I have a three handle shower tub faucet that has leaked for years. I replaced the stems last year, but recently learned that the stems the hardware store gave me to use were the wrong ones. I brought in the original, and being a novice I was under the impression that the associates working there had the knowledge to give me the proper replacement parts. Against my better judgement I used the Price Pfister stem replacements that were given to me by the sales associate. It started to leak shortly after and washers have since been replaced twice.

There was a leak on the main water shut off, and since the water had to be shut off for the repair, I decided to go ahead and replace the washers, or rebuild, whatever it would take to stop the leak. Since there was issues with the diverter, I decided to go ahead and rebuild or replace that too. That was when I realized my gut feeling was correct, and the stems were not the correct ones. Before I went to the hardware store, I went online and cross referenced images and descriptions of older faucets and the diverter. I found out the original parts were/are Sterling.

Beings Sterling is no longer manufacturing these faucets, I had to find either an after market repair/replacement kit or find somewhere that still has the parts. I prefer OEM, and found a plumbing supply that carry Sterling parts. Since I no longer have the original stems, all I had to go on was the diverter and the original seats.

Knowing how important it is to have the seats in good shape, I chose to replace the old ones. I cleaned up the inside of the manifold as much as I was able. It didn't appear to be stripped or gouged in any way. I used a plumbers brush to clear any debris that may be left, and blew it out.

I purchased all 3 new seats, H/C stems with original washers, new diverter stem and washers, and all the trim.

I sprayed a little silicone spray on the seats, put on single layer of Teflon tape on all the stems, and carefully inserted and tighten. I made sure the stems and bonnets were tight, but was careful not to over tighten them. After everything was in it's place, I turned on the water and it leaked. Something did, but wasn't sure what. It was a small leak, but no leak is acceptable, especially living in So Cal, where we are in a drought.

I have tried everything I know to stop the leak...I've changed washers, trying different styles in hopes one may better cover the seat, if there is possible issues there, I've put a single layer of Teflon tape on all threads, I've silicone sprayed every part, and done it without each. I have kept the openings in the manifold clear of any possible debris, although there has never been any found as of yet. It doesn't appear to have been crossed threaded from the prior install of the improper stems, but I could be mistaking or just not seeing it. I have looked at the threads of each stem every time I have taken it back out to see if there was any particularly unusual scratches or change in the threads and I have seen nothing.

I am at wits end...I can't stand this leak, and it just plain puzzles the heck out of me. Is there ANY tricks someone can suggest? ANY suggestions, short of replacing the entire faucet, would be so appreciated. Like most homes built in the late 50's early 60's, the tub is tiled and re-doing it is not viable option right now.

  • i just replaced mine. I got the parts at Home Depot. They work like new.
    – user27303
    Commented Oct 24, 2014 at 11:08

3 Answers 3


Remove the seats, put pipe joint compound or Teflon tape on the threads, and reinstall. If it still leaks check threads inside the rough-in-valve (housing in wall) that the seat screws into. If those threads are bad you have 2 options: You can use 5-minute epoxy on the threads or you can replace the faucet.


It sounds like I have the same system and I work with an ex-plumber. The faucet stems have that nut around the handle area (about where the chrome sleeve screws onto) that you don't quite know what it's for. He claims if you back that off a little it will allow the washer to sit on the seat tighter and seal off leaks. BUT it's a fine line and may leak there and may need help there (tape). I am about to rebuild my sterling tub system soon and hope this info works for me too!


I presume your leak is through the faucet & not the stem. But, I'd agree with user27303. You'll have to go to a big store that has no problem with returning products & of course has many replacements that look like your replacements to try them out until you hopefully hit the mark. Definitely don't waste anymore time on the inside guts.

You may not be able to tell the difference on ones that work, it just takes a millimeter or slightest thread pitch variation. Also try a thicker washer or a temporary non-stainless steel metal washer or spacer underneath (you might need longer screws). I've even gotten by with just a metal washer while waiting for parts to re-stock, it doesn't sound good but it sure worked good & if used long enough could re-hone your seats.

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