If you love taking a shower now and then, you should be aware that you may have to do a shower valve replacement now and then. Whether you have moved into an older home where the shower may still use the original valve, or you discover that the water pressure is weak, there are times when the shower valve cannot be patched up and needs replacement.
At times, the shower cartridge may no longer be performing its duties, and the shower may tend to exhibit a slow drip. You may be able to replace the cartridge for your shower valve without having to change out the shower valve replacement completely.
However, if you want to be satisfied with the function of your shower, and don't want to settle for changing out a few parts on the valve, a shower valve replacement is an order.
You can expertly change out the shower valve in your bathroom in less than an hour if you don't want to resort to calling in professionals to do the work. Replacing your shower valve is a great way to learn more about how your plumbing in the bathroom works and opens up the opportunity to make upgrades and updates to fixtures.
Signs Your Shower Valve Needs Replacement Versus A Repair
You will want to make a shower valve replacement if your shower is displaying specific signs that the valve is in trouble. Some symptoms that something is wrong may be mistaken as something other than what it is. It pays to thoroughly investigate your shower thoroughly, before committing to changing out the shower valve.
However, it is a prudent decision to have shower valve on hand, if you want to fix things on your own. You pick up a shower valve that will be perfect for your shower at your local hardware or plumbing store.
Check The Shower Cartridge
If you step into the shower, turn on the water, and discover that the water pressure isn't what it used to be, consider looking at the shower cartridge.
The shower cartridge is a part of the shower valve that is responsible for controlling the flow of water that goes to the shower head.
When a shower cartridge is going bad, you may see dripping water or running water anytime you turn the handle to the off setting, or see dripping at the location of the handle. And if your handle is gradually becoming difficult to turn when you want to take a shower, the shower cartridge is compromised.
The reason you will see dripping is most likely because the sealing for the cartridge has degraded. If you can contact the manufacturer of the shower valve, you may be able to get new parts to help patch up leaks. The old rubber pieces within a cartridge will wear away and corrode over time from wear and tear, and water.
It's A Clog
Sometimes a shower valve is clogged and doesn't necessarily need replacing. If the water pressure in the shower begins to drop gradually over time or happens suddenly, a clog may be the culprit. Over time, if a shower head and set-up don't receive enough maintenance, deposits from hard water can build up and reduce the water pressure quality.
Sediment and other debris from a break in a water line or other plumbing issues can also contribute to a clogged shower valve, or damage the valve. Using a sediment filter to clean up your water supply may slow down or reduce the odd chances of a clog and buildup.
The Diverter Is Bad
If you are in the shower but see that the spray is weaker than usual, you might have a lousy diverter. More water may end up running out of the spout, instead of running from the shower head.
When the diverter in a spout for a bathtub and shower combination is going bad, it may start out with smaller leaks coming from the spout. You may not notice a lower amount of water pressure at first, or think the shower cartridge is responsible.
However, if the diverter in a spout is no longer sending water up to the shower head, because it is worn, corroded, or has a blockage, you may have to replace the spout.
Showers with a shower diverter valve that is malfunctioning will have to be removed and replaced.
Sediment can build up in a diverter and cause blockages. And as a diverter valve ages, they are subject to degrading in quality and function, where the valve is unable to turn completely to block water and send it to the shower with adequate pressure.
If you see water coming from the spout and shower, or the handles and your shower, it's time to give that old diverter the heave-ho.
The Water Temperature Is Inconsistent
Shower valves are responsible for regulating the temperature of the water delivery during a shower; as a valve ages, its ability to adequately control the temperature begins to fail.
If you are showering in a tub that is older, the valve may be incapable of handling hot water and high pressure continuously. Many older valves are not even made with the ability to control or balance the water temperature, and are subject to exposing you to any fluctuations in the plumbing.
If your hot water heater is functioning just fine, and the water tank size is appropriate for the tub, the valve needs a check-up and possible replacement.
Be aware of specific types of shower valves and their features.
A pressure-balancing valve opens and closes depending on the amount of water flowing through a pipe.
Thermostatic valves are usually in performance showers and set the temperature for the water sources.
Leaking water from the valve itself, or behind the wall of the shower can cause irreversible damage to the tile.
If the tiles around the shower are loose, show mold often, or there are stains on the ceiling surrounding the shower set-up, you may want to check the plumbing and your shower valve. Leaking water from a shower valve can build up behind the wall, and compromise the integrity of the walls.
