The Leaky Faucet in the Shower and the Fix!

Let’s say you buy a house with a leaky faucet. The question becomes rebuild OR replace? If the house is relatively new, parts may be readily available to rebuild that faucet. In an older house, the parts are usually not available. You are better off simply replacing the worn out faucet.

Most of the time, replacement is quicker and cheaper than spending hours hunting for replacement parts. You may also be unsure who the manufacturer is, much less who has the old parts.

The Leaky Shower

We had a house once that the three-valve shower leaked. My bright idea was to simply replace the washers. So I stuck in new washers and seals and the problem was solved – but, only for a day.

Then the leaky faucet was back.

So, I pulled out the valves and looked inside the faucet. It turned out the seatswere badly worn.

A seat is the flat surface at the bottom of the valve stem. A rubber seal pushes up against the surface of the seat to stop the flow of water.

Then, I tried to resurface the old seats. Believe it or not, there is a tool for this. The shower worked well for about three days.

THEN – the leaky faucet came back.

Now, I had to consider replacing the shower valve assembly.

Replacing the Shower Valve Assembly

My local big box had the entire assembly for around $40.00. Now, I must tell you that this is not a temperature regulating valve. It is simply the original shower valve mechanism.

I cut a hole in the wall BEHIND the shower valve coming in from the bedroom side. See the picture to the right. Now, we had access to the entire assembly.

Here is what I did:

  • After turning the water off, I simply cut the old pipes;
  • removed the assembly;
  • fitted the new assembly in place; and
  • soldered all the necessary piping back together.

After I checked for leaks, I replaced the drywall I cut out to get to the assembly.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: I made sure there was sufficient support for the new shower valve. I also made sure there was extra support for the tub spout.

A very common problem is some people think this is a foot rest. For example, while shaving their legs or just relaxing in the tub. It is not for that purpose. So, reinforce accordingly.

JUST A THOUGHT: You have to admit, replacing the drywall from the rear to fit a leaky faucet is much easier than placing new tile on the wall or having to replace a fiberglass tub enclosure. Below is a picture from the front of the almost completed repair.

As far as the time and effort expended in this case, replacement was faster and cheaper than the time I would have wasted trying to fix the old leaky faucet valve and it is far more reliable.

The really difficult part is getting the right parts. I alway carry the old parts to the big box and try to match them. Most faucets have a life expectancy of, at least, 10 years. However, vendor product lines get updated regularly.

Here is An Idea If You Are Working On An Old House

If you are working on a really old house with a leaky faucet and must repair the old valves, try to find a plumbing repair shop that has been around for years. They will be your best choice for finding old parts.

I found a suppler in a building that was old and dilapidated. However, I took the part in from the old faucet that I could not even find a name on and the guy looked at it and said, “this is from (some German name I had never heard of)”. He then went to the shelf and pulled one out. If I had not found this part, I would have had to buy a new sink because the hole spacing was non-standard with the handles lower than the spout. That was an odd one!

Why did it have two different levels? I never did resolve that question.

Past experience has mandated that I look at the larger picture when working on anything related to water. Corrosion and rust are common problems to take into consideration before determining any course of action you will take to repair that leaky faucet.

Dave Altman

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