Wall access is usually needed to get to the water shutoff valves and replace seats. But replacing tub faucets with no wall access is not an impossible job to do. It takes a different approach in the way you do it.
Most faucets can be repaired by using a new cartridge insertion. It should take about an hour to repair or replace if you have adequate plumbing skills.
Let’s take a look at what you need to do.
- Hex key or Allen wrench
- Putty knife
- Phillips or flathead screwdriver
- Plumber’s putty (if need be)
- Cloth or rag
- Trim kit (for new faucet)
- Safety glasses
How to Replace Tub Faucets With No Wall Access?
There are usually 2 different types of tub faucets with no wall access – the Roman faucet and the Garden tub faucet. They look almost identical but have various-sized spouts, and the parts are not interchangeable.
Step 1: Shut off the water supply
Sometimes there are access panels on the tub’s side or hidden in an adjoining room. If this isn’t the case for you, turn the valves off at the main incoming pipe (usually by your home’s water heater).
After that, open the shower faucet handle to drain extra water from the pipes. This will prevent you from getting soaked or scolded by any hot water that is left in the lines.
Step 2: Remove the old spout/unscrew the set screws
Use an Allen wrench or hex key to loosen the set screw. It’s sometimes hard to find, but it’s the headless, small screw by the faucet’s base. Pull the spout up and off.
You might need to unscrew anything that remains. You can also use a putty knife for the deck of the tub and the base of the faucet (if it’s been sealed or caulked).
Do the same thing with the faucet handles. You will find the set screw at the handle’s top, in the back, or covered underneath an ornamental cap. You can use your (Phillips or flathead) screwdriver to get it loose if it’s hiding. If you still have trouble finding it, twist the base to the left (counter-clockwise) to try loosening it.
Scrape off any extra caulk or putty from the deck of the tub so it’s clean when you put your new faucet into place.
Step 3: Place the rubber O-rings/install new handles
O-rings are used for plumbing fixtures to make sure it has a snug seal at the base. The trim-out kit should have your rings. Arrange the rings around the spout pipe and plumbing cartridges. Make sure they are correct at the base, so it sits flush with the tub’s deck.
Combat extra leaks by using putty (if your faucet model suggests it).
Place your replacement handles above the top of the cartridges. Turn the base to the right (clockwise) or with your hex key, tighten the screw. It will depend on the installation specs that your model has.
Move the spout above your faucet pipe and push it down. This type of spout won’t usually turn. When the deck of the tub and base are leveled, fasten the screw back into place.
Step 4: Check for leaks
Turn your water on (from where you initially turned it off).
Twist on your replacement faucet and check for seepage. Even a tiny leak can cause massive problems over time. It’s best to fix it immediately so that doesn’t happen. You might have to redo the steps above to locate the point of the leak.
Once your handles and faucet are leak-proof, your tub is accessible and ready to enjoy. Good job!
1. Do I need an access panel for the shower?
Ans. It isn’t required, but having an access panel behind the shower or tub can be an excellent idea. A good location to place a panel is if an outside wall separates the toilet from the tub (or other parts of the bathroom).
2. How do I know if I need to replace my faucet cartridges?
Ans. You can replace the springs and seats if your faucet leaks from the spout. If it continues to spread after that, you will also need to exchange the cartridge’s faucet. If your faucet is dripping from around the handles, you know the O-rings on the cartridge are no good.
3. Do I need to change the valve when replacing the shower faucet?
Ans. The very first thing to look at is if there are any leaks in the valve when you turn on your water. If it leaks, you should probably replace the valve. If you don’t, a leak can cause mold, rot, and mildew behind the wall, not to mention you are wasting water.