Fix your dripping shower to avoid unwanted water stains and annoying drip noises. A dripping shower means that the seals inside the on/off handle have worn out. The cartridge inside the handle has seals that hold the water back in the main plumbing pipe when the shower is turned off. These worn out seals allow water to slip past, travel up the pipe to the shower arm and drip out the shower head. The other common part of a shower that leaks is the area where the shower head connects to the shower arm. A loose nut or worn gasket causes this problem. Regardless of which dripping problem you have, a do-it-yourself homeowner can usually fix both.
Locate the water main in the house and shut if off. This will stop water to the shower so you can work on it without getting wet.
Pop the decorative screw cover off the face of the faucet with the tip of a pocket knife.
Remove the screw with a screwdriver. The screw may be a Phillips or flathead model.
Remove the shower faucet handle by pulling it straight off the inner cartridge shaft with your hands.
Remove the retaining clip that holds the cartridge in the wall by prying it up with a screwdriver.
Remove the flat washer from the handle with your fingers. Twist the cartridge stem with a pair or pliers until you can pull it out.
Slide the new cartridge stem into the faucet housing. Twist it with the pliers to ensure the internal plastic pieces are top and bottom. Look at the end of the cartridge stem to ensure the little notch on the end is on top. This notch placement will ensure that hot is hot and cold is cold when you turn the faucet on and off.
Snap the retaining clip back in place and put the flat washer back on the end of the cartridge stem. Place the faucet handle back on the end of the cartridge stem.
Thread the screw back into the end of the stem to hold the handle in place with the screwdriver. Snap the screw cap back over the screw with your fingertips.
Fold a thin scrub pad around the nut that holds the shower head to the shower arm.
Grip the wrapped nut with a pair of pliers and turn it counterclockwise until the nut gets loose. This will loosen the shower head. Untwist the shower head with your fingers.
Wrap the threads at the end of the shower arm with plumber's tape. Wrap the tape onto the threads clockwise. This will ensure the tape doesn't unwrap when the nut goes back on.
Look inside the nut of the shower head for the rubber gasket. If it's missing or severely worn out, replace it. Remove the old one with a flathead screwdriver. Stick the tip of the screwdriver beneath it and pry it up. Place the new one inside the nut and seat it by pressing it down with the screwdriver.
Rethread the nut back onto the shower arm with your fingers. Rewrap the nut with the scrub pad and then tighten it down with the pliers. Turn the shower on to see if the nut still leaks. A new shower head may be required if the leaking persists.
If the cartridge stem is difficult to remove with the pliers, you may need to a cartridge puller. This is a specialised tool that often comes with the shower faucet kit. If you no longer have your puller, ask an expert at a plumber's supply store to help you locate one.
Avoid over-tightening the faucet handle screw so that you don't strip the inner threads. Avoid over-tightening the shower head nut to avoid making the leak worse.
Tips and warnings
- If the cartridge stem is difficult to remove with the pliers, you may need to a cartridge puller. This is a specialised tool that often comes with the shower faucet kit. If you no longer have your puller, ask an expert at a plumber's supply store to help you locate one.
- Avoid over-tightening the faucet handle screw so that you don't strip the inner threads.
- Avoid over-tightening the shower head nut to avoid making the leak worse.