Find you’re self-waking up in the middle of the night with the sound of a dripping shower head? It is relatively normal to have a few drops of water for a short time from the shower head once the water faucet has been turned off.
But if this drip is consistent then you more than likely have a leaking shower head – not to panic this can be a do it yourself easy and simple fix. So don’t let this irritation continue as this can also increase your water bill if left untreated.
- How showers work and parts
- How to fix a leaking shower head
- How to change a shower head
- Replacing a Shower valve/ Diverter/ Cartridge
How showers work and parts
Understanding how the components of a shower unit work will help you to understand how to resolve any leaks that have occurred this will also make you aware of the technical terminology used acting as a quick reference guide.
To start off with its usually a great idea to see how the shower system works, the main image represent a fully functional shower unit with all its parts . You may or may not have all the components like this but could have elements from this. Typically you will have a shower head and a faucet. Refer to the image below as a reference to part names.
Full Shower Kit
Below Image we can see a full shower kit and its main components. This shower kit is not standard in most homes but shows you the options available for your bathroom. Typically a full shower kit can add additional value to your home so it’s defiantly a good upgrade to consider for your home.
Shower kits consist of a shower head, arm, flange, faucet, shower handle, cartridge and escutcheon plate. Shower valves are sold separately from shower kits this is standard procedure.
The shower valve is inside the wall, your hot and cold water pipes are connected to the shower valve. It job is to mix the water properly to the temperature you set and provide you with the water heat you are comfortable with.
Shower valves are sold separately from shower kits, the image shows you the shower stops locations on a shower valve to the hot and cold water source.
They allow you to instantly shut off the water supply to your unit without turning off the mains water supply to the house. Giving you very easy maintenance approach if you wish to change your shower kit or repair any problems with the shower valve.
A shower cartridge is set inside the shower valve and can alter the water pressure along with adjusting the temperature and volume output of water separately. There are many different types and all depend on the brand you require.
A cartridge can only be used with the same brand as your shower valve. Cartridges can be replaced see below for further information on this.
Shower diverter use different valve systems than a normal shower fixture. They are not designed to mix cold and warm water like a shower valve or add pressure to the water, their main job is to divert the per-mixed water to the shower system.
This could be your shower head, body sprays or handheld shower.
Typically the water is turned on with an on/off handle, then directing the water using the diverter.
Typically available in 2 options 3 or 6 diversions positions
How to fix a leaking shower head
Fixing a leak from your shower can be a simple process but sometimes you can be faced with more serious issues. A problem with your shower valve or a shower head does not need to be such a burden on you.
There are a few common reasons for a shower head leak listed below and we will look at all these issues independently identifying the problems and resolving them.
Follow our quick help guide below to identify your problem and how to fix a leaking shower head.
Clogged holes within the shower head itself
Clogged holes tend to be the most common issue and the easiest to resolve. Clogged holes appear within the showerhead holes where the water exits usually due to lime, calcium and other minerals. Clogging buildup from water use is impossible to stop, but simply soaking the shower head unit in vinegar for about 6-8 hours will help to dissolve the blockage don’t forget to remove the shower head from the shower hose.
Once submerges for a few hours carefully with a toothpick poke each hole pushing the corrosion into the showerhead. Scrub the surface of the shower unit head with a wire brush or hard brush to remove any further erosion buildup.
Water down and clear any residue with water washing it away from the showerhead and then replace the showerhead back to your shower unit.
Worn rubber washer (O-ring) or rubber head seal
Worn rubber washers over time develop cracks and break due to water erosion elements in water. Checking for damaged washers (O-rings) and replacing them will maintain your shower head and give you optimal efficiency and remove any water leaks from your shower head.
There are 2 washers to look out for damage, first – the main washer where the hose screws onto the shower head
Washer 1- hose too washer head
This washer can be removed and replaced with a universal washer o ring. Unscrew the knurled nut holding the shower head to the arm of the shower hose, you can use a rag between the nut and wrench to not damage any surfaces.
