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How to Fix a Leaking Shower Faucet – A Step by Step Guide

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Written by Callum Strempel

A leaky shower head is something we all have or will experience at some point. The sound alone is enough to drive one crazy, never mind the thought of wasted water, the increase in scum and stain around the shower drain, and the often unreasonable amount of money we have to fork out to get a plumber in to fix it. But worry not! Most causes for a leak in the showers head or faucet are actually quite simple and easy to fix. With a bit of context and guidance you may very well be able to fix the problem yourself, saving you cash and putting an end to the frustration.

Let’s discuss a few easy steps on how to fix a leaky shower faucet and kick this problem into the past! It’s time to make it look like a brand-new shower faucet.

How to Fix a Leaky Shower Faucet?

Tools and Materials You Will Need

  • A 4 in 1 screwdriver
  • A pocketknife
  • An adjustable wrench
  • A handle puller
  • A pair of pliers
  • Some grease
  • A new cartridge (Only if the cartridge is your leak source)

Unclogging the Shower Head Holes

Fix a Leaking Shower Faucet

A clog in the shower heads holes is a common cause for leaks. The water cannot escape through all the needed holes and as such is forced out the sides, which can also cause damage here that adds to the leak.

Step 1

To begin, turn off your water that feeds the bathroom area

Step 2

Now remove the faceplate of the shower head. If the faceplate is fixed on permanently, remove the entire shower head.

Step 3

Place the face or shower head completely in vinegar and salt. This will eat away at whatever lime or calcium build up exists in the holes. Let it soak for around 7 – 9 hours.

Step 4

Once done, use a needle to manually remove whatever junk is still in the holes. Now give the faceplate a good old scrub.

Step 5

Once all of this has been done, place the shower head or faceplate back as you found it and turn on the water supply to the shower again. Turn the faucet on and test to see if the leak has been taken care of or not.

Putting a New Washer on – Step by Step

Repair a Leaking Shower Faucet

The next step to solving the problem if unclogging the holes didn’t work, is to get rid of the old washer in your faucet or shower head that exists to make it water tight, and pop a new one in.

First off, check what kind of faucet you have. If it’s a two-handed faucet for hot and cold water, feel the temperature of the water leaking out to figure out which faucet to address. If you happen to have a mono hand faucet, the replacement should then happen in the shower head instead.

If Replacing the Shower Head Washer

Step 1

If you have determined that it is in fact the showers headpiece that needs a washer replacement, begin by turning off the water to your bathroom area again.

Step 2

Once done, carefully remove the shower head from its connecting arm by locating the collar nut and loosing it. This nut will be found at the visible join between head and arm.

Step 3

Once it’s off, find the iron swivel bearing that is used to turn your showers headpiece about. It looks exactly like what you’re imagining right now, a metal ball that can move around. The washer will be directly under the swivel ball-bearing.

Step 4

Now simply pop off the old washer. Source a replacement washer that is of the exact same size and thickness and pop that on in the old washers place.

Step 5

Now grease the washer and swivel a little. Once done, simply replace the shower head and tighten the collar nut again. Turn on your water supply and give it a good old test.

If You Have Determined One of Either of Your Cold or Hot Taps Is the Problem

Step 1

In this case, turn off your water to the bathroom.

Step 2

Locate the screw on the faucet which will either be on the nose or the side. Keep in mind it may be hiding behind a little screw cap. If so just use a pocket knife to pop the cap. Loosen the screw and take it out.

Step 3

Now grab the handle grabber/puller, and give it a go. Once you have removed the faucet handle you will notice a sleeve protecting the stem and a trim with that. Remove these gently.

Step 4

You should then see what is know as a hex nut. It’s a six sided nut commonly used in plumbing fixtures. You will need a deep socket wrench to remove this nut. Once you have, simple pull off the old washer and replace it with a newer twin.

Step 5

You can use this opportunity to replace the other flat rings and so forth if you have replacements handy and deem it Necessary.

Step 6

Once completed, replace the sleeve and trim, then the handle, and then the screw. Ensure it is properly tightened. Now turn your water on and test out your handiwork.

