Replacing a bathtub spout can be done simply to update its look, or it can be done because you need to correct a problem. A fairly common problem is a bathtub spout that stops working correctly. Either it begins to leak around the base of the spout where it enters the wall, or the diverter valve used to direct water up to a shower head stops working correctly. In this case, water continues to dribble out through the spout when you want it to flow up through the shower head.
Why Tub Spouts Leak
A leaking spout is more serious than you might think. If the spout leaks from the end of the spout, it's usually caused by a faucet valve that needs to be repaired. Even a leak that is just slightly dripping has the potential for wasting as much as 200 gallons of water each month.
A spout can also leak at the point where the spout meets the wall, and this can be even more serious since water leaking inside the wall can lead to very serious damage.
A less serious problem is when the shower diverter on the spout is faulty, resulting in water that no longer fully channels up to the showerhead and instead continues to dribble out of the spout. This problem is not damaging, but it is quite inconvenient and annoying.
In either of these situations, the solution is to remove and replace the spout. Removing and replacing a tub spout is a simple project that even a novice DIYer can handle. It only takes a few minutes, and it doesn't even require special tools. How you perform the replacement, though, depends on what type of tub spout you have and how it is attached.
Before you can replace the spout, you must determine which type you have. Typically, tub spouts use either a slip-on or threaded design. A slip-on spout fits over the top of the water stub-out pipe and is secured to the stub-out pipe with a set-screw. On threaded models, the spout uses an internal female-threaded fitting that screws over a male threaded fitting on the end of the stub-out pipe.
If your spout has a decorative cover or escutcheon plate that covers the opening in the wall (not all spouts have this), you'll need a screwdriver to pop off that cover. First, look for a small-cap located on the underside of the spout. If its present, pry off the cap with a screwdriver. If you spot a small screw beneath the cap, you have a slip-on spout. If there is no set-screw or no cap at all, then you have a threaded spout.
Purchase a new spout that matches the same connection style as the old spout. The supplies you need will depend on the type of faucet spout you have—slip-on or threaded. Review the instructions below to determine what kind of faucet you have and then choose the relevant tools and supplies from this list.
Equipment / Tools
- Putty knife or utility knife
- Hex wrench (if necessary)
- Pipe wrench or large channel-lock pliers
- Tubing cutter (if necessary)
- New faucet spout
- Steel wool or emery cloth
- PTFE thread sealing tape
- Silicone tub-and-tile caulk
How to Replace a Slip-On Spout
This is as simple as it sounds—a matter of slipping off an old spout and slipping on a new one.
Turn Off the Water
Turn off the water at the fixture shut-off valve for the tub/shower shut-off valve, or the main water supply shut-off valve. In theory, a faucet spout can be replaced with just the faucet itself shut off, but it's best to turn off the water supply at a shut-off valve to ensure safety if something should go wrong during the project.
Block the drain opening with a rag. This will prevent the set-screw from getting lost down the drain.
Carefully scrape away the caulk where the spout meets the wall, using a putty knife or utility knife.
Remove the Old Spout
Remove the set-screw on the bottom of the spout by turning it counter-clockwise. Most set-screws have hex heads that require an Allen wrench, but there are some that use a Phillips-head or flat-head screw.
Take hold of the spout with both hands and pull it straight out from the wall. It should come off pretty easily, but if it's been in place a long time and is corroded in place, you may have to twist the spout slightly back and forth as you pull. Be patient as you remove the spout, as it is possible to damage the stub-out pipe.
Prepare the Stub-Out Pipe
Check the manufacturer's instructions on the new spout to determine how long the stub-out pipe needs to be. Most fixtures require a stub-out that extends 1 inch to 2 7/8 inches out from the wall, depending on the design. If the existing pipe is too short, you can use an adapter fitting on the end of the stub-out to connect the spout; if it is too long, use a tubing cutter to shorten the stub-out pipe slightly.
With steel wool, clean the stub-out pipe until it is shiny. Check the inside of the pipe for burrs or rough spots, especially if you have just cut it. You can smooth the pipe using the reaming tool on the tubing cutter, the blade of the screwdriver, or even a piece of steel wool or emery cloth wrapped around your finger.
Attach the New Spout
Slide the new spout onto the pipe until the base meets the wall. Align the spout so that the opening points straight down.
Insert and tighten the set-screw by turning it clockwise. Replace the small cover cap in the screw opening.
Apply silicone tub-and-tile caulk to the seam where wall and spout meet. Turn on the water and test the operation of the spout.
How to Replace a Threaded Spout
Before you start this project, you'll need to measure to match the new spout to the old. It is best to wait until you have removed the old spout before buying the new one.
Turn Off the Water
Turn off the water at the tub/shower shut-off valve or the main water supply shut-off valve. While it is possible to replace a spout without shutting off the water supply—with just the faucet turned off—it's always best to turn off the water supply at a shut-off valve when making any plumbing repair.
Remove the Spout
Carefully scrape away the caulk where the spout meets the wall, using a putty knife or utility knife
Place a pipe wrench or channel-lock pliers around the spout and tighten it, so it grips the fixture. Turn the wrench counterclockwise to unthread the spout from the stub-out pipe. You may also be able to accomplish this by placing the blade of a long screwdriver into the spout opening and using it for leverage to unscrew the threaded spout. Be patient as you coax the spout off the threaded stub-out fitting, as it is possible to damage the pipe if you are too aggressive.
Buy a New Spout
Examine the old spout and the stub-out pipe. If you have a spout that threads near the front of the spout body, measure from the wall to the end of the stub-out pipe. For a spout that threads near the wall-end, measure the threaded nipple on the stub-out—it should be no longer than 1/2 inch. If your spout is a telescoping one, the stub-out pipe should be a maximum of 1 3/8 inches in length. With this measurement in hand, buy a new spout.
Prepare the Stub-Out Pipe
Clean off the threads on the end of the stub-out fitting. Add four or five wraps of thread-sealing tape to the threaded stub-out pipe, wrapping it in a clockwise direction around the threads.
Apply silicone tub-and-tile caulk around the area where the spout and the wall meet. This will help ensure that water doesn't drip behind the spout and damage the interior of the wall.
Install the New Spout
Thread the new spout onto the stub-out pipe slowly, by hand at first. To avoid scratching the finish, protect the spout by wrapping a rag around it before attaching the wrench to finish tightening the spout. Tighten the spout so that the opening is aligned straight up and down.
Wipe away any excess caulk from the seam where the spout meets the wall. Then, turn on the water and test the operation of the spout.
When to Call a Pro
Occasionally, a spout can leak around the base not because the spout is faulty, but because the stub-out pipe is damaged. This damage can also occur during spout replacement, if you are too aggressive when removing a stubborn old spout.
Fixing a cracked or broken stub-out pipe is a more difficult repair, and it may require the help of a professional plumber, who will open the wall to remove the old stub-out pipe and install a new one connecting to the faucet body. This work may require the use of a propane torch to sweat-solder new fittings, so it should not be attempted as a DIYer unless you have considerable experience.