Once the nut has been removed you will see a small O-ring (washer) remove it and replace with any universal washer similar to the one you have removed ask your local hardware store for help. Tighten the knurled nut back up ensure you have used a Teflon tape following the direction of the thread to prevent any unraveling when tightening the knurled nut, alternatively you can use plumbers putty and insure a tight snug seal.
Washer 2- shower head
This is usually OK but always best to check for any damage, hold your shower head and unscrew the top part where the holes are and unscrew. Check for damage and replace if necessary and re screw back on.
While inspecting, check for any corrosion or serious damage inside the shower head. If there are signs of erosion then its best to replace the shower head completely. Take the unit to your local hardware store and ask for a cheap replacement option.
These 2 main fixes should resolve 80 percent of the leaks in most cases but if you still encounter leaks once you have replaced and followed the steps above you could have a more serious leak.
How to change a shower head
Replacing a shower head is quite a simple process with a few basic tools and within a few minutes this can be done.
- Insure all your water faucets are turned off there is no need to switch off at the mains but you can do so if you feel more comfortable doing so.
- Removing the shower head is easy, wrap an old cloth around the shower head and use your hands to unscrew the shower head completely from the shower hose use an adjustable wrench if needed.
- Clean the threads from the thread using a cloth or a toothbrush along with the old Teflon tape.
- Add a new coat of Teflon tape about 2-3 times clockwise direction to prevent any unraveling of the tape while you screw back the new shower head.
- Attached the new shower head by twisting it clockwise by hand and use a wrench to secure it in place making it water tight.
- Turn the water back on to check for any leakages. If leaks appear re apply more Teflon tape.
Replacing a Shower valve/ Diverter/ Cartridge
Shower valve / rough-in valve/ Mixing Valve
Shower valves are installed inside the wall with the hot and cold pipes connected to it. The shower valves job is to mix the hot and cold water to give you the water temperature you requested.
Replacing a Shower Cartridge
Shower head leaks can derive from the shower cartridge they are relatively easy to replace as they can not be repaired due to erosion within the cartridge. Shower cartridges are designed to be replaceable so this can be an easy process depending on the brand and model. Follow your instructions manual they are usually quite easy to get hold of below are links to the most popular bands available.
Check out this short video to help Replace a Shower Cartridge.
Steps to Replace a Shower Cartridge
- Turn off your water supply just to be sure
- Remove the handle; unscrew the 5mm screw usually under the handle.
- Once you have removed the handle you will need to remove the screw at the end of the valve using a Phillips screwdriver, Then remove the parts.
- Remove the screws from the trim plate and remove the trim plate.
- Find a small clip usually at the top of the valve and remove with a needle nose pliers
- Remove the cartridge with locking pliers giving it a firm grip and pull out with a little wiggle to nudge it out.
- Replace with your new cartridge insure the horizontal line is facing downwards and insert it in. Then replace the clip and screw back all the components you removed.
Replacing a Shower Diverter valve
Diverter valve are usually featured in full shower systems and allows you to divert the water to multiple shower outlets the are responsible for switching water direction from the shower head to faucet or other spay outlets. They become worn over time due to sediment build up .If you assume this is your cause of a water leak then its best to have the diverter valve taken out replaced or cleaned, ideally by a licensed plumber or try it yourself.
This is a more complex issue to resolve as they are usually within the walls behind the shower, but with the correct information and advice it’s possible to do this successfully yourself. Keep in mind that there are several different types and brands of valves all have different and unique ways to remove and replace. Follow the instructions manual from your current brand removing and replacing with similar type is advisable. Take a look at these videos to see the level of complexity to expect.
Part.1 Shower Diverter – Installation step by step
Part.2 Shower Diverter – Transfer valve installation step by step
Bathtub Diverter Replacement
The most common shower diverter and easiest is the bathtub diverter spout we have a simple to follow video to help with this process.
Below are a few links to manuals from the most popular shower brands.
View our other great articles on water leaks at h2ousegeek.com