A leaky shower faucet or shower head can be both irritating and expensive. Beyond the constant drip, drip, drip, a leaky faucet can waste precious water amounting to gallons every single week. Even worse, a leak on the hot water side of your shower valve can waste significant energy, as the water heater must constantly operate to warm the water being drawn unnecessarily. Of course this can spike that electric bill – and here you thought all you had to deal with was that annoying dripping sound.
But there’s more – the shower valve leaking inside the wall. Over time, water dribbling into the wall can cause dry rot, mould, and structural problems that can be not only hazardous, but also very expensive to repair.
The good news? You don’t need to replace the entire faucet just to get to that drip. It won’t cost an arm and a leg, and most single-handle, cartridge-style faucets can be repaired in less than an hour with basic tools.
The bad news? You need to act sooner rather than later.
First of all, ensure that you have the right tools to fix that leak before you tackle this DIY project – it’ll save you time and frustration.
You will need:
• A 4-in-1 screwdriver
• An adjustable wrench
• A pocketknife (or if the handle or cartridge is stuck, you may need a handle puller or a cartridge puller)
• A matching cartridge
• Plumber's grease.
For this DIY project, we’ll be focusing on fixing a cartridge-style faucet, not a two-handle faucet, which may be either a stem-type valve or ceramic disc valve.
Cartridge valves have a single handle and operate when the cartridge slides in and out. Don't confuse them with single-handle ball-style faucets, which have a dome-shaped casing under the handle.
homify hint: When water drips or drizzles from a shower head, it means there is a problem with the shower faucet (valve). In most cases, inner seals are worn, or parts have become corroded or clogged with hard water deposits. And the rubber O-rings and gaskets that seal connections between moving metal parts wear down with time and use. When they do, water squirts or drips out.
If you turn off a shower faucet and the water keeps dribbling out of the shower head, your natural instinct may be to crank the handle closed as hard as you can. Unfortunately, this may only make things worse. Be sure the faucet handle is turned all of the way off, but don’t over-tighten it! This may damage the valve.
Turn off the water at the fixture shut-off valves or at your home’s main valve. In some houses, a shut-off valve is located in the bathroom, near the shower, or in the basement. If you can’t find the shower shut-off valves, turn off the water supply to the entire house.
Turn on a faucet to ensure that the water is switched off.
Remove the handle cap. Pry it off with a small pocketknife to expose the internal handle screw. Then loosen the handle screw, pull of the handle and set it aside.
If the handle refuses to budge, try heating it with a hairdryer set on “hot”. If you are still struggling to get it off, use a special handle puller. This is an inexpensive tool available from plumbing parts distributors or home centres.
homify hint: When working on shower faucets, place rags or towels in the tub or shower floor beneath the faucets to protect the surfaces and prevent small parts from being dropped down the drain.
Virtually every faucet manufacturer has a different method of securing the cartridge to the faucet body. Your best bet would be to look for a clip or spring and remove it. Pry up the cartridge retaining clip with a small screwdriver or awl. Remove the handle washer and then twist the cartridge stem loose and pull it out with pliers.
Cartridges are often difficult to pull out. Some manufacturers include a removal cap with new cartridges. Align the cap with the old cartridge ears and try to twist the cartridge loose. Then pull it out with pliers.
If the old cartridge seems to be stuck, you'll need a cartridge puller. Make sure the one you buy works on your brand of faucet. Look on the handle or trim for the faucet brand or manufacturer. Ask an expert at your local plumbing parts store to identify the brand and model from a photo.
Unscrew the hex screw and hex nut until threads are visible. Slide the puller over the cartridge stem, aligning the tool ears with the cartridge notches, and twist to loosen.
Make sure you twist the cartridge loose before pulling it out. Take the old cartridge with you to a plumbing parts store or a home centre to find an exact replacement.
Turn the hex screw by hand until it bottoms out. Snug up the hex nut by hand and tug on the cartridge puller handle.
If the cartridge won't pull out, hold the puller handle steady and tighten the hex nut two full turns. Pull the cartridge out of the faucet body.
Buy an identical replacement cartridge, align it properly and reassemble the parts.
Easy does it! No more constant dripping and worrying about huge water (and electricity) bills!
Want to try your hand(s) at some more DIY? Then: Turn Up The Heat By Building Your Own Fire Pit.