It might seem like an emergency if you’re struggling and your bathtub faucet won’t turn off. You shut the handle off, but the water keeps coming. Whether it’s a slow drip or a steadier stream, you must fix this problem quickly!
Don’t panic because there’s almost always a way to shut the water off. And, with some patience, you might be able to fix the problem yourself.
Bathtub Faucet Won’t Turn Off: Quick Answer
When you turn the faucet handle off, and the water doesn’t stop flowing, try to find the water supply valve for your home. Every building is different, but you might have a valve that controls the water to the bathroom itself, or you might have to shut off the water for the whole house.
Look for a valve in a few likely places like:
- A recessed panel in the wall hiding a valve
- A shutoff valve near a sink in the bathroom
- In the ceiling below the bathroom
- In the basement, coming from your home’s water supply pipe
There is always a way to shut the water off. It’s just a question of whether you can do so for the problematic faucet or if you need to shut off all the water in your house (read here for more information if you can’t find the water shut off valve).
Fixing the Faucet
Once the water supply to your faucet is off, open the faucet all the way and let the residual water drain. Now you can figure out what the problem is.
Before you go any farther, cover the drain hole with a rag so you don’t accidentally drop screws, parts, or tools down it!
Anytime the faucet control is in the off position, and the water still flows, there is something broken inside of the faucet.
Consider each of these four most likely issues. Then, you can try and tackle the job yourself and save some money instead of calling in an expensive plumber. If you notice black residue coming out of your bathtub faucet, read here for the solution.
The Faucet Handle Is Loose
Most faucet handles have a set screw. When the handle is loose, it may wobble, and it won’t stop the flow of water even though it appears to be off. To fix the faucet handle, tighten the set screw with an appropriate screwdriver or Allen key.
Broken or Damaged Faucet Handle
A damaged faucet handle won’t grab the internal stem tightly enough. You can spin it as much as you want on the outside, but the internal valve won’t ever close. You can likely remove the set screw, pull off the handle, and order a new one. Then reverse the removal process to install the new one.
Damaged Internal Faucet Stem
Sometimes, the handle for your faucet is still working, but the stem inside that turns the water on and off is the problem. There are usually grooves or notches that keep the handle tight to the stem, and these may become crusted with sediment or even wear out over time.
Remove the handle as above. That should help free up the cover that hides the stem inside of the wall. If the cover is still tight, look for another screw or a nut that holds it in place over the stem.
Once the stem is visible, look for signs of wear, scaling, or sediment deposits. Also, look for loose o-rings or washers.
If the o-ring is loose, broken, or worn, you can roll it off the stem and bring it to the hardware store to find a replacement. Then just roll the new one onto the stem, ensuring it’s seated in the same groove as the old one.
If the stem is the issue, you’ll need a wrench to unscrew it from the valve. Scrutinize it, and consider replacing it. You might be able to temporarily reuse the damaged stem by adding some plumbers Teflon tape to a leaky thread, but it will still need replacement sooner rather than later.
The most serious issue that causes a bathtub faucet to remain stuck in the on position is a broken valve in the wall.
With the handle off and the stem removed, you should be able to see the valves inside the wall. If they are dripping, crusted over with corrosion, or damaged, you might want to consider calling in a pro.
But, if you are feeling confident in your DIY skills, use gentle, steady pressure to unscrew the valves with a wrench. You can use a rag to remove any sediment that has built up. Then try and reinstall the valves and see if they work better.
If not, you’ll need to buy new valves. Once you install them, reattach the stem, and then finally put your handle back on.
Test Your Work
After completing your repairs, test the operation of the handle. It should feel tight and firm. If you’re reasonably confident in your work, go and turn the water supply valve back on.
Return to the bathtub and turn the faucet on. Let it run for a few seconds, and then shut it down. Odds are, you fixed the bathtub faucet, and now everything works properly again.
Not every bathtub faucet is the same, and there are many different types of handles you might find. If you aren’t sure how to disassemble something, there are a few tricks to consider.
- Look for hidden or recessed set screws. They might be behind an ornamental cover or on the underside of the controls.
- Look up your brand and model online and see if a video shows how to disassemble or troubleshoot it.
- If you have to put a wrench on something that you don’t want to scratch, wrap it in a thick rag before grabbing it with the wrench.
Bathtub Faucet Won’t Turn Off: Wrap Up
If your bathtub faucet doesn’t turn off, you should be able to identify the issue pretty quickly. Shut off the water supply first. Then you can isolate the problem and tighten loose screws or remove and replace anything that seems broken. A trip to the hardware store and a few minutes with a wrench can solve your problem today!