There are two common kinds of bathtub leaksthe faucet drip and the underlying plumbing. In other words, you may be asking this question because you can hear the Chinese water torture of your bathtub, hate wasting the water, and are worried about the bathtub. Or, you may have water damage on the ceiling below the bathtub and need to find the leak and repair it and your ceiling. The answer to finding and repairing a bathtub leak is very different depending on the nature of the leak.
Fixing a Faucet Drip
Faucets can be one of the easier items in the house to fix. Pressurized water is delivered to your home and a faucet turns off by creating a watertight seal strong enough to counteract that pressure. A simple washer and seat assembly accomplishes this job, and if your faucet is dripping, one of these two items probably needs to be replaced.
You'll first need to shut off the water and pull out the faucet. There should be a washer. If replacing the washer doesn't fix the leak, then the problem is probably in the brass seat located behind the washer. You can fix it yourself if you have the proper seating wrench, but it would probably be wisest to call a professional plumber with all the expertise, tools and parts he needs to come fix it once and for all. The worst thing you can do in this situation is trying to make the leak stop by trying to force the faucet handle shut. The handle is not the problem.
Other bathtub leaks are, as you might imagine, a completely different story. Whether the bathtub leak is coming from a damaged shower pan or a leaky pipe, you'll almost certainly need the help of a plumber or a bathtub repair contractor. It may be a pain and the repair may not be cheap, but letting the situation go can lead to even bigger problems. The most common sign that you have a bathtub leak is a water stain on the ceiling beneath the tub. Sometimes water can run along the pipes before dripping, so the water stain may not be directly below the bathtub. If you catch the problem in time and deal with it promptly, you may be able to fix the leak and paint over the stain on the ceiling. Otherwise, you're looking at a drywall repair that's going to up the total cost of rectifying the situation.
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If the drywall of your ceiling has begun to crack or crumble, you'll obviously need to have that area of your ceiling replaced. The repair itself isn't terribly difficult, but you'll want to find an experienced drywall contractor. It's notoriously difficult to get anywhere close to an exact match to the old drywall. Plus, if you've let a bathtub leak go to the point where ceiling is damaged, you may need to hire a contractor who can inspect and remove any mold that may have taken root. The water infiltration coupled with wood framing, insulation, and other materials commonly found between floors is the ideal environment for mold to grow.