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How To Replace a Bathtub Faucet (2024 Guide)

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Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/07/2024

Replacing a bathroom faucet or handles is generally a pretty simple do-it-yourself (DIY) task. In this guide, we’ll walk you through replacing your bathroom faucet with clear directions. If you’re fixing a bathroom faucet as part of a larger bathroom remodel, also check out our complete bathroom renovation guide.

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Preparing To Replace a Bathtub Faucet

Before replacing your bathtub faucet, determine whether it has a slip-on or threaded design.

A slip-on spout “slips” onto the water stub-out pipe, which is the portion of the pipe that sticks out from the wall. A set screw secures the spout to the pipe.

A threaded spout, also called a screw-on spout, doesn’t need a set screw because its threads fit over the end of the stub-out pipe.

Before you begin, check that you have all the proper tools and materials for the job. Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Caulk gun
  • Cloth or towel
  • Flathead screwdriver or Phillips screwdriver
  • Hex key
  • Pass-through socket wrench
  • Pipe wrench
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure
These are the most common materials needed for a bathtub faucet replacement project:
  • Bathtub faucet
  • Bathtub handles
  • Caulk
  • Plumber’s grease
  • Plumber’s tape

Steps to follow
Follow the steps below to remove and replace your bathtub faucet successfully.

First, shut off the main water supply valve in your home. Then, make sure that all water is out by running your bathtub for 30 seconds or however long it takes to drain.

Next, grab your rag or cloth and place it over the drain. This prevents any screws or other objects from falling down it.

Now it’s time to start replacing the faucet. Using your flathead screwdriver, pry the index off the handle stem. The index is the small plastic or metal circle that sits in the center of the handle. Avoid damaging the index by carefully prying it up on each side. Note that you could break the index if you use too much force. Repeat this process to remove the index from all handles of your tub’s features.

Next, loosen the screw underneath the index with a flathead or Phillips screwdriver. If the screw seems stuck, don’t try twisting the screwdriver since you’ll probably strip it. Instead, use some WD-40 to treat the screw and loosen it. Turn the screw counterclockwise until it can be completely removed. Set the screw aside until you have the replacement faucet. Now, the handle should easily slide off the stem. Repeat this process if you have a second handle.

Once you remove the handle, you should see a thin pipe extending from the wall. This pipe is the stem, and it controls the faucet. Remove the stem with a pass-through socket wrench extending over it and gripping its hex nut. Turn the hex nut counterclockwise to loosen the stem. Once the stem is loosened, grab it with your hand and pull it off the wall.

Repeat this same process for each handle in the bathtub faucet setup. We recommend keeping the old parts to use as a reference for purchasing compatible replacement parts.

The tub faucet’s spout is secured either with a mounting screw located on the tub spout’s underside or by being screwed onto the pipe. Check for a mounting screw first; if there is one, use a hex key or screwdriver to remove it. You should also put it aside in a safe location for reinstallation.

If the spout doesn’t have a mounting screw, wrap a cloth or towel around it to protect the metal before gripping it with a pipe wrench and turning the entire spout counterclockwise. The old spout should slide off once loosened, revealing the water pipe inside the spout.

Next, measure the spigot, which is the small peg or plug extending from your wall. Most spigots are around 6 inches long or built into the wall. Your new faucet needs to match this setup.

Head to a hardware store with your old faucet unit. Specialists there can help homeowners find new bathtub faucets that match old dimensions and designs. This is also a good time to shop for other bathroom renovation projects.

Once you’ve purchased parts, install your new bathtub faucet. Start by feeding the threaded end of the stem into the hole where the old stems were installed. Next, turn the stem clockwise. Use your socket wrench to check that the connection is tight and secure. Be careful not to overtighten the stem since that could damage the pipes. Repeat this process for each handle.

The new handles should be easy to install. First, slide the handle over the new stem until it touches the wall. Once in place, use your screwdriver to secure the handle with the old screw you removed earlier. You may also use a new screw if your new faucet includes one. The index cover should pop into place, protecting the screw and finalizing the handle’s design. Repeat the process with each handle if you have more than one.

Use your caulk gun to add some caulk around the base of each handle to prevent water from entering the walls.

Before installing the spout, use plumber’s tape on the pipe’s threading to create as secure a seal as possible. Then, slide the new spout over the pipe and secure the spout to the pipe with a mounting screw.

If the spout has no mounting screw, turn it clockwise to screw it onto the pipe. You may also want to wrap the spout with your cloth or towel to prevent scratching the new fixture. Then, finish tightening the spout with a pipe wrench. Make sure that the spout is snug against the wall and that it’s facing down.

Finally, use your caulk gun to seal the spout’s base. This prevents water from entering the walls, which could lead to water damage or mold. Turn the water back on and give it a few minutes to run through the entire plumbing system.

Also, check the faucet and handles for any leaks. Turn off the faucet and check again with the fixture under pressure. If the water runs normally, you’ve successfully installed a new bathtub faucet.


DIY vs. Professional Bathroom Remodeling

If you want to learn a new skill and prefer to take the DIY route, replacing a bathtub faucet is a beginner-friendly job. It’s a simple home improvement project that doesn’t require many tools.

However, if plumbing makes you nervous or your old faucet is compromised and leaky, contact a professional. You may also want to consider one if your tub uses unique materials such as cast iron or a copper pipe.

Hiring a professional ensures that you receive quality bathtub faucet replacement and installation. You’ll also receive a labor warranty, securing your investment and guaranteeing a resolution if issues arise.


Our Conclusion

Replacing a bathtub faucet is a relatively easy DIY job if you follow the steps outlined above. If you’re not confident in your home improvement skills, hire a professional. Avoiding substantial changes to your plumbing and electrical systems will help you save on your overall bathroom remodel costs. We recommend leaving some extra room in your budget in case of unexpected issues to avoid financial stress.

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FAQ About Replacing a Bathtub Faucet

Is changing a bathtub faucet hard?

Changing a bathtub faucet is not hard. The job doesn’t take much skill and requires fairly common household tools. In addition, it poses very few risks to your home’s integrity or safety.

Do I need plumber's putty to replace a faucet?

You can apply a bead of plumber’s putty around the bottom of your new faucet, but we also recommend silicone caulk for an easier-to-control and easy-to-clean sealant.

Are all bathtub faucets interchangeable?

No, bathtub faucets are not interchangeable. Different tubs require different faucets. We recommend using your old faucet as a reference point to know which replacement faucets pair with your bathtub.

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