That dreaded dripping sound is an indicator that your shower is leaking. Today it’s an innocent trickle of water, but it could lead to more serious issues if left unchecked. Mold and mildew start to grow, and water damage leaves unsightly stains on your tiles and shower tray.
It could even lead to water seeping beneath seals or tiles, causing expensive repairs. We show you what signs to look for, the possible causes, and how to fix a leaky shower in easy-to-follow steps.
Table of Contents
Why Do Showerheads and Faucets Leak?
Everything wears out eventually. Seals and gaskets fail, washers perish with age and use. These are all simple reasons why you have a leaky shower. Let’s look at the most basic fixes for dealing with your leaky shower.
Common Tools Required
Before we get into the details, what tools do you need?
- Adjustable wrench.
- Long-nose pliers.
- Replacement washer, seals, and gaskets.
- Silicone grease.
- Dry towel.
- White vinegar.
- Toothbrush or scrubbing brush.
How to Fix a Leaky Shower: Showerhead
Fixing a shower head leak is the easiest of all the fixes. At the worst, you have to replace the showerhead and, at best, it will need cleaning.
1. Unclogging Showerhead Holes
Luckily, unclogging your holes in the shower head is an easy fix. Here’s how it’s done:
Turn Off Water Supply to Showerhead
Locate the water isolation valve nearest to the shower or turn the water off at the mains. Most modern installations have small taps that you turn to stop the water flow to a particular fixture in the bathroom. Your toilet and washbasin should have one too.
Remove Shower Head Faceplate OR Entire Shower Head
Check what type of shower head you have. Most modern shower heads come as a completely sealed unit that unscrews from the shower hose.
Immerse Faceplate or Shower Head in White Vinegar for 8 hours
Fill the bucket with water, so there is just enough to immerse the entire shower head and pour in a cup of white vinegar. Give it a stir and pop the showerhead into the solution. Leave it for a minimum of 8 hours, frequently checking to see if any of the grime has lifted.
You should see the water start to discolor, as the debris falls away.
Manually Remove Leftover Deposits
Lift out the showerhead and check that all the dirt is gone. Sometimes, small pockets of grime resist the vinegar solution, so you need to employ a bit of elbow grease to get the job done.
Grab the scrubbing brush and run it over the surface of the showerhead. This should remove the last stubborn remnants of the dirt.
When you are satisfied the shower is clean, lift it out and dry thoroughly with the towel. Screw it back in place and turn on the water supply.
Top Tip: If the showerhead is still blocked, grab a pin and insert it into each hole to clear the blockage.
2. Replace Worn Out Rubber Washer
Washers frequently wear out. They perish with use and age but are cheap and easy to replace.
Turn Off Water Supply to Shower
Isolate the water supply to the shower, either by using the isolation valve in the bathroom or turning it off at the mains.
Determine Which Washer Needs Replacing
Your shower has washers in several places. The most common cause of an issue is likely to be the showerhead or where the hose connects at either end to the mixer and showerhead. These washers are rubber and wear out.
Typically, you can pick these up from any hardware store for pennies. Most washers are universal at 0.5 inches. If you are considering replacing the shower hose, they come with washers installed, so you don’t need to worry.
Replace Rubber Washer in Shower Head
Assuming it is the showerhead washer that is the culprit, remove the old washer with a screwdriver. You’ll find it attached to the female thread inside the hose, and it should lift out easily.
Pop the new washer in, and you’re ready to reassemble.
Once you’ve replaced the old washer with a new one, screw the female thread of the hose to the male thread of the showerhead. Make sure it is tight. Turn the water back on and test the shower head for leaks. No drips? No problem!
3. Replace Showerhead
Replacing the showerhead is a simple fix. It will cost you more than the price of a washer, but even those with the most basic DIY skills should be able to handle it.
All you need to do is pop to your nearest DIY store and select the new shower head. The threads are universal, so you get the option to upgrade your showerhead.
Simply unscrew the old one and replace it with the new model.
How to Fix a Leaky Shower: Shower Faucet
Things get a little more complex when dealing with the shower faucet.
4. One and Two Handle Faucet
You will have to turn off the water before attempting any repairs to the shower faucet. As before, you can do this by using the isolation valve in the bathroom or the mains valve.
Extract the Cover Cap
Find the cover cap and lift it off with your flat head screwdriver. It reveals the screw that holds the handle in position.
Remove the Screw and Handle
Using a cross-head screwdriver, twist the screw counterclockwise to loosen it. Now remove the screw and the shower faucet handle. You’ll also have to remove the decorative faceplate that sits beneath the handle.
Remove Trim and Sleeve
You should see a metal sleeve over the shower valve. Pull it and unscrew it. Look for the valve locking clip. Not all have one, but most do. Grab the long-nose pliers and remove the clip, placing safely to one side.