Tile damage is a sign to thoroughly investigate and determine whether water is leaking behind the shower, and contributing to reduced water pressure, corrosion of shower parts and plumbing, and other things that need immediate attention.
Persistent mold and mildew may be a sign that the plumbing needs a check-up, water leaks, or a compromised valve. Leaks around the spout, shower head, or handles can point out problems and contribute to mold growth.
How to Replace Your Shower Valve
It is possible for you to manage to replace your shower valve without the assistance of a plumber. You may want to install a pressure-balanced valve as a replacement because it helps keep water temperature consistent.
You may also want to get familiar with soldering pipes and fittings.
Before replacing a shower valve, you are going to need to have some necessary tools to complete the job.
- A flat-head and a Phillips-head screwdriver
- A deep well socket
- An adjustable wrench or channel lock pliers
- Teflon Tape or Compound for the pipe joint
Prepare The Space
Make sure that the water is shut off before beginning your project. You won't want to cut into the wall or start removing the old valve and run into water everywhere.
After removing the shower handle and escutcheon trim plate, you will want to cut into the back wall of the shower. You will either need to work through a small opening, or need to make a larger cavity to complete this task.
Depending on the style of your shower set-up and valve, you may need more or less space to work.
Don't stress about the opening in the wall; you will eventually patch up the wall and replace the tile once finished. You may also want to have a mini-hacksaw available for cutting pipes.
Measure And Determine Location
You will need to determine the center location of the tub, the shower valve height, the spout height from the tub, and the height for the shower head.
You will want to make sure the shower valve is installed correctly and follows your local plumbing codes.
After you figure out the placement for the shower valve, spout, and shower head, you will need to cut any pipes to the proper size.
You will want to remove the shower valve cartridge, O-rings, and integral stops. These parts are susceptible to melting when you have to solder the pipes. Dry fitting the pipes will help guarantee a better fit.
Fitting Pipes & Placement Is Important
Apply solder to the inside of fittings and the pipes, and make sure to keep things evenly heated, and wipe away any excess. Copper pipes are great for fitting into tight spaces within a bathroom's walls. Be mindful of the construction material of chosen pipes to allow for flexibility and performance.
Most shower valves have a plaster guard. You will want to know how far the shower valve will be sticking out from the wall because you will have to replace the tile back over the valve after installation.
You will want to make sure to consider the space that the wall will take up, in relation to the plaster guard width. Ensuring the right depth and placement of parts is essential.
The shower valve should be placed into position and secured in place. Remember to check your work, and make sure that all parts are centered and set at the right measurements.
Once you install the shower valve, you will need to replace the stops and cartridge. If you need, add stoppers to the spout for the tub, drop elbow, and make sure your set-up is pressurized.
Afterward, scrutinize your work, check for leaks, and get ready to waterproof the surrounding shower set-up.
Troubleshooting Replacing Your Shower Valve
When replacing the shower valve, you can use the old valve to configure where the pipes need cuts. It is better to plan out all cuts before you begin, because depending on the valve used you may need to adjust for the couplings or fittings.
Make sure the supply shut-off is in the on position.
Before you install a cartridge, you will want to flush out the valve. The supply lines of the plumbing can have sediment and debris, which can cause problems with water pressure and impact water temperature.
Look over your valve to ensure that the temperature levels are set at the correct levels. If not careful, your shower may end up putting out water that is too cold or scalding hot. Also, check to make sure the hot and cold water are not reversed. You can rotate the stem or cartridge as needed to fix this problem.
Test Out Your Installation
After you have installed your replacement shower valve, you will need to test out your work. You don't want to go through the trouble of measuring, cutting, and soldering pipes, and placing a shower valve inside the bathroom only to uncover problems after you have already fixed up the wall.
You should test your shower valve before you patch up the wall. With an exposed wall, shower valve, and plumbing, you can better see if there are any leaks or potential room for damage.
Flushing out the pipes is a critical step following your installation, to make sure debris, flakes, and other contaminants from water lines do not damage the cartridge and valve.
You should turn on the cold water and let it run for about 15 seconds, and then do the same for the hot water.
You will also want to turn on the shower valve and check the pressure build up. Water leaks can happen and will either show themselves as a small stream or spray of water or may even be a small drip.
It is also possible to test out your system using air. If you want to test out the valve pressure, give your system 15 minutes to make sure there are no leaks present. Any leaks should be taken care of, and then the valve should be tested again before closing up the wall.