At Solid Plumbing and Heating, we know that a nice hot shower can be the best part of the day. But, what should you do if a leaky showerhead is ruining your experience? If a constant drip, drip is keeping you awake at night, or an unsettling spray is getting you every time you shower, it’s time for some servicing. Left unattended, those little drips can run up a water or energy bill. If you have mineral-rich water, they can even leave behind stains. Fortunately, fixing a leak from behind a showerhead faceplate is normally a simple project and doesn’t usually require special tools or skills. Unfortunately, though you won’t know the cause of the leak until you get behind the wall. Therefore, you should consider attempting to fix both faucet and head before calling a plumber.
Shut Off The Water Supply
You should be able to turn off the water supply to just the shower, but if not, you’ll need to shut off the water for the whole house. Then cover the drain and bottom of the shower with a large towel or mat.
Start With The Head
Start by removing the showerhead. If it can’t be removed by hand, use your pliers and/or crescent wrench to unscrew it from the wall. Over time, hard water deposits can build up in the holes of your showerhead. When this happens water flow is restricted from the sprayer. Backed-up water is forced out around the faceplate or the junction of the showerhead and arm. To break up the hard water deposits, soak the showerhead several hours in white vinegar to soften the mineral deposits. After soaking scrub away any remaining residue with an old toothbrush before reinstalling.
Check For a Worn Seal
Washers and O-rings form a watertight seal between connections on a showerhead, but they can harden or split over time, allowing water to leak out. Inspect O-rings and washers and replace them if they look worn or damaged. If washer and O-ring are in good shape, rewrap the threads on the pipe with Teflon tape to seal the gaps between showerhead and piping. Once complete, reattach the showerhead. When you can’t turn by hand anymore, use the pliers and wrench to tighten until snug. Turn the water back on to see if the shower still leaks. If it does, continue to the following steps for another possible solution.
Faucet Leaks Single Handle
Newer showers tend to feature a single handle that controls both hot and cold water flow. In the wall behind the handle lies a valve body containing a cylindrical cartridge made of hard plastic. If the cartridge becomes worn or cracked, water can seep through causing a drip or trickle from the showerhead, even in the “off” position.
Again, start by turning off the water supply. Remove the shower handle, decorative faceplate and the cap that covers the valve body system. (Steps for this will vary by model, check your owners manual.) Slip off the stem cover, it should give way easily, to reveal the end of the plastic cartridge. Most cartridges are secured with either a twist-on nut or a clip. Remove the nut or clip, then use a pair of pliers to grasp the stem of the cartridge and pull it out. Take the damaged cartridge to the store with you to get an exact match, install the new cartridge, and reassemble the faucet.
Faucet Leaks – Double Handle
Compression faucets have two handles: one hot and one cold. If you have a compression-style shower that leaks when turned off, the problem could be a worn washer in the assembly. The first step will be to determine which handle, hot or cold, is causing the leak. Do this by feeling the temperature of the dripping water. Then, turn off the water supply. Remove the faulty faucet handle, which is held in place with a screw located below the handle or hidden under a pry-off cap. Slip off the cover trim to gain access to the faucet stem, which is secured with a hex nut. Use a deep socket wrench to remove the nut, and you should find a rubber washer. Replace it with a new rubber washer, and reassemble the faucet.
You’ve Done All You Can
If the problem is still persisting, contact Solid Plumbing and Heating, after all, we know you want to get back to the long and luxurious showers you love. And remember, all shower plumbing works in a similar manner, but faucets, showerheads, and valve body assemblies vary in the ways they connect. When in doubt, refer to the manufacturers’ manuals (often found on their websites) or leave it to the pros at Solid Plumbing in Bayfield and Durango.