Does your shower faucet leak? Would you like to be able to fix it yourself without having to pay the high prices that plumbers charge?
Are you a real estate flipper or rehabber that would like to learn how to repair or replace a shower faucet yourself without having to hire someone to do it? Are you a handyman that would like to learn how to fix or replace a shower faucet to improve your value to your customers?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you will gain some useful knowledge here.
Plumbing Supplies and Tools Needed
Before you can attempt any shower faucet repair on installation plumbing job, you have to have the right supplies and tools to do the job correctly.
Screwdrivers – Have both a Pillips head and a Slotted head screwdriver on hand.
Shower Socket Set – For removing valves from their bases inside the wall.
Handle Puller – For removing stubborn handles that won’t budge by hand.
Adjustable Wrench – Many possible uses for this veratile tool.
Adjustable Pliers – Another versatile, must have tool.
Allen Wrench or Hex Wrench Set – for removal and installation of Allen or Hex screws.
Plumbers Putty – Provides adherance, and a watertight seal for handles, escutcheons, etc.
Teflon Tape – Provides a watertight seal for threaded valves, shower arm, and other connections.
Plumbers Grease or Lube – Slippery surface for rubber orings to allow for reinsertion of valves.
Flashlight – Shower access doors are often hidden in closets and other out of the way spaces.
Clean Towels/Rags – Useful to keep from scratching chrome surfaces while removing handles, shower heads, etc.
O Ring Pick – For removal of o rings from valves.
Putty Knife – To remove dirt and old plumbers putty from behind handles, etc.
Finding the Cause of the Issue
Once you have the needed tools at the ready, it’s time to diagnose the problem. Although many showers also have bathtub faucets, I will cover only shower faucets here.
Normally the problem will be a leak of some sort. Leaks in showers can come from the handle, or from the shower head.
The good news is, the solution for either leak is usually the same for any single handle shower faucet or valve. The cartridge will need to be replaced.
If, however, you have a hand held shower, the leak may be due to worn out washers in the flexible tubing ends, at the diverter(if you have one), or at the shower head.
If the leak is coming from the shower head section of the hand held shower unit, the cartridge is the most likely culprit.
I suggest attempting to repair or replace the hand held unit before replacing the cartridge in the wall if it appears that the leak is coming from the flexible tubing, or from the diverter. This will be easier, and cheaper in most cases than replacing the cartridge.
Turn the Water Off
The first order of business is to find the water shut offs, and turn the water off. The shut off valves are usually directly behind the wall where your shower handles are.
There is usually an access door that is in a closet or on a wall. Find the access door, open it, and look for the shut off valves.
You may need a flashlight. Shut both the hot and the cold sides off. If, for some reason you can’t locate these shut off valves, you will need to find the main shut off valve for the house and close that off.
The main shut off is normally in the basement, and near where the main water lines (usually copper) come into the house.
After the water is shut off, turn the shower faucet on to bleed any water that is left in the lines. This will keep the residual water to a minimum, and save you from getting splashed while working.
Replacing the Cartridge
Before you start to take the handle apart, close off the drain with a towel to ensure no parts fall down into it. The make of the shower faucet you have will determine exactly how to take it apart.
Some, like Moen will have a button that you need to pry off with a screwdriver, and a screw that needs to be taken out.
There will likely be a sleeve that will either unscrew or pull out. There may also be a retaining clip that needs to come off to proved access to the cartridge.
Once you have clear access to the cartridge, you simply take a pair of pliers and gently pull the cartridge out. You may have to work it back and forth to loosen it up before it will come out.
Take the cartridge into your local plumbing supply house, and purchase a new one.
For other faucets like Delta, you may need an Allen or Hex wrench to remove the Allen set screw on the handle to remove it. You will then have to either unscrew or remove the sleeve or jacket that is protecting the area with the cartridge.
There will be some variance depending on the model that you have. Effectively, you need to remove whatever is attached surrounding the cartridge to access the cartridge.
Once you have all of the pieces on the outside of the cartridge removed, you can and you can access the cartridge, you can gently loosen it with pliers, and pull it out.
