DIY Plumbing Tips: How to Replace a Shower Valve

Some savvy Indianapolis homeowners find minor plumbing repairs within their DIY skillset – shower valve replacement is one job you may be able to do yourself. Our licensed plumbers share DIY tips to help you replace a shower valve at home. Study the instructions found below before you attempt the task, and only perform minor plumbing repairs yourself if you have the knowledge and skill to do so safely and accurately. 

If you need professional plumbing help, to replace a shower valve or perform other repairs around your Indianapolis area home, call Mr. Plumber. Our licensed plumbers are ready to assist you with the service you need to improve the function of your home’s plumbing fixtures.

Types of Shower Valves

Showers in Indianapolis area homes use a few different types of valves to operate. The type of valves in your shower depend on the type of faucets you have installed.

  • Pressure balancing valves are common throughout your home, and control the temperature of water output. Pressure balancing valves maintain a constant ratio of hot and cold water to ensure proper water temperatures from your shower, and makes adjustments as needed to account for pressure changes.
  • Thermostatic valves specifically control water temperature to a preset level. With a thermostatic valve, simply turn on the tap and wait for water to reach your desired temperature – these valves eliminate constant adjustments to perfect water temperature.
  • Diverter and transfer valves adjust water flow in the shower. This valve is the component that allows you to stop water flow from the tub spout and send it to the showerhead, and vice versa.

Common Issues with Shower Valves

The shower valves in your home can experience problems over time, which require correction to improve the performance of your shower and prevent leaks. Common issues that affect shower valves include:

  • Wear and tear: Everyday use contributes to wear and tear of shower valves. Their seals wear out, which leads to leaks. Bearings within the valves wear, which slows valve reactions. Worn bearings cause temperature fluctuations from your shower.
  • Lime scale: Over time, lime and dirt in your water supply builds up within your shower valves. This buildup affects valve performance, which causes temperature fluctuations.
  • Hot water changes: Installing a new hot water heater or adjusting the temperature of hot water output from the water heater can create issues with shower valves that require adjustment. The stop within a pressure balancing valve may require adjustment to account for the new hot water temperature, as well as temperature settings in a thermostatic valve.

Issues caused by lime scale and dirt buildup are often remedied when you clean the faucet assembly. This requires removal of the cartridge and other components, which are then soaked in lime remover or vinegar. The assembly must be lubricated and reassembled correctly for the shower valve and faucet to properly function. 

When Do You Need to Replace a Shower Valve?

First off, if you have a leaky shower, you want to replace a shower valve to stop this leak as soon as possible. A leaking valve causes significant water waste in the home over time, which increases your utility bills. There is also the risk of an unseen valve leak behind the wall of your shower, which has the potential to cause serious water damage and mold growth.

When you replace a shower valve, you gain better performance from your shower. If water temperatures fluctuate in the shower whenever a toilet flushes or other taps throughout the home are in use, a new pressure balancing valve solves this problem. 

Through shower valve replacement, homeowners also gain convenience and safety. Upgrade to a thermostatic valve and preset water temperatures for the shower. A thermostatic valve eliminates the need for finnicky adjustments to achieve the perfect temperature! They also ensure water temperatures do not get too high – this is especially important in homes with small children or elderly family members, as they are at a higher risk of burns and scalds from hot water.

How to Replace a Shower Valve

To replace a shower valve, you really need to be an experienced home improvement DIYer. To replace a shower valve is a far more complicated task than changing a showerhead. A good knowledge of plumbing is absolutely necessary to do this job successfully. This project involves making adjustments to the piping of your shower, including soldering – do not attempt this project if it is too advanced for your skillset.

That said, if you do not have the skills to replace a shower valve yourself, don’t fret – that’s what your plumber is here for! Mr. Plumber’s licensed plumbers perform repairs like shower valve replacement with ease. We ensure the job is performed correctly to avoid damage to your shower and plumbing.

Tools Needed

To replace a shower valve, you need to access the plumbing components behind your shower wall. Tools you may need include:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Allen wrench
  • Channellock pliers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Small hacksaw
  • Utility knife

Steps to Replace a Shower Valve

Before you begin to disassemble your shower faucets to replace a shower valve, cover the tub or shower drain with a drain stopper or cloth. You want to completely block the drain opening to prevent any screws or small components from entering the drain.

  1. Remove shower handle by unscrewing. There may be a cap on the handle that covers the screw that holds the handle together. Once unscrewed, it may be necessary to tap or wiggle the handle to loosen and remove it. Place the handle and screws aside but keep them together, so you know which components go together for reassemble after you replace a shower valve.
  2. Remove the trim plate, also called the escutcheon. This is the metal panel that covers the hole in your tiling or shower wall that leads to the valve. Unscrew the plate and lift the plate away from the wall. If there is caulking that holds the trim plate in place, remove it with a utility knife. Place the trim plate and its screws aside, but keep them together.
  3. Optional – clean the handle and trim plate. Since they are removed, now is a good time to clean these components to remove lime scale, soap scum, and other debris. Soak them in white vinegar or lime remover while you continue the steps to replace a shower valve.
  4. Shut off the water supply to your shower. Locate the shower shutoff valves and close them to stop leaks as you replace a shower valve. The shutoffs for the shower are typically located to the sides of the valve, one for hot water and one for cold water – both need to be shut. If you are unable to locate the shower shutoff valves, shut off water to your entire home at the home’s main shutoff valve for the duration of this project.
  5. It may be necessary to cut a wider hole in your shower wall in order to access and replace a shower valve. The hole behind the trim plate may not be wide enough to get the job done. Typically, you need a 12-inch by 12-inch hole to properly replace a shower valve. If the hole behind the trim plate is smaller, enlarge it, but keep it within a size you are able to recover with the trim plate.
  6. Remove the valve clip. Use pliers to pull the clip out of the top of the valve, which holds the valve in position. Set the clip aside. If your shower valve uses a retainer nut to hold it in position remove with a wrench and place aside.
  7. Remove the valve. Hold the end of the valve cartridge with pliers and pull the valve from the wall, wiggle to loosen if necessary. 

Some shower valve issues can be resolved when you replace a shower valve cartridge – simply insert the new cartridge, replace the clip, refit and replace the trim plate then the handle. If the entire shower valve requires replacement, the process is more involved.

  1. Remove the old valve assembly and disconnect from piping.
  2. Fit the new valve assembly into place.
  3. Connect the new shower valve to the water supply using appropriate methods. Teflon tape can be used around male threads before attaching female thread fittings on PEX piping. Then, attach coupling and pipe-crimp fittings. If you have copper pipes, you must solder the connections.
  4. Turn on water supply and monitor the valve for leakage. If leaks are found, resolve the issue.
  5. Replace the trim plate and handle.

Get Plumbing Help from Mr. Plumber

As you are able to see, to replace a shower valve requires a certain level of plumbing knowledge and skill. This isn’t a job for everyone – don’t risk leaks and damage to your home if this is not a DIY task you are up for.

Make sure complicated shower valve replacement is done right when you call the pros at Mr. Plumber. Our licensed plumbers repair leaking shower valves and make upgrades for better shower performance in your home. Schedule plumbing repairs when you call us today!