Using the wrench, loosen the cartridge. It may slide out when you take the wrench away, or you can apply gentle force using the pliers.
Replace the cartridge with a new one. If you don’t have a new one to hand, take the old cartridge so you can match them up at the hardware store. Assuming you have a replacement, put it back and tighten.
Return Vital Parts
Replace the locking clip and the valve sleeve, then reassemble the handle in the reverse order that you dismantled it.
Turn on the water and test the system for leaks.
Return Faucet Stem
If you have a two-handle faucet, you need to follow the first two steps, but here’s where it is different: you might need to replace the stem for each handle. Using a wrench, grip the locking base nut at the end of the faucet that’s leaking.
Unscrew the valve and set it aside. Now the stem is loose, pull it out using your fingers. If it is stubborn, use the pliers for extra grip.
Replace the worn washer with a new one. To get a better seal, use a small amount of silicone grease. Now return the faucet stem and tighten the locking nut. Replace all the vital parts and switch on the water.
Top Tip: It might need a new faucet stem, so while you have the taps stripped, it may be wise to replace old with new. That way, you get the peace of mind that it will be leak-free for years to come.
5. Pfister Shower Faucet
The procedure is the same as before. Ensure the water is isolated by turning it off at the mains or using the isolation valve in the bathroom.
Take Out Screw
Lift the cap and remove the screw using the cross-head screwdriver. Remove the handle and plate by twisting them counterclockwise and place to one side for safekeeping.
Loosen the Threaded Sleeve
To get the cartridge out, first, you have to loosen the threaded sleeve. Use the adjustable wrench and turn counterclockwise until it works loose. Use the pliers to lift it free.
Sticking with the pliers, work the locking nut that holds the cartridge in place, twisting it counterclockwise. These nuts can be hard to remove because the valve might be old, so use penetrating oil to help loosen it.
Once the nut is free, you can pull out the cartridge using the pliers.
Wipe Interior and Bring a New Cartridge
Replacing the cartridge is the reverse of removing it. You could try lubricating the existing cartridge to fix the leak, but swap it for a new one if that doesn’t work.
Push the new cartridge in place, tighten the locking nut and replace the valve sleeve.
Add Finishing Touches
Now replace all the fixtures like the plate and the handle, tightening the screw and clipping the cover back. Turn on the water and test the faucet for leaks.
6. Cleaning/Replacing Malfunctioning Diverter Valve
When water flows from the faucet, even though you’ve engaged the shower diverter, you have a problem that needs fixing. As with all these repairs, you will need to cut the water off using the methods above.
Turn Off Water Supply to Shower
The water supply can be isolated using the water valve in the bathroom or at the main valve.
Unscrew and Remove Faucet Handle to Expose Diverter Valve
Pop the cap off the faucet handle and unscrew it using the cross-head screwdriver. Once the handle is removed, you can expose the diverter valve.
Remove Diverter Valve
The diverter valve is removed using the wrench and a screwdriver. You will need to slide out the sleeve first. Next, loosen the setscrew, and then unscrew the diverter valve by removing the spigot.
Clean or Replace Diverter Valve
Examine the valve for damage and grime build-up. If it all looks in good working order, give it a clean with a toothbrush and some water and vinegar. You could pop in the bucket to soak.
If the diverter valve looks worn and damaged, it’s time to change it for a new one. It might be an idea to take the old valve to the DIY store to match it to the exact same model.
If you are happy that you have the correct diverter valve, slide it into place and perform the same procedure you used to remove it, but in reverse order.
Once all the components have been reassembled, switch on the water and give it a test run.
7. Replacing Malfunctioning Cartridge Valve
If you need to replace the cartridge valve, it’s always a great idea to either read up on the specifications of your shower faucet or remove the old part and take it to the hardware store for an exact match.
Turn Off Water Supply to Shower
Switch the water off using the isolating valves located near the shower or by using the main valve.
Remove Faucet Handle and Expose Cartridge Stem
Locate the cap on top of the faucet handle and pop it free using the flat-head screwdriver. Loose the screw, turning counterclockwise, and pull the handle free. Next, twist off the sleeve, exposing the cartridge stem.
Remove and Replace Cartridge Stem
Grab the adjustable wrench and start turning the locking nut at the base of the stem. If you struggle, try using some penetrating oil to help free it.
Once the nut is loose, you can extract the stem cartridge using the long-nosed pliers. Now grab the replacement valve and slide it in place, tightening the locking nut with the pliers.
Once the cartridge stem is in situ, replace the sleeve and then start the process of reassembly.
Plumbing is something not many of us are confident about when it comes to making repairs. We worry that we will end up flooding everything or making the problem worse. However, most plumbing tasks are simple to perform and cheap to fix.
All it takes is patience, the right tools, and a little logic to arrive at the solution. And just think of the money you will save on plumber’s fees.