Dripping bathtub faucet in 1920s home

Emily.KearneyDecember 23, 2013


We have lived in our 1929 home for almost 6 years and in the last year, the hot water has begun to drip from the bathtub faucet. Lately it has increased to a full tiny stream, wasting a lot of water. We are not plumbers but lately have been doing more diy fixes on our home and appliances so I thought I would check in here for advice on whether this is a problem we can fix ourselves or what we should look for in a plumber if we need help. I have read about some very different problems online so I'm not sure if it's just a washer or some more complex valve issue. If we try it ourselves I want to have an idea of what we are dealing with before turning of the water and having no ability to shower or hot water. There is no turn off valve just serving the tub.

Thank you so much! I will monitor and answer any questions I can.

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Likely just needs a seat washer & replacement brass screw (of matching size and thread, brass or stainless). You can do it, but it's old stuff...if something else is wrong, you can get stuck. I would suggest hiring somebody to watch the first repair. Other related problems: damaged "seat" which can be reseated or replaced, and a seat screw that falls apart when you try to remove it. Then you need an extractor to get it out without damage...

If you elect to do it:
Turn off the water. Remove handle (look behind it for something to turn), then escutcheon (it will unscrew), then you will be looking at the valve stem. Next, open the valve (remaining water will pour out) and leave it "open". Next, remove the stem with a stem wrench. Take it out and look at the seat (bottom of it). Replace washer and screw. Reverse order to reassemble. Test.

Note: when they are this old, many plumbers will say they can't get the parts and will recommend replacing the valve. You need an old school plumber that will do a "service call on old tub stems that are dripping."

    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 9:48PM
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start with simple fix & if that doesn't work...
move to next level.
you can buy universal sized washers.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 2:34PM
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When you have the stem removed, insert your index finger an frrl the seat. if it is rough or with pieces missing, then replace it.
It will pay you to replace the packing as well.

When you reassemble the faucet, make sure the stem is fully retracted.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 6:10PM
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And I'd you take it apart and can't fix it yourself, just reassemble the old parts, turn the water back on, and call a plumber.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 11:25PM
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I've found Youtube videos invaluable for this kind of household repair. Do a search and I'll bet you find one -- probably several--on fixing a leaky faucet.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2013 at 5:51AM
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Thank you everyone! The faucet is fixed!

We read over your suggestions and had a non-expert plumber come out to see if it was a simple washer replacement before we called in an expert. Turns out it was. We had him replace the cold water washer too, which was about to break as well. No more wasted water!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2014 at 9:50PM
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Thanks for the update. Glad to hear it worked out.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 12:31PM
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Thanks homebound! My husband was home and the plumber showed him how to do it and left us an extra washer or two. So if we need to do it again, he knows how and we can go buy a stem wrench.

I really appreciate the detailed answers. Understanding how these systems work helps my brain, and makes me feel confident about tackling problems instead of waiting for them to become a real issue.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 1:52PM
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Emily, half my sinks have this same issue. You have inspired me to call in another plumber to help (prior to me tackling it myself LOL). I thought I had to get all new valves, faucets, etc, all custom cuz they're antique.....I may love you :p

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 11:02PM
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Most of the older faucets were made to be able to be easily repaired. You can usually fix the with just a new washer and save yourself a lot of money.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 5:31PM
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Thanks for all your advice everyone! The new washers worked for about 9 months, then it started to drip again, and at this point is back to a steady small stream. Is that a normal time-frame and I should just change the washers again, or do I need to call a more experienced plumber?


    Bookmark   January 21, 2015 at 3:20PM
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Nope. Now that you learned to remove the stems to get to the washers and know where the seats are.....shut off the water pull the stems and seats (keeping H & C together-I won't bore you with what happens when they are switched LOL) and take the to a REAL plumbing supply store. Once they can identify them you can replace them. If the plumber only replaced the washers, most likely the seats got damaged and damaged seats will eat away at the washers. It's not worth the effort to replace just the washers again, I'd just redo the whole thing for very little $$! Of course, it's now time to buy those wrenches!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2015 at 8:45PM
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