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How to Tighten a Loose Bath Tap

loose bathtub taps

Single-mounted hot and cold bath taps are notorious for wiggling loose. Turning these taps on and off every day will eventually cause the nut that holds them in place to loosen. 

This doesn’t happen often with U-shaped bath mixer taps as the connected shape of these tap types creates a strong connection. Whether you’re having this spinning loose tap issue with single-mounted taps or a wabbly mixer tap, the tightening process is the same.

The easiest way to tighten a loose or spinning bath tap is with a tap spanner wrench. With this tool, there is no need to disconnect any plumbing or remove the tap, everything stays in place, all you need to do is hold the tap steady while you use the wrench to tighten the nut that is screwed into the base of the bath tap.

What Causes Bath Taps to Loosen?

Typically, there are two reasons why your taps have loosened. One, a plastic or rubber washer between the nut and bathtub has shrunk or degraded, creating a gap that will cause the tap to turn. Two, wear and tear – not that there is damage as such, simply the stress on the thread and nut from the tap being turned on and off can eventually force it to loosen off. 

When the smallest amount of movement or play starts in the tap, it will only get worse over time and can lead to the tap leaking. So as soon as you feel movement, it’s time to get it tightened before it begins to leak. 

Also, if there’s a space between the tap and bathtub, water from your shower or bath can enter the space causing a puddle and dampness to form under the bath. This can lead to black mould, foul odours, and rotting floorboards. 

As you can see, a loose bath tap is more than just an annoyance, it can lead to real damage in your bathroom and must be resolved when symptoms start. 

Tools to Tighten Bath Tap

There are three great tools out there that will help you reach under that bathtub to tighten the loose nut that is holding your bath tap in place.

These tools are tap spanner wrench, adjustable basin wrench, or Multi-Purpose Plumbing Wrench. These tools all do pretty much the same thing, but I recommend trying the tap spanner wrench first. If the space under the taps, between the bathtub and wall, is very narrow, you may be better off using a multi-purpose pipe wrench. 

Here’s the tightening process…

  • Remove the side bath panels to give you access to the tap nut
  • Use a torch light to locate the nut
  • Have someone hold the tap in place to stop it spinning when you’re tightening
  • Use the wrench to reach the nut and tighten it by turning clockwise until securely tightened

What to do if the tap is still loose

So you’ve used the wrench and fully tightened the nut, but the tap still feels loose. In this case, you may have a split rubber washer. 

To replace the washer, you’ll have to disconnect the tap from the pile, which is a bit tricky. Here is the step to fix this.

  • Before removing the bath taps, you must first isolate (shut off) the water supply to the tap you are removing. Each faucet’s water supply can be cut off individually with a screwdriver thanks to inline isolation valves. Turn off your main water supply if your taps don’t have these isolation valves fitted.
  • In order to reach the flexible pipe connectors connecting your bath taps to the internal plumbing, you’ll need to remove the panel covering your bath. If not, you ought to be able to see the flexible pipe couplings under the bathtub. 
  • Using a tap wrench, loosen the nut and washers securing the tap. The old tap should then be simple to remove from the hole. Before mounting your taps back on, you might wish to clean the area around the tap hole because it tends to collect dirt, which can leak.

Replacing The Taps

  • The tap may be inserted back into the preexisting tap hole, and then it can be fastened in place using the nut and washer.
  • Connect flexible tap connectors.
  • Once everything is in place and secure, switch on your water supply to check for leaks. To check for leaks, turn on the faucet. If everything is functioning properly, you’re good to go.

Loose Tap handle

If the tap still feels loose, it may be that the tap spout itself is secured to the bath, but the handle is loose. This is an easy fix. 

Most faucets include a small Allen screw (set screw) that is screwed horizontally into the outer perimeter of the handle base plate cover, or a Phillips or flat head screw (handle screw) that is screwed vertically into the base of the handle.

Simply pop the top cap of the tap to access the screw. Grab the right tool to fit the screw and tighten it up – simple. The issue with loose tap handles is that the screw is not always visible, you’ll need a small flat head screwdriver or knife to wedge open the cap.

Bath Tap Location 

If you have a bath setup where the taps are located on the ride middle against a wall, it may be impossible to search without removing the bath. It’s always best to install taps at the top or bottom of the bathtub, as there’s usually a slant that will allow some space for you to reach in with an arm and tool. But those centre-side taps against an outside wall are a real problem to tighten as they’re so out of reach.

If you’ve tried these DIY tap tightening methods and you’re still having trouble, then call in a professional plumber as they’ll have the skill, tools, and knowledge to fix those loose taps. Remember, don’t ignore a wabbly or spinning loose tap, as it could lead to leaks.