Whether you prefer to bathe in five minutes after you wake up, or you like to enjoy a long cathartic shower after a busy day, things can get messy fast when you have a broken shower valve. A busted or faulty shower valve can result in leaks that waste water, lead to mold and mildew buildup and even damage walls if the leak gets behind them. It could also result in extremely alarming temperature fluctuations while you're bathing.
If you experience either of these problems, it's better to get started on shower valve repair sooner rather than later. Here's how:
Start by understanding which shower valves do what
There are four main types of shower valves that more or less perform the same primary function: control the flow and temperature of water from your piping into the showerhead:
Pressure balancing: Ensures that the ration of hot to cold water stays constant by, as the name suggests, balancing each.
Thermostatic: These are preset to release cold and hot water at specific temperatures – no handle tweaking necessary.
Diverter: Allows for the flow of water in a single direction (i.e. from a showerhead or bathtub faucet, but not at the same time).
Transfer: Allows water to flow in more than one direction (i.e. bath faucet and hand-held shower valve can run simultaneously).
Obviously, there's some overlap in what these valves are capable of. A thermostatic valve can also be a transfer valve, and vice versa. The most advanced option is a thermostatic valve, as some allow for the presetting of temperature limits using a digital display.
And then get to work
Now that you have a basic understanding of shower valves and their capabilities, it's time to get to work. The first step is to shut off the water. Next, remove the handle and plating covering the valve. In an older setup, you may have to remove the caulking around the trim plate. Then you'll want to pull out the locking nut with pliers, and remove the old cartridge.
As for the installment of the new shower valve, there will be some variation depending on the brand of valve that you have purchased, as well as the age of your home. An older house might need some more hands-on effort, while a home with newer plumbing could be as simple as turning a few screws to remove the old cartridge, popping in the replacement, and locking everything back into place.
In the more complicated scenario, you may have to manually remove a set of two seats and springs at the back of the valve, and replace them before inserting the cartridge. This is a fairly easy extra step, but be careful: You want to make sure that any small pieces aren't at risk of accidentally falling into the drain and getting lost.
If at any point in the process of disassembling the original valve, you encounter steps that simply don't make sense with these or other DIY directions, immediately put the fixture back into place and call your local Charlottesville Roto-Rooter professional plumber. It's better to do a good job once, than have to work twice as hard to fix your mistakes later on. In these instances a professional plumber can always do the job faster and better than you can and his work is guaranteed!