If you’re a homeowner, you already, probably have some idea of the devastation water can cause to the structure of a house. Indeed, along with fire, water damage is one of the most catastrophic events a home can sustain.
But, for more substantial problems (water damage visible in the ceiling below the bathroom, for instance), it might be necessary to call in a professional to conduct the plumbing repairs.
In this article, I will provide you with background information about common sources for leaks in the bathtub, as well as the steps on how to fix a leaking bathtub.
How to Fix a Leaking Bathtub
What Can Cause a Bathtub to Leak?
You walk into your bathroom, and immediately notice dripping bathtub faucets. Certainly, a leaky faucet is the most common, and easily recognized, source of a bathtub leak. But it is not the only one.
As a homeowner, you should be well aware of the other, less obvious, causes of water damage in the bathroom.
In addition to the faucet, you should pay attention to the grout, the bathtub body, the pipe assembly (in particular the overflow pipe), and the bathtub drain.
A tub faucet has internal parts that are prone to wear out over time. That’s why this is such a common occurrence in households; rubber parts such as the gasket and washers prevent water from leaking out of the threads of the screw.
Pressure on the rubber, alternating from light to heavy (through repeated use of the faucet), will wear it out so you will need to replace the washer and gasket – the leaky faucet is the best sign that this is the case.
Grout is a mixture of water, cement, and sand that is commonly used to fill in the cracks between tiles in a bathroom. Like the rubber gaskets and washers in the faucet, grout has to be closely monitored because it will deteriorate over time.
Degraded grout is relatively easy to spot, there will be holes in the line of grout, or the grout will have a crumbly texture and appearance.
The bathtub body, of course, must be watertight to prevent leakage. This type of leak is pernicious because it is difficult to spot.
If you suspect a leak, and the faucet, grout, and plumbing pass inspection, you may have a leaking bathtub.
To be certain this is the case, you will need to dry the outside of the tub, pack newspaper around it, and then fill it with water – paying close attention to where the newspaper gets drenched first…you’ve found your problem.
The overflow pipe and drain are other common sources of bathtub leaks.
Over time, the nuts holding these parts in place might become loose, or the plumbers putty (a combination of clay and oil commonly used to seal the drain) might wear too thin and require reapplication.
In some cases, in the case of very old or worn out parts, new plumbing may be required – in which case I would advise calling in a professional plumber.
How To Fix A Leaking Bathtub
Now that you’ve identified the source of the leak in your bathtub, it’s time to fix it!
This is no time to drag your heels; a leaky faucet might not seem like a big deal, but if you look at the bigger picture, this is an egregious waste of freshwater – a valuable (and limited) resource on Earth.
For minor leaks, I recommend trying your hand at fixing it yourself. As a homeowner, this can give you valuable experience for the future.
For more significant problems (or in cases where you can’t definitively determine the cause of the leak), you should call in professional help.
Again, it is extremely important to fix these problems early. If let be, a small problem with a leak can become very expensive, very quickly as the water damage spreads.
For faucet repairs
To conduct faucet repairs, the first step is shutting off the water.
To do this, you must locate the main water supply pipe (the ‘water main’) and turn the valve OFF. Any repair to the faucet will be impossible with water flooding the system.
After that, unscrew the handle on the faucet, and remove the nut that holds it in place. Now you can remove the handle. Next, simply replace the rubber gasket and washers, tighten the nut, and you’re finished!
Tip: Applying plumbers grease to the threads on the screw (this applies to any part of the pipe assembly) will reduce the friction on the metal and prolong the life of the part.
For grout repairs
If you’ve noticed holes in the grouting around your bathtub, or suspect the grout is corroded, a heavy-duty waterproof sealant should do the trick.
The sealant is a silicone caulking product commonly used to replace compromised grouting.
To do this, you must completely dry the area to be caulked, apply the caulking, and allow at least three hours for it to dry before turning the water on again.
If done correctly, and patiently, this should work just fine.
For repairs to the bathtub body
If you’ve identified a leak in the bathtub body, you will need to shut off the water supply and completely dry the affected area.
Once you’ve done that, apply the heavy-duty waterproof sealant to the area, again allowing it three hours to dry. At this point, you will want to sand down the area, so it is flush with the surface of the tub and looks attractive.
For repairs to piping
The overflow pipe of the bathtub is out of sight, which means you may have a significant leak on your hands before you notice it.
Once you have, though, you will need to shut off the water supply. Next, replace the rubber gasket and tighten the nut holding it in place. This should solve the problem.
Turn the water back on, and closely inspect the area with a flashlight, just to be sure, though.
For drain repairs
In case you have a leaking drain.
First determine if the drain is worth saving, if it is very old or degraded, consider replacing it. If it seems to be in good shape, unscrew the drain and reapply (generously) some plumbers putty to the threads.
After you reattach the drain, tighten the nut underneath for good measure.
As it turns out, in most cases, a leaky bathtub can be repaired with a few tools and a little bit of elbow grease.
A conscientious homeowner will be able to notice potential leaks early, and easily make the necessary repairs. The significant problems occur when careless, inattentive homeowners don’t do the routine maintenance. This can result in small leaks getting out of hand, resulting in serious (and expensive) water damage to the home.Although I hope it never gets to this point, I hope I’ve provided enough information on how to fix a leaking bathtub so you can begin making repairs to your home, on your own. Everyone loves a handyman.