Plumbing: Replacing A Tub Spout
A friend recently called and mentioned that the trip lever on her tub spout wasn’t working. She said she couldn’t get the shower to work and wanted to know how to change the spout. We suggested that she first try cleaning her shower head. If it was clogged the trip lever might not be the culprit. We told here to put vinegar in a plastic bag and surround the head with the liquid filled bag for 24 hours. Since we knew it could be either the shower head or the tub spout we went over spout replacement with her.
When it comes to home maintenance changing a tub spout is about as simple as it gets. The variables related to installation are limited to two basic configurations:
- Threaded connection type
- Slip connection type
All you have to do is first determine which configuration exists at your tub. Then, proceed based on your findings.
A threaded connection is just that – where the spout “screws on” to a threaded pipe that protrudes out from the wall. No locks, no latches and no other gismos to worry about. Simply turn the spout counterclockwise with enough force and removal will occur.
A slip connection is a little different. Here you will need to find a set screw at the underside of the spout near the wall end. The set screw is usually and Allen head and recessed. The trick here is to loosen the set screw. That’s right, turn the Alan screw counterclockwise several turns – all the way out if you like – and “slip” the spout off the pipe that comes out of the wall. No threads with this one.
Installation is – you got it – clean the area thoroughly and perform the above in reverse. With a threaded connection you will also want to clean the threads on the nipple coming out of the wall with a wire brush. Then apply either pipe joint compound or Teflon tape. We prefer the Teflon tape for two reasons:
- It is cleaner – way less messy to work with than pipe joint compound
- The spout connection is not high pressure. Even when the shower diverter is in the spout the connection is still not high pressure.
- Finally, make sure that the area where the spout joins the wall is properly sealed with plumbers putty and/or tub caulk.
Another point: Because the tub spout is not a high pressure connection installation should involve gentle force when reconnecting. Remember, with a tub spout your intention should be to achieve a clean, well positioned installation. Forget water leaks. They won’t happen.
Tub spout tips: Although there are only two kinds of tub spout types (threaded and slip) there are several “sizes” (lengths) in each group. This is where your patience is important. Not every store carries every length in each type. When we refer to size we do not mean the overall length of the spout. Where two different spouts may be the same overall length they may be quite different. Inside the spout is where dimensions need to be compared. The threads on a threaded spout begin at a certain distance from the very back edge of the spout. Measure the distance in your old spout and then the distance in the new one. If they exactly compare you have a spout match and an easy installation that should be seamless. Spout diameter is rarely ever a problem.
If you’ve looked for several days and can’t find a threaded spout to fit then you may want to consider replacing the pipe that comes out of the wall. Caution here: attempting the removal of this nipple can often result in broken pipes in the wall and a plumbing nightmare. Whenever we attempt the remove of a threaded nipple at a wall connection we always begin with a brief prayer. Anyway, by altering the length of the nipple one can use any size spout that’s available. Our advice, find the right spout and leave the nipple alone. Slip spouts are slightly less difficult to remove and replace – no threads to clean, no pipe joint compound, etc. – but there is the problem of size here too. The end of the wall pipe must fit into a rubber gasket near the front of the spout. The gasket seals the connection between the pipe and the spout. Therefore, the replacement spout needs to be the same size as the original. Again, the distance from the end of the spout to the location of the gasket should be measured and compared in the old and new units.