How to Fix a Leaking Bathtub

Close up of faucet and bathtub in modern bathroom
Camilo Morales / Getty Images

Whether you're into a relaxing bath or a rejuvenating shower, your bathtub is an important part of your home. A leaking tub is annoying, at best, because it can cause serious damage over time. The most likely problem is either in the faucet, the grout or body, or the drain.

There are a few ways to stop bath water leakage. Tub liners can update the color of your bath and allow you to take one immediately after repair, but they can cost about $2,700.

You can also weigh the pros and cons of refinishing your tub yourself. 

Locating and patching the leak with a sealant is the least expensive way to solve the problem. It’s also a reasonably simple do-it-yourself project, as long as you have a few basic tools. It may not be a permanent fix, though, so keep an eye on it to make sure the seal holds over time.

Follow these instructions to locate the problem and fix your leaky tub.

Locate the Leak

A leaky faucet or an area of leaking grout are usually easy to see. Checking the body is simple as well. You'll need a rag or towel, some old newspapers, and masking tape to for testing.

  1. Begin by wiping the outer wall of the tub. Dry it completely.
  2. Next, wrap the outside of the tub with newspaper, taping the papers in place.
  3. Fill the tub with water. Look for damp spots on the paper to locate the leak.

Fix the Faucet

Before you begin, turn off the hot and cold water supplies and drain the water from the pipes by opening the faucet.

Materials Needed

  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe wrench
  • Gaskets
  • Stem washers

Instructions for Repair

  1. Remove the faucet handle. Depending on the design, you may need to remove a plastic cap that covers the screws holding the handle in place. Pop it off with the flat blade of a screwdriver. Unscrew the handle and pull it off.
  1. Use the wrench to remove the packing nut. This is the nut that holds the faucet stem in place.
  2. Remove any old gaskets and washers. Place new gaskets inside the faucet. Then, replace the stem washers.
  3. Replace the faucet and handle, tightening the screws into place. Turn on the water supply and check for leaks.

Make Drain Repairs

If you found the leak at the drain, collect the listed materials and follow the instructions below.

Materials Needed

  • Drain removal tool or pliers and screwdriver
  • Putty knife
  • Plumber's putty
  • Rag or paper towel

Instructions for Repair

  1. Remove the drain with the drain removal tool. If you don't have this tool, grip the mesh of the drain with pliers. Place a screwdriver between the handles. Use the screwdriver as a lever. Turn it counterclockwise to break the existing putty seal.
  2. Check the drain and the pipe for cracks or damage. Replace them with new ones if they are damaged. If there is no damage, you can reuse the old drain.
  3. Scrape all the old putty from the threads with the putty knife. Rinse the drain well under hot water.
  4. Roll a 1-inch ball of plumber's putty into a 1/4-inch by 5-inch rope.
  5. Wrap that rope around the middle threads on the drain. Press it lightly to make sure it stays on the threads.
  1. Roll another ball of putty into a second 1/4-inch by 5-inch rope.
  2. Wrap this one around the bottom of the drain lip. This is where the drain touches the tub surface when it is in place.
  3. Place the drain back into the tub's drain hole. Screw it into place until it is hand-tight.
  4. Tighten the drain with the removal tool or the screwdriver and pliers.
  5. Wipe away any excess putty.
  6. Turn the water back on and check for leaks.

Take Care of Grout and Tub Body Leaks

Repairing minor cracks and leaks in the grout or the tub body is simple. All you need is a rag, some cleaning product, and waterproof sealant. For the tub body, you'll also need fine-grit sandpaper.

Grout

  1. Clean the area at the leak well.
  2. Turn off the water supply.
  3. Let the wet grout dry thoroughly. If you don't, the sealant may not adhere.
  4. Apply the sealant according to the manufacturer's directions. Allow it to dry and cure for at least three hours.
  1. Turn the water back on. Check for leaks.

Tub Body

  1. Clean the surface of the tub well.
  2. Mark the areas needing repair with a water-based marker or wax pencil.
  3. Apply the sealant. Allow it to dry completely, at least three hours.
  4. Lightly sand the repair area to remove any extra sealant and to smooth the surface.