A shower valve is found behind the handle of the shower faucet, controlling water temperature and water flow to the showerhead. This is often located behind the wall and is permanently connected to the plumbing.
If you see your shower head leaking or appearing to drool water, this could signify that your shower valve is leaking and malfunctioning. You may be mildly irritated by a leaky shower valve. More than that, it can cost you a lot of money in utilities.
Here is how to tell if a shower valve is leaking and what to do about it.
How does a shower valve work?
A shower valve is what controls the hot and cold water sent to your shower head or tub faucet. The primary function of the shower valve is to mix hot and cold water to achieve the desired temperature.
There are different shower valves, but most have four connection points, two connected to hot and two connected to cold. These supply lines are mixed accordingly. Any of these water supply lines can develop a leak.
A leaky shower valve can waste hundreds of gallons of water every week. On top of the usual water losses you find with a leaky pipe, you might also face significant increases in water heater usage as it continually keeps drops of water moving through the valve. This doesn’t even begin to reveal what could be happening inside the wall, from discovering dry rot to mould and serious structural problems that could be expensive to repair.
Signs of a leaky shower valve
You may not be aware your shower valve has been leaking. If even a small leak develops, you could have water leaking inside the wall cavity, and it will go unnoticed for some time.
The deterioration could mean rot in the sub-wall, wall studs, and subfloor, with severe damage extending to the drywall, flooring, baseboards, and cabinets. The only clue you might have initially is the sound of water dripping on the wall.
A shower valve will leak for a few specific reasons. The inner seals could be worn, causing an opening for water. Parts could be corroded and malfunctioning. You can also encounter clogs around a shower valve from hard water deposits. The rubber O-rings and gaskets that seal connections can wear down. Any or a combination of these things can cause a leaky shower valve.
How to fix a leaky shower valve
If you suspect a leaky shower valve, turn off the main water supply valve and contact a local plumber. A professional can inspect and restore your water before a leaky shower valve causes more damage.
The alternative is trying to repair the shower valve yourself. Trying to fix a shower valve yourself will require knowing what type of valve you have: a compression valve, a Delta shower faucet, a Moen shower faucet, or a Price Pfister shower faucet.
Remember to turn off the water supply before working on a shower valve or plumbing. The shower shut-off valve may be in the bathroom, near the shower, or even in the basement. In households where you can’t find the shut-off valve to the bathroom, shut the water supply off to the entire home.
Keep in mind that you will want to open the sink faucet to drain any water from nearby pipes after shutting off the water. This will clear what’s in the pipeline and allow you to work on the shower valve without issue.
How to work with a shower valve
In removing the shower valve, you will want to replace all faucet washers, O-rings, seals, and flat washers. You will want to make sure the shower valve is relatively clean and functional upon placing everything back where it should be.
If you aren’t a plumber, tackling a shower valve and not accidentally damaging something is not the easiest plumbing project. It takes the right tools and knowledge, and for that, a plumber is often your best and recommended resource.
How to stop shower valve leaking
If you decide to do it DIY-style without the help of a plumber, certain precautions should be taken. When a shower valve is leaking, be careful not to over-tighten the handle. This can permanently damage the valve. Most people try this first when they see the shower head leaking.
Also, before you start to work on your shower plumbing repair, place a covering over the drains, like a rag. This will prevent small parts from falling down the drain.
A clue as to what you need to work on when it comes to your shower valve is feeling the temperature of the water coming from your shower head. The valve works with hot and cold water. If it’s hot or warm water that’s constantly dripping from your shower valve, you know it’s one of the supply lines from the water heater to look for. If it’s cold, the leak is likely from a cold-water valve.