With the cartridge out, inspect the area that contained the cartridge. Try to clean out any corrosion or dirt that may have effected the proper operation of the cartridge before you put the new cartridge in.
Delta has a lifetime warranty on their shower faucets, so as long as you bought the product, you may be able to get a replacement cartridge sent to you free of charge.
Otherwise you can buy a new cartridge by taking the old cartridge into your local plumbing supply house to match it up.
When installing the new cartridge, be sure that you match it up according to the directions that will be with the new cartridge.
Otherwise your hot side could become the cold side and vice versa, or you may experience new leaks. If this happens of course, you will have to go through the process again.
Once you have everything put back into place and secured, you can turn the water back on, and test your handiwork. If there are no leaks anywhere, and you have good water pressure, you are good to go. Keep a close eye on your repair for the next few days just to be on the safe side.
If you have questions regarding your particular make and model of shower faucet/valve, you can visit the maufacturers website for more information. If you have any paperwork or a box with the make and model number on it, this will be helpful.
If you’re not sure which make of faucet you have, look on the chrome plating around the faucet. The name is often embossed at the bottom or top of the chrome beneath or above the faucet.
Installing a New Shower Faucet
Installing a New Shower Faucet
If you would like to upgrade the look of your shower without having to replace the shower valves in the wall behind the shower, you can do so by buying a new trim kit(shower handle, shower head, shower arm, and face plate). You will have to match up your existing trim with the new trim.
I recommend buying your new trim first if you can. Be sure though that you new trim will work with your old shower faucet set up. Your best bet is to stay with the same manufacturer of your existing faucet.
There are some types of trim that can match up with other manufacturers trim, but you will need to either go online to the manufacturers website, or to your local kitchen & bath store, or plumbing supply to determine your options.
If you go to your local stores, be sure to bring the old trim with you or take pictures of it first. If you have any old paperwork or boxes for your old trim bring that with you also.
Start by turning off the water. Look behind the wall where your shower trim is located for shut off valves. There should be an access door in that area.
This could be in a closet or another space. If you are unable to locate these valves, or if there aren’t any shut off valves, you will need to turn the water off at the main water valve coming into the house. If you find the shut off valves be sure to shut both sides off.
Next turn on the water at the shower to allow any water in the line to evacuate. This will ensure that you will be dry during the job.
Take a wrench or a pair of pliers along with a small towel and remove the shower arm and shower head. The shower arm will unscrew from the wall. Be sure to use the towel so that you don’t scratch the chrome surfaces.
Remove the chrome face plate surrounding the single handle valve. You may need a screwdriver, or a wrench to remove it, depending on the make of the faucet.
Next remove the handle using either a screwdriver, or an Allen wrench. It is a good idea to also replace the valve while you are replacing the trim.
Simply pull the valve from the wall using a pair of pliers. You may have to loosen it by gently first by turning it slightly back and forth.
You are now ready to install the new shower faucet trim. Be sure to tape any threads with teflon tape before screwing your new shower arm into the wall, and for the other end where your new shower head will be added.
Also be sure to use a towel between the chrome and your tools to keep from scratching the surfaces.
Make sure to line up the new valve correctly before you insert it into the wall. You may need to coat the exterior of the valve with a bit of plumbers grease first to get it slippery.
Hold on to the instructions in case you run into a problem, or have a question. In most cases, this is a simple install.
Now that you have everything in place, turn the water back on and test to be sure that there are no leaks, and the operation of the new set up is working properly. Keep a close eye on it for a few days.
When to Call the Plumber
If you want to do a complete makeover of your shower faucet, you will need to remove the entire valve from behind the wall, and possibly some shut off valves, piping, and joints.
This will likely entail some specialized work, knowledge, and tools. I don’t recommend this job for a DIYer (do it yourselfer).
This is a job for a plumber or a general contractor that is licensed and experienced with this type of work. You may have to pay a lot, but some things are just worth the money.
You may however, be able to purchase the trim yourself, and save the plumber’s mark up, if you so desire.
Shower faucet repair and installation is not that difficult as long as you have the needed tools, some basic knowledge, some patience, and access to a good plumbing supply or kitchen and bath store either online or offline.
Feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have. Thanks for reading, and good luck with your shower repairs and replacements.