Leaky Tub? How To Find the Leak and What To Do

It’s just when you’re drifting off to sleep that you hear the drip, drip, drip that's been driving you crazy and keeping you awake every night. Or you find a puddle on the floor every time you step out of the tub and you know water isn’t leaking over the side of the bathtub – you just put those little plastic dams in last week.

It’s clear you've got a leaky tub, but where exactly is it coming from? You’ll have to do some tests in order to find the source. Here are some tips for getting started.

The Supply

If the tub leaks whether you’re using it or not, then the supply may be the source. The tubing that connects the tub (the toilet and sink too) to the water supply is called the "supply." For most tubs and sinks, the supply tubes are built onto their valves and then fastened directly onto the water supply pipes. If you're able to access the supply, wipe the tubing, the valves, and the connections with tissue or paper towel. If the paper is wet, you've found your leak.

If you're unable to access the tub's supply tubes - and they can be difficult to get to - don't start breaking any walls just yet. Your best and safest option is to call a professional.  

The Drain

Take a good look at the bathtub drain. A leaky drain will allow water to seep around the outside of the drain where it's connected to the tub. Climb into your bathtub and stand over it. Does it feel solid under your feet or is there some give? Plug the drain and add water. Give it an hour or so. If the water level decreased, the drain is leaking. 

If the water level stayed the same, there’s still one more test for the drain. Pull the plug and let the water drain. Watch what happens. If water appears outside the bathtub, the source of your tub leak is probably the drain piping.

The Shower Head

Once you’ve ruled out the drain, move on to the shower head. Pull the metal ring around the shower head – it’s called the escutcheon – and run the shower while looking at the pipes with a flashlight. Watch for a leak. If you don’t find one, do the toilet paper test. Wrap some toilet paper around a screwdriver and insert it into the opening where the shower head pipe emerges. Hold it under the pipe for a few moments, and then check the paper to see if it is wet. If it is, you’ve found the leak.

The Tub Spout

Loose tile is a sign of water leakage as well. If the tile behind the spout is loose, it's a safe bet the tub leak is originating from there. If you're able to remove one of the tiles, open the access panel behind the faucet and look for dampness or discoloration. It may be complicated to check for a leak at the tub spout because it may require cutting into the drywall or tile. If you’ve ruled out all other possibilities, you’ll need to check this one – but with professional help. Call a plumber before you go any further.

What to Do

So you found the source of the bathtub leak. What now? If it’s a simple repair and you have the knowledge and proper tools to do it, then go for it. If you don’t, this is no time for pride. Put down the toolbox, pick up the phone and call in a pro. Every plumber from Cleveland to Kalamazoo has a story of how a job that should have only taken a few hours mushroomed into a major project because the homeowner tried to fix it first. In addition to repairing the original problem, the homeowner ended up having to get an electrician, a flooring contractor, a drywall specialist...you get the idea.

Be smart and get it done right – for less, and with a lot less hassle – the first time.





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