Almost every household has at least one shower, and most of us use a shower regularly, even if we’re typically bath persons. Some people might know how the typical shower works and what one can do to fix minor issues. But how many of you are familiar with the most common parts that go into making your shower? Moreover, do you know how to install shower plumbing from scratch? Today, we’re going to talk about the basics of shower plumbing and provide you with some useful information on what’s happening beyond the basic function of a shower.

hot water running from large shower head

The 6 Most Common Shower Plumbing Parts

1. Shower Head

The shower head is that part that we connect to the water pipes by using a hose usually made of steel. It is one of the most visible parts of a shower, and it is easy to replace in case it breaks. Shower heads come in more than one shape, from the traditional round ones to square ones. Because of new water conservation laws in the US showerheads have changed. Make sure you check out our ECO Shower head review right here to find the best shower head for you.

2. Hot and Cold Water Pipes

The hot and cold water pipes are part of the shower water supply. It is through them that water finally reaches the shower head. The pipes can be made of several types of materials, but if your home is older, they are most likely made of galvanized steel. If your water pressure has diminished over the years it’s most likely sediment due to oxidation and it maybe a real good time to get those replaced. Copper is still a popular choice in the United States but PEX pipe and fittings are gaining every year because of it’s low cost and ease of installation.

3. Shower Valve

The shower valve is that part of shower plumbing that you use to control the flow of the water coming from the shower head. Moreover, you can set the temperature of the water by adjusting the shower valve. If you don’t have a separate shower, but your shower is included in the bathtub, then your valve will come with a tub spout that diverts the water from the stub to the shower head. Most shower valves have a port on the bottom that allows you the ability to make a shower valve a tub/shower valve if the need arises. If you want to prevent high water temperature that might scald you, make sure the valve is a thermostatic or pressure balanced valve.

a steel shower valve and knob

4. Shower Cartridge

The shower cartridge is that part of the shower plumbing system that controls temperature/volume and moves back and forth whenever you pull the shower handle. It works to open the cold and hot water inlets. Since you can adjust the temperature of your shower, every time you slide the handle towards the cold water setting, the cartridge opens the cold water inlet more and the hot water inlet less.

5. Shower Strainer

The shower strainer is the first part of the shower drain plumbing system. It is that drain cover that you find on your shower floor. It is usually there to stop waste from going down the drain and clogging it. Most of them are made of steel or aluminum, and you can find them in different designs and finishes.

6. Shower Pan

One of the most basic shower plumbing parts is the shower pan. This is the part below the shower base we stand on whenever we take a shower. You have to be careful for the shower pan not to leak. This will cause the floor to rot in time. In case you notice a leak, you might want to check if you can repair the grout. But if the leak is coming from the shower pan, you will have to call a contractor who can take care of the issue for you. There are several different materials used to make shower pans. In the past us plumbers made shower pans out of lead however, in the last 30 years a product called Chloraloy has gained popularity. It is a lightweight rubber membrane held together with cement very similar to PVC cement. It’s very strong and durable. There is another company called Shluter you can find their info here  that manufactures drain pan kits that are outstanding. They are somewhat expensive but when installed correctly they are virtually leak proof.

white plastic shower pan

How Does a Shower Work? – Shower Plumbing 101

Now that we’ve talked about the 6 main shower plumbing parts and their use, let’s look at how they all work together to allow us to use the shower. The whole process starts the moment you turn the knobs on. Water will flow from the supply line through the hot and cold water pipes into your shower head.

Cold water is sent into your water heater where it is heated to the desired temperature. When the shower diverter is activated both hot and cold water is pulled through the water lines to the shower mixing valve. Where is is mixed and delivered to you at a comfortable temperature.

When your shower also connects to the bathtub or to another shower head or body spray this is when the diverter comes into play. The device diverts water from one device to another. Some shower valves are built with the ability to divert water to up to three different shower appurtenances.

Once water comes out of the shower head, it also has to find a way to get out of the shower. Which is why every shower comes with a shower drain. The water goes first through the shower strainer which stops any unwanted pieces of hair or soap from going down the drain. The rest of the water will go down the drain through a p-trap and into the waste pipes. It will then eventually reach the sewer system or septic system/septic tank.

Summing Everything Up

Even if we use a shower every single day, most of us are not really familiar with the mechanism behind it and how all the shower plumbing parts go together. We hope today’s short yet comprehensive guide has helped you learn more about your shower plumbing installation and what the function of each shower part is.

Some shower parts are easy to replace in case they break, and they often don’t need any professional assistance. Especially if you are a handy person and you have the necessary tools, replacing a shower head or unclogging the shower drain shouldn’t be a challenge for you.

Still, we must advise you to be careful when fixing or installing shower plumbing. Always turn off the water from the main valve before attempting to fix something. Moreover, if you are not knowledgeable or you feel you can’t take care of a certain shower plumbing issue by yourself, you should always call a professional plumber. That way, you will avoid putting yourself at risk or damaging your shower, bathroom or in the worst case scenario other parts of your house.

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