How to Replace Shower Handles

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A small cap often covers the screw that attaches the faucet handle to the valve.
A small cap often covers the screw that attaches the faucet handle to the valve. (Image: Jeffrey Hamilton/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Replacing shower faucet handles to repair or update the look of your bath only takes minutes. Depending on the style of handles used, you can replace them using only a screwdriver or an Allen wrench. Before removing or replacing the handles, look to see how they are attached to the valve stems. Shower-faucet handles are typically installed by screwing the handles to the ends of the valve stems or with a hex screws on the side of the valve stems. Although universal replacement handles are functional and work with just about any shower, you may be more satisfied using those made by the faucet's manufacturer.

Things You'll Need

  • Replacement handle kit, including screw
  • Butter knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Allen wrench set

Replacing Handles Attached with a Central Screw

Remove the decorative cap from the old faucet handle, if one is in place, by prying it off with a butter knife. Use a screwdriver to unscrew the handle from the valve stem and pull to remove the handle.

Place the new handle on the valve stem. Depending on the style of the replacement handle, it may have to be oriented in a particular position to make it convenient to turn the water on and off. Push down on the handle to make sure it is firmly seated on the valve stem. If the replacement handle has a decorative cap covering the central screw, gently pry it off. Be careful to avoid scratching the finish on the new handle.

Screw the replacement handle to the valve stem by placing the threaded shank of the screw, provided in the handle kit, into the central screw hole in the handle. Tighten by turning the screw clockwise with a screwdriver. Place the decorative cap, if provided in the kit, on the handle and snap or screw it into place.

Replacing Handles Attached with Hex Screws

Locate the hex screw that attaches the faucet handle to the side of the valve stem. Insert an Allen wrench in the center of the hex screw and turn counterclockwise to loosen. Pull the handle off the valve stem.

Insert an Allen wrench into the hex screw on the replacement handle. Turn counterclockwise to loosen the screw. Do not remove the hex screw. Place the new handle on the valve stem. Depending on the style of the replacement handle, it may have to be oriented in a particular position to make it convenient to turn the water on and off. Push down on the handle to make sure it is firmly seated on the valve stem.

Insert the Allen wrench into the hex screw. Turn clockwise to tighten.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cover the tub drain to keep screws from going down the drain, should you drop them.
  • If handle replacement is part of a larger job that includes removing the valve stems, the water supply to the bathroom must be turned off before starting this project.

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