How to Repair a Three-handle Shower Valve
Ask This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey repairs and replaces a leaking shower valve
- Shut off the water at the main water shutoff.
- Put a drop cloth in the tub to protect it from any work and also to prevent small parts from falling down the drain.
- Remove the handles from the valves using the screwdriver. They’re usually under small covers that read “hot” and “cold”.
- Remove the escutcheons from the valves. They can usually be loosened by hand.
- Unscrew the valve bodies from the wall with the slip joint pliers and the tub sockets.
- Replace the seats for the valves. They should come in the repair kit.
- Put the new stems into the valves and tighten them with the tub socket.
- Tighten the bonnets on each of the stems with the open-ended adjustable wrench.
- Screw the trim from the replacement kit over the stem and then put the escutcheons on over the trim.
- Add the handles to the stems and screw them in with a screwdriver. Be sure to have the “hot” and “cold” labels installed right side up so they’re easier to read.
- Turn the water back on.
Three-handle shower valves are no longer up to code due to a risk of scalding, and should be replaced with a single-handle, pressure-balanced one, particularly if the shower is used regularly or will be used by children. Pressure-balanced shower valves can be found at home centers or plumbing supply stores. You can also purchase cover plates that can hide holes left behind in the tiles when the valves are swapped.
When repairing existing three-handle valves, finding the correct components requires some detective work. Home centers have a book you case use to help you match up the correct parts, or you can go to a plumbing supply store and they will usually have the parts that you need.
Tub sockets and the other materials required to complete this project can also be found at home centers and plumbing supply stores.
Expert assistance for this segment was provided by Eastside Plumbing Supplies Inc.