How to Repair a Three Handle Shower Valve | Ask This Old House

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How to Repair a Three Handle Shower Valve | Ask This Old House

Richard this is our very original 1960s method I’ve seen a few million of these in my life yeah we don’t use it very often but I was taking a shower and the shower valve actually came off in my hand it stripped off yeah the I think to the Home Center I got a new one but it’s never quite worked right it actually leaks down in the crawl space totally inside the wall that’s correct right you know it doesn’t matter well aware all right so what you’ve got here is original equipment to this house this is called a three valve if you could see behind the wall there’d be a hot water line that comes up here and a cold water line that comes up here now there’s a stem unit there’s the hot and the cold and when you turn it it lets water come into the valve body that’s behind the wall and now it comes to this point called a diverter and then the water will either come down through the spout or if you closed a diverter it’ll stop it and force the water up to the showerhead now many of these brands you can still get the factory replacement parts not the wrong ones like I think you got all right but we’re going to do is actually you know where the water shelf is right I do okay why don’t you turn that off and I’ll go get some tools and we’ll do a little bit of exploration sounds good all right Richard waters off all right good so I put a drop cloth in here I want to protect the tub but I also want to make sure none of these small screws fall down that drain all right so now let’s just be sure that that water is indeed on if it is good okay so our excavation begins by taking the handles off many times on these handles there’s a little thing called an index that says either hot cold or an arrow but this doesn’t has these exposed screws so let’s start with your wrong one okay all right so these are called the scotches these are the correct ones right here and these are put on clockwise and so to get them off you just go counterclockwise and sometimes it’s hard to do it looks like see this looks like somebody used a big pair of pliers and scored that up was that you do that it wasn’t me about this this is not right look at this this is scotch it should come off separately from the stem and this whole thing is turning that might be part of your problem while you were leaking down inside the wall okay that it should have looked like this okay so now let’s do the last one well this one’s definitely too loose too it doesn’t have a gasket there okay so there’s one more to get out now in this case you could get pliers on it and get right onto that gland but in many cases this valve body is way back inside the tile so they make special tools for this this is called tub sockets all the different sizes you might find let’s try this one all right okay so here’s our cold stem alright so all the parts are out of our valve body let’s see what we got oh good so Logan here is your shower right so here’s the three valves here’s the new stem you got his the the hot the cold and here’s that diverter as I mentioned the hot Nicole come this way to the diverter down to the spout now these stems they all look very similar but they all one basic function this is a cutaway so I’m gonna give you this okay so behind the valve body is full city water pressure this is called the seat and this stem units only job is to make sure this washer holds tight against that seat so in normal mode it’s closed off and no water goes anywhere let me just turn this over and you can see right here that here’s the threads so now you when you turn the handle it lifts it off of the seat when you’re closed that goes on the seat and that’s really the only action we need from the stem unit so it’s an important thing to make sure that the water only goes out through the spout or shower head so you can see there’s a gland right here and there’s a bonnet right here well between those two parts you see this right here there’s a Lydia gaskets called a bonnet gasket right here or bonnet packing and we have to tighten this enough to compress this so that as we move this water doesn’t leak up here it only goes this way all right so that’s the basic function now there are hundreds and hundreds of different stem units on the market now I’m going to move this diverter out of the way and look at the comparison right here this is your original and this is the new one do you see differences well looks like the threads are a little different here that’s longer here and shorter here and

