Showering is an essential part of your daily routine, and it can also be a great way to help you wake up in the morning or relax after a long day of work. Dealing with a leaky shower can be annoying as it can greatly reduce the volume of water that flows through the head. Sometimes showers can also leak even when the water is turned off, and this problem will obviously cause your water bill to go up. Most leaks will end up wasting between one and four gallons a day, but a constant leak can waste much more water than that. According to the EPA, if a shower or faucet drips once per second, it could waste as much as 3,000 gallons of water in a year. The good news is that a leaky shower is something you can fix on your own quite easily, and we’re here to show you how.
Types of Shower Head Leaks
Before we get into the actual repairs, it’s first important to understand that there are two different things people are talking about when they say their shower head leaks. One is when there is a leak from the shower arm when the water is on, and the other is when there is water constantly dripping out of the shower head even when it is not in use. Both are issues that you can fix yourself, but the process of doing so is very different for each type of leak.
Fixing a Shower Head That Leaks When the Water Is On
If there is a leak from where the shower head connects to the shower arm when the water is on, this either means that the shower head is clogged with limescale or that the connection between the shower head and shower arm isn’t tight enough. Both of these problems can be fixed at the same time.
In either case, the first thing you’ll need to do is unscrew the shower head from the arm. You may be able to unscrew the shower head by hand if it is not too tight. If not, you will need a pair of adjustable pliers or a wrench. Attach the pliers to the base of the shower head right where it connects to the shower arm and then turn the head counterclockwise to unscrew it. Be careful not to bend or damage the shower arm or else you will need to have it replaced, which usually isn’t something you can do on your own.
Once the shower head is loose, inspect it to see if it is clogged with limescale. If so, let it soak in a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda for 30 minutes. You can then take a toothbrush and gently scrub away any remaining mineral deposits. You may also need to take a toothpick or thin metal wire to clean out any remaining deposits from inside the holes.
Before putting the shower head back on, you will first want to wrap the threads on the shower arm with plumber’s thread seal tape. This will help form a tighter connection between the shower head and arm to prevent it from leaking.
Starting from the bottom of the threads where they meet the rest of the pipe, wrap the tape around the threads in a clockwise direction. Each wrap should cover at least half of the previous wrap. Continue wrapping until you reach the end of the pipe. Once you are finished wrapping, you can screw the shower head back on. Make sure to screw it as tightly as you can to ensure it doesn’t leak.
Repairing a Constant Shower Head Leak
If your shower is constantly leaking, this means that the faucet valve cartridge is worn out or broken. The cartridge controls the water flow and is responsible for mixing the cold and hot water coming into the shower. When the cartridge valve wears out, it can no longer properly seal and the shower will constantly leak. The only way to fix this is to replace the valve.
The exact process for replacing the cartridge can vary slightly depending on the manufacturer, but it will still follow the same general steps. The first step is to take apart the shower handle. Most shower handles have a cap that can be pried off to access the screw that holds the handle in place.
After unscrewing the handle, you’ll see several screws securing the escutcheon (faceplate) to the wall. After unscrewing these, cut through any caulk or silicone around the escutcheon and remove it from the wall. You should then see two shut-off valves that control the hot and cold water, and these need to be closed or else water will spray everywhere when you remove the old valve cartridge. Some showers don’t have their own shut-off valves in which case you will need to close your main water shut-off valve.
Once the water is off, find and remove the cartridge. The cartridge will be either a long metal or plastic cylinder, and you may need to remove the plastic temperature regulator before it can be removed. It may also be held in place with a small metal clip or pin, which will also need to be removed. In theory, the cartridge should pull straight out. However, there is a chance that mineral deposits or corrosion have built up around the cartridge and you won’t be able to pull it out. If this happens, you will either need to purchase a cartridge puller or hire a plumber to replace it for you.
Once you have the cartridge out, head out to your local home improvement or plumbing supply store to get a replacement. You should bring the old cartridge with you to make sure that you get the correct replacement part. Each manufacturer has its own specific cartridge design, and they are not interchangeable. If you don’t get the exact part you need, it won’t work. Luckily, most stores have a book that allows the employees to identify the specific part number based on manufacturer.
Once the new cartridge is in place, make sure to replace the pin or clip that holds it in place. You can then turn the water back on and make sure it no longer leaks. If the leak is fixed, you can reassemble the shower and you should be good to go. If your shower still leaks, it is probably time to call a plumber since this indicates that you didn’t do something correctly.
Exceptional Plumbing and Home Services
If your shower is still leaking or you don’t feel comfortable replacing the valve cartridge on your own, the licensed plumbers at Huft Home Services are always ready to help. We install and repair all types of plumbing fixtures, and we also work on sump pumps, water softeners and both tankless and traditional water heaters. We also specialize in drain cleaning and sewer repair. Our team also includes licensed electricians for any of your home’s electrical needs as well as certified HVAC technicians that can repair and maintain your heating and air conditioning.
We have been providing top-notch home services to customers in the Sacramento area for nearly two decades, and our team has the skills to keep all of your home’s most important systems working properly. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment to have your leaky shower fixed or if you need any other service.