Can You Replace a Single Lever Shower Faucet With Two Handles?

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Double-handle shower faucets still have some benefits over single-handle faucets.
Double-handle shower faucets still have some benefits over single-handle faucets. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

During a major home renovation, or when you update counters and cabinets in the bathroom is a convenient time to change the faucet in your tub. One way to give the tub area a distinct, rustic look is to change the single-handle shower faucet to a double-handle unit. This project is involved but can be accomplished by plumbing-savvy homeowners. It starts with removing the existing faucet.

Removing Single-Handle Faucets

Before you replace a single-handle tub faucet, take it out of the wall. Removing the single-handle faucet requires special tools like an Allen wrench and a handle puller if the handle sticks and will not slide off by hand. First unscrew the set screw on the side of the handle, pull it off and unscrew the bonnet under the handle. Take out the cartridge, and unscrew and remove the trim surrounding the faucet. Use a screwdriver to unscrew these screws. All that is left is the shower body valve for the single-handle faucet. Since today's single-handle faucets require their own shower valve, your new double-handle faucet will not mount to this valve, so remove and replace it.

Finding a Two-Handle Shower Valve

The proper two-handle shower valve must already be in place to install the new faucet. If your home had a double-handle faucet installed already, you will skip this step. But when a single-handle was previously installed, the old valve is removed and the new valve installed. Find a shower valve for the type of double-handle faucet you wish to install. Plumbing outlets, hardware stores and home improvement warehouses have double-handle shower valves for sale. Measure the distance between your shower pipes with a tape measure to ensure you have the proper size.

Installing the Double-Handle Valve

Installing a shower valve requires skill and dedication. You need special tools, and you must know how to use them. Shut off the water by closing the hot and cold water pipe valves. Cut out the shower valve between the two hot and cold water pipes with a disc grinder where the old shower handle used to be. Install the new shower valve onto the old water pipes using fittings if necessary. These individual pipe sections connect the shower valve to the hot and cold water pipes when it does not properly fit. Once fitted in place, heat and solder the seams of the pipes with plumber's solder and a heat source like a propane torch.

Installing the New Shower

Once the shower valve is in place, install the double-handle shower. First install the seats inside the pipe handles on the shower valve. Place the seat in the forward-facing valve openings, and turn the seats clockwise with a seat wrench. Install the stems in the pipe handles by sliding them inside the pipes and turning clockwise with a bath socket wrench. The last step is to install the handle trim and handles by placing them on the stems and tightening the handle screws with a screwdriver.

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