Plumbing Guide: How to Fix a Leaky Bathtub Faucet Without Turning Off the Water

If you have been wondering how to fix a leaky bathtub faucet without turning off the water supply then you’re in the right place. We have a great guide for you here where you can fix a leaking bathtub faucet where you don’t need to turn off the supply. This is ideal in situations where the water supply cannot be accessed.

Now don’t get us wrong. A leaking bathtub faucet should be changed when the water is turned off. However, you may be doing it to minimize the risk of causing water damage. You can do it without turning the water off and in this case, you will want to turn on other faucets around your home. This will help to reduce the water pressure from the faucet you are planning on replacing. After this you will begin the replacement process exactly the same as if the water was off, you’ll just want to do it a bit faster.

When Should a Faucet Be Changed?

There are a few different reasons why you may want to swap your faucet for a new one. In general, your bathtub faucet should have a lifespan between 15 and 20 years. If yours is older than that then it may be time to change it out for a new one before repairs become too expensive.

Another reason you may want to replace the faucet is because you are constantly repairing it. If you find yourself having to repair the faucet every week then it’s time to replace it. Keeping up repairs like this is a waste of your time and it’ll cost your more than simply replacing the faucet itself.

Nowadays there are much more efficient faucets available on the market so this may be a reason why you want to replace yours. Recent studies have shown that an old faucet could waste between three to five gallons of water every minute. Having a more efficient one means you could cut down on your water bill.

Why Should You Shut Off the Water Before Changing a Leaky Faucet?

We know this guide is all about changing a bathtub faucet without turning off the water but we’re also going to advise you why you should shut it off in most scenarios if possible. If you’ve ever tried to change a bathtub faucet before without turning off the water then you already understand the reason for wanting to shut it off.

Basically, without the water turned off the it will spray out of the faucet while you are installing and then changing it over. This results in your bathroom being completely drenched with water.

Turning off the water will fix this issue. Water won’t be able to flow from a leaking faucet from the main faucet supply line hose while you are making the swap. That’s why most online guides you may come across will recommend to turn off the water.

How to Turn Off the Water

If you can turn your water off then do it before changing a leaking bathtub faucet. In order to do this, you will need to find the main water line for your home and then switch it off. The process is simple enough if you know where the water main is. It’s typically a knob or lever that you can twist or pull that stops all of the water flowing into your home. In fact, the most difficult part of this for main people is finding the main water valve.

There are a few areas around your home that you can check for the main supply, and many new builds put the water meter in the utility room. Generally, the valve will be inside your home on the perimeter of the property that faces the street. If you’ve looked everywhere and still can’t find the shutoff valves then you should look at your property inspection report. This will typically tell you exactly where the valve is and what you need to do to get it turned off.

If none of the options above work then you may want to look outside for streetside shutoff valves. You can usually find these on the boundary lines of a property. Look for a utility box with a trap door that’s level with the ground and you can find the water mains in there.

Changing a Leaky Faucet Without Turning Off the Water

Now let’s get to the main part of our article – changing a leaky faucet without using the shutoff valve. You’re going to need to prepare yourself for this one. Below is a step-by-step guide on changing the faucet without using the shutoff valve to turn off the water.

Step 1 – Find the rings that secure the faucet to the tub

Once you have located these rings then you should go ahead and loosen them. When you come to actually install a new faucet handle then you will have to completely detach these rings from your bathtub. If you loosen them up before you begin then the whole process will be much easier and quicker. It will limit the amount of time that water can be spouting into your bathroom uncontrollably.

Step 2 – Get the new faucet

You’ll obviously be replacing the existing faucet with a brand new one, so you should prepare the new faucet right at the beginning. Familiarize yourself with all of the parts and the plumbing system along with any installation instructions that it comes with.

There may be some pre-work involved with the valve assembly so this would be the time to do it. Basically, if you want to do this without using your shutoff valve, you want to make sure you do as much work with the faucet handle before you install it.

Step 3 – Apply plumber’s tape to the stems of the new faucet

Normally this will need to be done for both the hot and cold faucets but it all depends on your individual needs and the type of faucet handle you have bought. The plumber’s tape should be applied in the same direction that the faucet supply line hose is going to be installed. This makes sure that the watertight seal works as best as it possibly can in the most efficient way.