looks like maybe the washer may be a different way bigger here way smaller here but it’s also a different length and look at this the splines are different now there are 20 different splines at least so you can’t just take one handle off of one manufacturer moving on to another one okay so we can find the right parts the original parts I’m sure for this valve body I don’t think that’s what’s causing the leak that you talked to down in the crawlspace I think that had to do with the diverter now the diverters role is to sit in the middle and when the water comes from the heart of the coal side it lets the water in normal operation fall down into the tub spout okay but when you turn it this way close off one port all of a sudden the water can’t go down the spout it has to go up to the showerhead okay but when if you remember when I backed off that escutcheon him it was so loose and it didn’t even have a gasket here I think what was happening is every time we opened hot or cold the water came this way instead of falling through the tub spout it actually fell right inside the wall and down into the crawlspace all right so I’m gonna take these original parts of pieces and one since we have it this far back let’s replace seats stems escutcheons handles and put you back in business sounds great all right all right so the good news is I found the parts we needed there was this little specialty plumbing wholesale that’s just repair plants perfect so let’s get started so we’re going to replace the seats now they come brand-new right here and you can see there’s a square inside so the special wrenches made for all the different varieties of seats so let’s just be sure I get this in here correctly okay just give a little justice eat it now they have a special ratchet all right so let’s put the new ones in all right so let’s put our new stems in diverter okay snug them up with the tub socket tight but not too tight so now these glands are tightened up but remember that bonnet packing I was talking about now look at this see how loose this is I don’t want water from leaking out right there so I’ll take an adjustable open end and snug up that bonnet so we have our parts of pieces in place the next piece is the trim now there’s a threaded adaptors that will go inside that on it and that can thread out a fair amount and the escutcheon also has a thread on the inside so that I can adjust this escutcheon right back against the tile if it doesn’t I can cut it shorter so those are our adjustability is to make sure it’s tight against the tile all right time for our handles next these are X arm handles so we’re going to set them so you can read what label it is hot and cold and while I do this I’ll let you run down and turn on that main water supply a little bit all right with that all the handles match looks like it did back in 1960 it looks perfect you’re sure I don’t have to come back for another 50 years at least well I hope you see you naturally again before that my friend thing thank you you got to give the homeowner an A for effort he did a lot of work on that house right although he did get tripped up by just the smallest little part that’s right so the biggest part of this job is to find the right replacement charts so sometimes you get really lucky you look in the right on the handles might be the name of the manufacturer and if you know that you go out to the Home Center and again if you’re lucky you might see a kit like this and this has got everything in it so in this kit has got everything you see right here it’s got their three replacement handles the escutcheons the stems of the diverter you get even this the wrench to pull these the stems out of the wall and the seats now also in the kit is one part that’s really important I didn’t show

you this in the piece this little cap thread gasket goes right here so when you make it into the wall it it makes a tight watertight seal so it doesn’t drip inside the wall beautiful so you get the parts and the tool that’s right now if you pull this out and you don’t find a manufacturer’s name what are you doing that well then you go out to the Home Center and there’s a magic book that’s the greatest 200 pages and you take this and you you start with the length and that tells you where to go and then you match it up and you match the thread right here and the length and the spline and it will say this is the part you need this is the manufacturer and if you again if you’re lucky that part is in a bubble pack right there in the wall if not you have to go to a specialty plumbing wholesaler that has repair parts and it’s almost in every market there’s at least one you can find and there’s some guy back there there’s all of this it looks at it oh that’s I know that’s what you want so in this case we were okay to repair this but I just want to make one call out that this type of valve is not in favor anymore you know it’s a three valve so you can mix a little hot and a little cold it comes out through the showerhead and then if somebody flushes a toilet there’s a drop in pressure and you get completely scalded and so once the pressure of the cold goes down you get too much hot cut right through that’s right so if they had kids or if we would do it a new bathroom because in most jurisdictions you have to have a pressure balanced shower valve now if we’re going to replace just a valve I want to show you can open up the tile wall and pull out that three valve and pipe in this mixing valve inside the wall well what are you gonna do you’re gonna have three holes right where the tile is so you chip away the tile and look at this plate it’s so cool this plate would cover over where those three holes were one two three and a little will hold it and then the middle right there you go and then that trims over the top and that’s that so it’s a the perfect upgrade for a bathroom to make it safe if your kids in this case that was not necessary simple repair nope that’s right okay all right well that’s why the right notes because they get good information like that so thank you thanks for watching this whole house has got a video for just about every home improvement project so be sure to check out the others and if you’d like me to see click on the subscribe button make sure that you get our newest videos writing your feed