How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub: A Tutorial for Homeowners

A leaky bathtub is bad news. If the leak isn’t fixed as soon as possible, it could cause some very serious and costly damage to your home. If you notice your bathtub is leaking, you should consider calling a plumber immediately.

If, however, you would like to try solving this problem on your own, the first step to figuring out how to fix a leaky bathtub is to determine where the leaking water is coming from. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to fix a leaky bathtub by yourself:

1. How to identify a leaky bathtub

If the faucet of your bathtub is responsible for the leak, or if the shower head of your bathtub is dripping, the leak should be easy to fix. However, if you think some of the water supply pipes of your bathtub are leaking inside the walls, this problem will be a lot more complicated to repair.

If water seems to be leaking under your bathtub, this probably indicates a leaky drain. This type of leak is also very serious, and your floor might get damaged before you even notice something is wrong.

Finally, leaks can also occur if there is a crack in the grout or the caulk between your bathtub and the wall. Once again, the leaking water can cause significant damage to your wall if the problem isn’t solved quickly.

2. How to fix a leaky bathtub faucet

If the faucet of your bathtub is leaking, the water dripping inside the tub will not end up damaging your bathroom, but it could increase your water bill.

Before you dismantle your faucet to try to fix the leak, you need to turn off the water supply. You will then have to use a screwdriver to remove the handle of the faucet, before removing the trim, the collar, and the stem bonnet. The part responsible for the leak will either be a washer, a seal or a gasket.

Identify the faulty part, and bring it to the hardware store to buy a replacement. Replace it, and put the stem bonnet, the collar, the trim, and the handle back in place.

To be sure you have successfully fixed the leak, you should inspect and replace the parts of both handles of your faucet. When you are done, turn on the water supply and check if the faucet is still leaking.

3. How to fix a leaky water supply pipe

If a water supply pipe is leaking inside the walls, causing damage to them, the best solution would be to turn off the water supply and to call a plumber immediately.

Unless you know how to repair or replace a leaking pipe, you should let a professional take care of this task for you.

4. How to fix a leaky bathtub drain

If your bathtub drain is responsible for the leak, you should be able to fix it on your own. Start by removing the drain plug or stopper. Depending on the model, it might need to be unscrewed.

You will then need to unscrew the drain itself. Insert the head of a pair of pliers into the cross sections of the drain. Place a screwdriver between the handles of the pliers, and start turning it counterclockwise. You will need to apply some pressure to break the seal of the plumber’s putty holding the drain in place.

When the drain finally pulls free, inspect it. If the plumber’s putty is hard and crumbly, scrape it away with a plastic putty knife. If the putty is not crumbly, you might need to use a hairdryer to soften it so you can remove it. Clean the drain, and let it dry.

You can then take a small ball of new plumber’s putty, and roll it in your hands until it forms a string that is about the size of a pencil. Wrap this putty string around the base of the drain, and put it back in place.
Use a damp rag to clean any excess of putty, and fill the bathtub with water to check if the drain is still leaking.

5. How to fix grout and caulk leaks

Your leak problem could also be caused by cracks or gaps in the grout between the tiles on your wall, or in the caulk between the wall and your bathtub.

If this is the case, you will have to either regrout the tiles, or redo the caulking. If, however, the water has been leaking into the wall for some time, the damage caused by rot and mold will be a lot more complicated and costly to fix, and you might not be able to take care of it without the help of a professional.

This is why you should act quickly if you suspect there is even just one crack that allows water to seep into your wall. Prevention could save you a lot of money, as regrouting a tile is better than having to rebuild a section of a wall.