Step 4 – Get a shop vacuum to suck up flowing water

When you get the shop vacuum you should ensure that it has a water filter installed. This will make sure that it performs well when it comes time to use it. You may also want to test out the shop vac at this interval in the preparation process so that you know it’s going to work well when you need it most.

Step 5 – Gather some towels and buckets for spilled water

Take your towels and buckets and place them around your bathroom in places where you think the most water spillages will occur so that they can be soaked up. If you do this well then they can catch most of the water that would have otherwise ended up hitting your floor.

Step 6 – Turn on other faucets around the home

By doing this you will be limiting the water pressure for the installation process. A general rule here is that the more faucets you can turn off, the better. You want to take down that water pressure as much as possible so you have less water to deal with and without turning off the shutoff valve, this is how you will achieve this step.

Step 7 – Install the faucet quickly

Your faucet should have come with a full set of instructions, from replacing a worn out washer to installing the valve seat. Study this as much as possible and install the new one as quickly as you can. As you begin to replace the old one you may need to pause from time to time to place buckets in better places to catch water or to use your shop vac.

Step 8 – Finish the tub spout assembly and clean up the water

Once you have finished the process to fix a leaking bathtub faucet then you will want to clean up any cold water that has hit your floor. Leaving this to stand could cause water damage in your bathroom which is obviously something you won’t want. Make sure the tap works well and that the gate valve isn’t hammering when the faucet is turned on. The faucet handle should be fixed securely to stop water leaking again.

Do You Need a Plumber?

This is a question many people ask when looking to fix a leaking tap. It’s completely up to you whether you decide to hire a plumber for the faucet stem assembly and replacement. Usually, the process is quite straightforward if you’re a handy type of person who enjoys DIY projects. It’s the water mains not being shut off that will cause the issues.

As we’ve set out in the steps above, the process can still be done by you, it’s just going to be a more complicated process that you may not want to add to your list of DIY projects. If this is the case then hiring a professional plumber could be the best option for you.

It may also be worth pointing out that a plumber could be someone who can figure out a way to shut off the supply of water to your home. There could be a valve or different method that you don’t know about, but that a trained professional does. If a plumber can find this then the process of replacing the faucet handle will be much more efficient.

How to Find the Right Replacement Faucet

If you’ve made all of the decisions to replace the faucet, whether you will be using a plumber or not, then you may now be struggling to choose the right replacement. There are so many different options out there today which makes it hard to find the right one to fit all of your needs. Here are some factors you may want to consider while you browse.

  • More doesn’t necessarily mean better – A more expensive faucet is a good idea because the price tag usually indicates it will last. However, be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking the more expensive the faucet, the better it will be. Generally, you want to aim to spend between $60 and $100 and this should provide you with everything you need.
  • Choose the right finish – Some faucet handle finishes will be much stronger than other ones. An example is that chrome is an incredibly durable finish and it’s easy to keep clean. Bronze is seen as stylish but it’s easy to chip and scratch this type of finish.
  • Think of how many handles you want – Single handle faucets are a lot more convenient because you can easily adjust the water temperature this way. What’s more is that you have on less handle that you need to worry about keeping clean.
  • Do you want looks or substance? – A lot of people will choose new faucets based only on the way they look but this isn’t always the best way to go. The priority should be that the faucet is functional and fits your needs. Once your needs are met you can start differentiating between appearances and choose the one you like the most.


We hope we’ve given you everything you need for fixing a leaky faucet without having the water shut off. Check out the FAQ section below to see some answers to common questions that crop up during this process and make sure to read other guides for leaky faucets here on our website.


Can you change a bathtub faucet without turning the water off?

It is possible to change a faucet without turning off the main water supply but it can be tricky. The guide above will show you how to do it if you don’t have access to the water to be able to turn it off.

How do you stop a leak without turning off water?

The easiest way to do this is to build an airtight cover and then get a vacuum pump to wick away the water as it comes out of the tap while you’re repairing it. You can find out more information in the guide we put together above.

How much does a new faucet cost?

There is a huge range of prices when it comes to faucets. What you should expect to spend on a bathroom faucet is around $65 and kitchen faucets tend to be more expensive at $100. Anything more than this price range will be unnecessary unless there are specific features you want from your tap.

What are shutoff valves?

In the context of our guide then the shutoff valve is the tool you can turn on or off to regulate how much water flows into your home. In general, you will only need to use this valve if you are carrying out plumbing repairs such as installing a new seat washer of if the property is going to be empty for a while.

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