it yourself home repairs I explain on this site, you should have at least some type of handyman skill in you.

If you are someone that just cannot fix stuff around the house, then I do not recommend you trying to do this plumbing repair by yourself. If you are lacking common sense and are not handyman coordinated, you could possibly flood your home by not paying attention to detail. With that being said let us get on you teaching you how to fix a leaky tub faucet.


This is what we are going to be dealing with for the sake of this tutorial. If you have a leaking shower faucet, meaning water keeps dripping out of the faucet after both of the valves are shut, then following this tutorial will fix that problem also. If you can do this, you can repair any type of leaky faucet, whether it be one that is in the kitchen, bathroom, bathtub or shower.

Some of the stems will be different but it is all the same principle. That is the tub stem, or faucet stem has a O-ring that is attached by a screw, and when that O-ring is pressed against the seat, the water will be blocked. If you have a brand new tub stem and your O-ring is brand new and you still have a leaky faucet, then you need to check your seat for smoothness, as if it has any nicks on it at all that will cause the faucet to leak.

As you can see, back to the beginning, we are dealing with a hot and cold stem, and the shower diverter in the middle. The diverter controls the amount of water that is coming out of the tub spout or the shower head faucet, the same principle follows to fix a diverter if you are still getting water coming from both the tub faucet and the shower head at the same time, with the diverted fully closed or open, the only difference is that the diverter uses one extra O-ring in most cases. I hope that makes sense.

Okay the first thing that we will need to do is pop the index button off of the shower handle, tub handle, whatever the hell it is you want to call it. Then we are going to have to remove the screw that is holding the handle onto the escutcheon sleeve.


Next step after this is to get the escutcheon sleeve and the back plate off of the wall. There are some styles that screw into the wall others are held to the wall by caulking or grout, either way you will have to get those free from the wall one way or another to get not only to the water shut off but to get the bad tub stem.


After this you have to find the water shut off for that particular handle, there may or may not be one right there, it all depends on what type of set up you have. Below you can see me securing the water to the handle. Other situations may require you to secure the hot water heater if you are replacing a tub stem on the hot side or even the water main to the house if you do not know of any other shut offs.

Either way, unless you have changed out hundreds of tub stems and have it down to a science, then you must have the water shut off as you can flood your home if you do not, and the water is going to be pouring out with some decent pressure when there is nothing there to regulate it.

Once you have the water secured you are going to have to loosen the tub stem out. This can be easily done if you have a tub stem removal tool, they come in a couple of different sizes as so do tub stems. It is not absolutely necessary to use the tub stem removal tool to accomplish this but it sure as hell helps a lot.

leaky tub faucet

leaky tub faucet

Now that you got the old stem out I want you to inspect the seat that was behind it. You can do this by rubbing your finger across it feeling for any nicks in it, or you can use a flash light to check it out in detail. If the seat is fine it is time to get your new tub stem ready for installation.

Leaky Tub Faucet

Leaky Tub Faucet

Now some plumbers will just tighten down on the O-Ring and tighten the packing nut a little bit, but this is what I do to ensure that I do not get any call backs, and in many peoples cases, not have to fix a leaky faucet again. I take the O-ring off the top and I put some caulking on the top, then I put the O-Ring back and tighten down until it is snug.

If you tighten down on the O-Ring too much you are going to force the O-Ring to curve up, which over a short period of time will wear down as it is tightened against the seat. You want the O-Ring to be snug, the caulking will assist in keeping the O-Ring snug once it dries and ensuring that it does not come loose after multiple turns of the shower/tub handle.

Next you want to tighten down on the packing nut on the tub stem. If you are repairing a leaking kitchen or bathroom faucet, those stems usually do not have a packing nut so you will not have to worry about this. Just tighten down on the other end of the packing nut snug with a pair of pliers. As you can see if you have a stem removal tool there are two sides, the other side if for the packing nut.

Now that you got the tub stem ready just insert it into the hole where you took the old one out. Do not tighten down with a He-Man torque, as most tub stem threads are made from brass and if you crank down on it too much you can break it off completely. Once you have the stem in there turn the water on and check for leaks everywhere. If there are no leaks then you have just fixed a leaking faucet.

I will eventually be uploading a video on how to fix a leaky faucet, but that will have to wait until I get enough money to get a video camera. Please if you have any questions ask them here and provide as much detail as you can, if you have a picture to reference that would be better. If you make no attempt to ask a detailed question about stopping faucet leaks, then I will make no attempt trying to help you.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

shower faucet December 5, 2009 at 7:20 am

wow. This post bought back some memories.

My house has extremely hard water. I bought it as a repo, and one of the failed items was the guest bathroom shower fixture. It needed this same fix.

The problem I had was there was no sliding that valve out. It was stuck. I had to drill about 10 holes down the middle of it (carefully as I was not sure how deep it was) and literally break it out. I cleaned up the valve housing and then had to make a few trips to the box store to figure out what valve I actually had inside of that thing. It was rough.

Good tip above that I wanted to highlight, put a rag over the drain, catch those extra parts you dropped….

Butler Masonry December 24, 2009 at 5:37 pm

My Virtual Assistant had found your blog some time ago and added it to my RSS feed for tweeting but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to actually stop by.

I really like how you used pictures in your post and will have to consider doing the same on my blog as it gets up and running.

Have you considered doing video yet for your posts? That’s another thing she suggested that I do.

Great stuff here for the DIY person. :-)

Dave The Handyman December 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Thank you for stopping by, I will be adding DIY home improvement and Diy home repair videos next year when I get a good amount of footage to post up

Naomi February 19, 2011 at 5:29 am

Hi there, Would you have any idea what brand this shower faucet is? I have a similar one, and have no idea what brand it is.

Thanks !

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