A leaking shower can be annoying. Not only does it make noise and can it create stains, but you also have to pay more for water that you don’t use. This problem won’t fix itself and will only get worse over time. It is possible to repair it yourself if you know how to use tools. Let’s get it fixed.
Diagnose the problem: dripping or leaking shower head
The first step is to see how long the shower drips. It is normal that some water comes out of it after you have showered. If only a limited amount of water comes out of it for a short period of time, you don’t have to worry too much. Check the tape or rubber rings that seal the shower head to check if this needs to be reinstalled.
If it is just the handle that is dripping, it is possible that we can replace some rubber rings by removing the showerhead and adding new rings. These are very cheap and it is an easy fix.
If the shower is dripping for more than a few minutes or both pieces are dripping, it is time to clean or repair the cartridge. This metal piece stops the water flow when we close the faucet. After about 10 years this piece starts to get worn down and needs to be replaced. It is also possible that chalk is clogging it up and that it needs to be cleaned.
Get your tools
You will probably need a knife (this tool is often used by plumbers), an Allen key, and a screwdriver. It is a great idea to Google the brand and model of the shower as you often can find instructions online on how to disassemble it. This will also let you know which part number you have to order. Getting the correct part in advance makes the repair a lot easier. Sometimes you can just clean the shower cartridge though. This is mainly the case if you have a lot of chalk in the water.
Wear protective goggles and clothes that can get wet.
|Required tools||Optional tools|
|Clothes that can get wet||Old towels|
|Allen (or hex) key||Replacement parts|
|Philips screwdriver||Rubber rings|
|Slotted screwdriver||Silicone grease|
|Adjustable wrench||Plumber’s knife|
Close the water supply
Water is under a lot of pressure. For this reason, you should close the cold and hot water lines to your shower. There is often a valve on your system. Sometimes there is one for your bathroom (behind a wall).
In older systems, you might have to close the valves nearby the water heater (check the instructions on your heater before you do this). Valves can be quite difficult to close if it has been a while that they have been closed. Using a wrench can help but don’t force things! It is best to wait a while until the hot water in your pipes has cooled down before you proceed.
If you have a PEX system, there is often a valve nearby the manifold. Make sure that you close the right pipe.
If you have copper or steel pipes, it is possible that you have a valve in the wall or where the water enters the home.
Open the faucet to let water that is in the pipes drain out of it. You can lay plastic or towels on the floor of the shower after this to store your tools. Don’t wear shoes in your shower.
How to Remove the shower handle (or grab bar) and plate
It is possible that you have to remove a piece of plastic on the sides. A knife can be used for this. In other instances, you need to remove a screw. Look for small screws on the outside before you start pulling. You can look up your brand of the shower and search on Youtube to see how the handle has to be removed. Each brand has its own unique system to do this. Sometimes you need to remove a wallplate as well. This is generally done with a Philips screwdriver.
Remove the locking pin after this. Not every shower has this. It is just a piece of metal that can be pulled away. Often this piece is quite small and easy to remove.
If your shower has a thermostat (one knob for the water and another one for the heat), you only should open the part that holds the water. You don’t have to touch the part that holds the thermostat.
You can take pictures of every step so that you remember how to reassemble it. Be sure to store the parts properly so that you can reuse them later on.
Replace the cartridge
Now is the time to remove the cartridge. This is often done with a hex or Allen key. You insert it and turn the key counterclockwise. You can get a plastic piece to slide over the tip as well. This makes it easier to use a wrench. Sometimes you need more force to do this and a wrench can be used to turn the cartridge out of it. You might have to hold the rest of the installation so that it doesn’t bend the pipes in the wall. In some instances, you can pull the cartridge instead of turning it.
Water will flow out of the pipes at that point in time so be prepared for this as some more water can get out of it. Make sure that you don’t drop the cartridge as this can damage your shower. Asking someone to assist you with this is a great idea.
You can also hang a bag under it so that it falls in this instead of on the floor if you drop it. It is difficult to fix a cracked shower pan so this has to be avoided.
Once that has been done, you can insert the new one. Check if you need to add rubber rings or filters as well. You can add some silicone to the rubber or replace it. Don’t overtighten the cartridge but get it locked in place.
Showers that have multiple knobs are repaired in a similar way:
If the cartridge is less than 5 years old and has a lot of chalk on it, you can try to clean it with vinegar. It can be a great idea to remove the rubber rings before doing this. You can add some silicone to grease the rubber rings when you reinstall them. It is possible that it won’t solve your problem but you can save money if that was the issue.
If the metal handle has been deformed, you can try to repair it with a hammer but this is not easy to do. You can also damage the pipes in the wall in this way. Therefore it is often better to replace this piece. In most instances, you will have to call a plumber. Water leaks behind a wall are terrible so they should be avoided.
Reassemble the showerhead
If your shower has two handles, you might have to repeat the previous steps twice. It is possible that only one cartridge is broken but it is a great idea to replace them both at the same time.
Make sure that you use all the pieces so that it fits well together. Once it is closed, you can test the handle by opening and closing it a few times. Makes sure that it hangs straight. This is where the pictures that we took earlier come in handy as reassembling something can be challenging.
It is also important that you use the right sealant when you reinstall the shower head. This makes sure that there are no further problems with dripping water. Installing this is generally quite easy but it can take a few tries to get it right.
Test the repair
You can turn on the cold water by using the valve to supply water to the shower. See if it is still leaking. Let some water flow and check if the repair worked. If it did, you can open the hot water supply and do the same. Make sure that there are no further leaks as this can damage your walls. Having to break them open is a lot of work.
That is it! Your shower should stop dripping now. This repair only needs to be done every 10 years so you should be good for a long time. Just get the right tools and things will work out fine.