Q: When I take a shower, I pull up on the little knob on the bathtub spout to make the water go to the showerhead. But nearly half the water still comes out the spout, and the shower spray is pretty weak. Can anything be done to stop the spout from leaking?

—B.H. Bell, Monroe, LA.

A: Plumbing & Heating Expert Richard Trethewey replies: Sure; you just need a new spout and knob, called a diverter. Replacing a spout isn't difficult, and you don't even have to turn off the main water supply.

The first step is to figure out how the spout is attached. If you see a small hole or a set screw on the underside of the spout near where it meets the wall, cover the drain with a washcloth and use an Allen wrench—also called a hex key—to remove the screw. The washcloth will catch the screw before it dives down the drain. Now twist the spout as you pull it straight out and off the copper supply pipe.

If there's no set screw, then the spout is threaded onto the supply pipe. Grab the spout with a pipe wrench and turn it counterclockwise until the spout comes off.

Now take the old spout to the hardware store or home center and get a new one that attaches the same way. Be extra careful choosing a threaded spout because some are threaded near the outlet; others, near the base. As long as the spout you buy has threads in the same place as the old one, you're good to go.
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