Sorting Out a Faulty Diverter Valve

If the previous guides did not produce results, you have to either clean or replace your diverter valve. This is the valve that determines if the water flow is going to your bathtub or shower. Once it’s got too much dirt on it from sedimentary build-up or is damages it will start to leak.

Step 1

As before, the first step should always be to turn off the water supplied to your bathroom. Just turning off the showers water supply will not cut it in this case.

Step 2

Locate the screw that keeps your faucet attached to its stem. It will either be on the face or side of the faucet handle. Loosen the screw and remove it.

Step 3

Use a faucet grabber to pull the faucet off of its stem now. Take care with this so as not to scratch or damage the handle.

Step 4

Once the step is exposed remove the sleeve and trim, then the hex nut, and pull the diverter valve out.

Step 5

Using a course brush and vinegar, give the diverter valve a proper scrub-down. The vinegar will help to remove any lime scale or sediment build up on the valve. Also check for permanent damage on the valve. If any damage can be seen, simply replace the valve with a new one that is identical in every way.

Step 6

Place the cleaned or new valve back in to the stem and replace the hex nut. Once the hex nut is tightened, put the sleeve and trim back on too. Now pop your faucet handle back on and secure its screw back into place tightly. Turn the water supply on again and check to see if the problem has been sorted out.

Installing a New Cartridge Valve

Shower faucets that consist of only one handle to control water temperature and velocity use a cartridge valve inside the faucet stem. When this is worn out or broken it causes leaking, the next step is taking on this bad boy. Relax though, it’s not rocket science!

Step 1

Ensure as always, that the water to your bathroom has been turned off. Forgetting to do so could cause you untold headaches!

Step 2

Take off the faucet head by loosening and removing the screw that is either on its face or side. Use a handle puller to grab and remove it. Be sure to do this as gently as possible to avoid unnecessary damage to the handle or faucet stem.

Step 3

You will now see a stop tube. Remove that, and the cartridge retainer clip. Then you can slide off the washer. Once these are off you will observe the cartridge.

Step 4

Here comes the fun part. Most cartridges are set to simply be turned and pulled when removing. This needs to be done carefully though, and in some cases with a specialized tool called a cartridge puller. This can be purchased separately but often come with a new cartridge too. Use either the cartridge puller or a set of pliers to gently twist the cartridge anticlockwise and pull it out.

Step 5

Now do the same thing in reverse with the new cartridge. Place it in and gently twist it clockwise until you can feel it’s secure.

Step 6

Replace the washer, cartridge retainer clip and stop tube. Then replace the faucet handle. Now you can turn your water on and have a look to see if the leak has been dealt with.

When to Call a Pro?

Sometimes this situation demands a professional plumber but this will depend on you. Well, you may need professional help even if you don’t know how to install the shower faucet when new.

If you’ve read this and still feel super confused then it may be best not to try it yourself. If you lack the needed tools and are unable to source them, you will definitely be better off letting a plumber do the job. If you have tried all these solutions but your shower facet is still leaking it’s definitely time to call in the pro to assess and repair the problem. Also, if you have absolutely no DIY experience, or are not confident in your ability, it would be better to let someone in who has trained for this. If you make a mistake you could potentially end up racking up even more of a cost as well as cause greater problems than previously existed.

Some of these steps and guides are specifically relevant to certain types of shower faucets and it is important that you try the ones relevant to your fixtures. This guide on how to fix a shower faucet leak is purely DIY but do not hesitate to call in the plumber if you are in doubt! I hope the guide has brought you some good results or at the very least some insight!

About the author

Callum Strempel

Licensed Plumber

Hi, I’m Callum, a full time plumber with a plumbing license issued by my state. So far, I’ve spent nearly a decade and a half installing and fixing a wide variety of plumbing components and units. My profession inspires me to talk about the kitchen and bathroom (and the plumbing system) so confidently and knowledgeably that I offer my free consultations to help neighbors and fellow homeowners every now and then. As I enjoy installing faucets, sinks, showers, and fixtures, I love to see people enjoying services from those components for years to come. So, I write every week to inform you and others. Will you mind going through some of my articles on this website?

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