How to Stop a Leaking Tub-and Shower Valve

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A leaky tub or shower valve not only wastes water, but can slowly drive you crazy listening to the drip, drip, drip. The valve assembly, which controls the temperature of the water in many tub and shower stalls, is also known as a diverter valve, and is not all that difficult to repair on your own. In many cases, all that's needed is a new washer. Save yourself a plumbing bill and try to fix it yourself. All you need is a few simple tools, and about 30 minutes. Here's how:

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver, pliers, shower valve replacement kit or washer, plumber's putty, Vaseline, toothbrush. You may also need a shower stem socket.
  • First, turn off the water supply to your bathroom. Remove the valve cover, which may be screwed into place. If not, gently pry cover loose from wall with the flat edge of a screwdriver, taking care not to bend or damage the cover.

  • A screw should be holding the diverter into the wall. If there is no screw, you may need to use a shower stem socket that is available at most hardware stores to loosen the diverter. This piece is also called a bonnet.

  • After you have removed the diverter from the wall, unscrew the stem from diverter. In most cases, the threads should be in good condition, but if they're worn or damaged, you may have to either replace the stem valve or resurface it yourself. Do-it-yourself newbies, it may be easier to purchase a new one this time.

  • After you have removed the stem, look in the side of the valve that contains a washer. A screw should be holding it in place. Using a toothbrush and some white vinegar and water, clean the assembly to remove mineral deposits. Check the washer to make sure it is in good condition. If not, follow Step 5 to replace. If it's okay, move on to Step 6.

  • Replace the old washer, inserting a new one, printed side down, into the valve. A thin coat of Vaseline will help seat the washer properly into the valve. Replace the screw holding the washer into place.

  • Replace the valve stem into the assembly and screw back into wall using the shower stem socket, being careful not to overtighten. Replace the valve cover, using a light film of plumber's putty along the edge to provide a watertight seal. Turn the water supply back on and check for leaks.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never overtighten! Tighten connections snugly, but resist the urge to give it 'one more turn'. Also, keep old parts until you're sure that everything is working properly - just in case.
  • Make sure to turn water off before starting any plumbing project. Also keep in mind that you can repair things only so many times. If more than one portion of the tub and shower valve needs to be repaired, consider replacing the entire piece.

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