How to guide for repairing a leaking shower or tub faucet.
If you have experienced a leaking shower head or your tub faucet is always dripping you can understand how frustrating it is trying to repair the problem. The hardest part may be getting access to the mixing valve or faucet assembly inside the wall. Tiled showers or acrylic tub surrounds prevent access from the front, so there should be access from the other side of the wall. When renovating, make sure you can gain access to plumbing components in the event you have to work on them.
Modern fixtures can be accessed from the front to allow you to remove the cartridges on the hot and cold sides and replace them. Many shower faucets are compression faucets, meaning that the water is shut off by compressing a rubber washer against a brass or stainless steel seat.
Diagram of Compression Faucet
Check the temperature of the water leaking from faucet or shower head. If It's hot, you know the leak is being caused by the hot side of the faucet, if the water is cold, the cold side is the problem.
Tools and Materials
Cold or hot side faucet cartridge or washers and o-rings. Most manufacturers sell rebuild kits that has all of the replaceable components and instructions.
Standard screwdriver and/or Phillips head
Set of socket wrenches
Small cold chisel
1. Shut off water supply either in the bathroom or at the main shutoff valve in the basement.
2. Open the faucet handles and allow water to drain out.
3. Remove faucet handle screw, turning counterclockwise. Sometimes screw is located beneath snap-on cover that can be removed with a small screwdriver or putty knife.
4. Pull off handle. If handle is corroded and stuck to stem within, apply a few drops of penetrating oil and allow it to soak in for a few minutes. Tap handle lightly with your screwdriver handle or hammer until it loosens.
5. Remove escutcheon plate. Sometimes these have a small set screw on the edge to lock it into place. Loosen these and remove the escutcheon. Most times there is a bushing that is threaded onto the faucet body. Turn this bushing counterclockwise to remove.
6. Remove any old putty or caulking from the underside of the escutcheon ring.
7. Remove stem sleeve by placing a cloth or rag over it, grasping it with pliers, and turning counterclockwise.
8. Remove bonnet or stem nut.
9. If bonnet is hexagonally shaped, select a socket wrench to fit and remove by turning counterclockwise.
10. If wrench will not fit around bonnet because of tile and grout, it will be necessary to remove enough of the plaster to allow wrench to fit around bonnet. Use cold chisel and hammer to carefully chip away only enough material to allow the wrench to fit over the bonnet.
11. If bonnet is not hexagonal but has two flat sides, try to fit pliers or a wrench around flat sides and turn out in counterclockwise direction.
12. Examine washer on the shoulder of bonnet. If it is worn, replace it.
Washers and Packing
13. At the very bottom of bonnet, there should be an "O" ring. Remove it and replace it if it is worn.
14. Place faucet handle onto valve stem and begin turning either clockwise or counterclockwise depending on whether it is the hot or cold side. The valve stem should come out completely; if not, grab the end of the stem with your pliers and gently pull on it until its free.
15. Unscrew the washer screw at bottom of stem by turning counterclockwise.
16. Examine washer held in place by screw and replace.
17. If worm section of stem is worn, the entire stem should be replaced. When ordering new parts take the old parts to the hardware store or home center so you will get perfectly matched replacements.
18. Examine inside of valve body with flashlight. If valve seat is worn or pitted, it may be necessary to replace the valve seat. If valve seat is made of Teflon, leave it in place. (Removing the valve seat requires a special tool which is similar to a long-handled Allen wrench)
Square Seat Wrench
19. After all steps have been completed and all new parts and washers
have been replaced, reassemble entire valve body. If your valve stem is a brass worm and sleeve, add some stem grease to the threads. Make sure all fittings are snug, but
do not over tighten, as this will damage valve body.
20. Fill escutcheon ring with plumber’s putty and fit over valve stem and stem sleeve. Then press escutcheon ring against wall until putty comes out from the edges. This will prevent leakage from tub into walls.
21. Reset escutcheon in place with either the set screws or threaded bushing.
22. Clean away putty from tiles.
23. Place valve handles onto the valve stems and screw into position. If the screws are stripped or corroded, replace with new handle screws.
24. Turn on water supply and test for leakage.
This should correct the leaking from the tub spout or showerhead. If your faucet stems are older, consider replacing the washers on the hot side with material specifically designed for hot water. Usually these hot water washers are white or blue instead of the typical black rubber. Hot water wears away the rubber more quickly and people normally use more hot water when showering or bathing so it gets more use.