How to Identify Your Shower Faucet and Cartridge Fast


Identifying your shower faucet and cartridge is crucial for making repairs or finding compatible replacement parts. Here’s a brief summary of how to do it:

  • Turn Off Water Supply: Before you begin, turn off the water supply to your shower. You can usually find the shut-off valves in the bathroom or near the main water supply.
  • Remove Handle and Trim: Take off the handle and any trim or coverings around the faucet. You may need to remove screws or pop off covers.
  • Examine Faucet: Look at the faucet’s design and style. Note any distinctive features, such as the shape of the handle or the type of spout.
  • Check Manufacturer’s Logo: Manufacturers often imprint their logo or brand name on the faucet body or trim. Look for this marking.
  • Inspect Cartridge: Remove the cartridge from the faucet, if possible. Cartridges can vary widely in appearance. Note any unique characteristics or markings.
  • Take Photos: Use your smartphone or camera to take clear photos of the faucet and cartridge from different angles. This will be helpful for reference when searching for replacement parts.
  • Measure Cartridge Length: Measure the length of the cartridge, as this can be a critical factor in identifying the correct replacement.
  • Note Any Numbers: Look for model numbers, part numbers, or serial numbers on the faucet or cartridge. These can be particularly useful for identification.
  • Consult the Manufacturer: Visit the manufacturer’s website or contact their customer support for guidance. They may have resources or databases to help you identify your faucet and cartridge based on the information you provide.
  • Visit a Plumbing Store: Take your photos and any information you’ve gathered to a plumbing supply store. Experienced staff can often assist you in identifying the faucet and cartridge.
  • Online Research: You can also search online plumbing forums and resources. Post your photos and details to seek advice from experts or other DIY enthusiasts.

Types of Shower Faucet Stems

A shower faucet stem is the part connected to the handle that turns left or right inside the shower valve to turn the water on or off. Also, depending on the type of shower valve you have, the stem/cartridge is also used to select water temperature (cold or hot).

In order to properly identify your shower faucet, knowing what type of stem/cartridge you have is a big part of it. This is because one faucet manufacturer will have different shower faucets depending on the type of valve you have.

For example, modern Moen thermostatic shower faucets cartridges are very different from old Moen faucets in shower mixing valves. The two types of cartridges cannot be interchanged.

The good thing is that all the stem/cartridges have distinctive model numbers. As long as you know the brand name, you can get on the phone with the manufacturer customer support and ask for replacement parts. Most companies give lifetime warranties so the parts will be shipped to you free of charge.

There are 4 main types of shower faucet stems/cartridges. These are:

1. Compression Shower Stem


If you have an old double-handle faucet that has not been replaced for a long time, you most likely have a compression faucet.

Usually, the right handle is used to turn on and off the cold water while the handle on the left controls the cold water. Sometimes there could be another handle in the middle for diverting water to the shower head and bathtub.

The stem has a washer at the front secured by a screw. When compressed against a seat inside the valve (by turning the handle clockwise), it turns off the water. Turning the handle counterclockwise pulls the washer away from the seat allowing water to flow out.

The washer wears off with time due to friction which is the number one reason for a leaking shower faucet.

2. Ceramic Cartridge Stem

This type of stems are also known as quarter-turn stems. They derive their name from how far you need to turn them to turn the water on or off.

If you need to turn your shower faucet handle 90 degrees or ¼ of a circle to turn on the water, this is the stem you have. They are made with 2 ceramic discs each with 2 holes on it.  

Just like compression faucets, faucets with ceramic cartridge stems have 2 handles as well. The only difference is that you do not need significant force to turn them off completely.

3. Washerless Shower Stem

These are another type of ¼ turn stems only that they don’t use ceramic discs. Depending on the manufacturer, these types of stems could have discs, valves or balls. They all however have a combination of soft or hard rubber rings.

4. Single Lever Shower Cartridge


If you have a single handle (knob or lever) faucet then this is the type of cartridge you have. The single valve allows you to turn and adjust the water temperature as well as the water pressure.

It is also to find these types of cartridges in double-handle shower faucets. This are usually replaced not so long ago.

You can replace old 2 or 3-handle faucets with a single-lever faucet. That will however involve cutting off a section of the bathroom wall and replacing the shower valve as well. The good thing is that there are big escutcheons enough to cover the opening on the wall.

How to Identify Your Shower Cartridge/Stem

If there is nothing on the faucet handle or escutcheon to indicate what type of faucet you have, you will need to remove the stem/cartridge. This is also what you should do if you suspect that the faucet handle is an aftermarket part that you can’t trust.

These are the steps to follow when removing a shower faucet cartridge/stem:

1. Turn off Water to Your House

You will need to turn off water to your house before removing the stem/cartridge otherwise water will gash out as soon as you pull it out. Locate where your shut off valve is and turn the valve all the clockwise. If you have a lever handle, move it at 90 degrees to the pipe.

After turning off the shut off valve, open the shower faucet to drain out the water already in the pipes. Once that is done, plug off the tub/shower drain opening to avoid dropping screws down the drain.

2. Remove the Faucet Handle

  • If you have a single-lever shower faucet, the lever will be attached to the stem using an Allen screw on its underside. Use an Allen wrench to remove the screw and slide out the handle.
  • For knob-type or other type of handles, there will be a screw at the front of the handle which connects it to the stem. The screw is usually hidden using a small cap. Pry off the cap with a sharp knife.
  • Hold the handle with your left hand and remove screw with a Philips screwdriver using the other hand.

3. Remove the Escutcheon

An escutcheon is the decorative plate which is used to cover the opening on the wall. Escutcheons will either be secured using screws but sometimes they could also be threaded on the stem.

Check the type of escutcheon you have and remove it accordingly. Some escutcheons are also caulked to the bathroom wall. If that is the case cut through the caulk with a knife.

Note: In some cases, you can remove the faucet stem without removing the escutcheon. Check if this applies to yours.

4. Remove the Faucet Stem/Cartridge

At this point, you already know if you have a compression stem or a cartridge. A compression stem has teeth which look like a gear at the tip where the handle has connected.

On the other hand, a cartridge has 2 flat edges. Removing a shower stem and cartridge is quite different as we are going to see below.

Removing a Shower Compression Stem

  • Check how deep in the wall the stem nut is. The stem is connected to the shower valve using a nut. Sometimes the nut is inside the wall and hard to loosen with a wrench but if you are lucky yours will be exposed.
  • If the nut is too deep inside the wall, you will need a shower faucet wrench to loosen it. Insert the faucet inside the stem and grab it with a wrench/pliers. Turn it counterclockwise till the stem is free.
  • Check the condition of the seat washer. sometimes you may need to replace the faucet seat as well.

Removing a Shower Cartridge

  • Pull out the cartridge clip. The cartridge is held inside the shower valve using a clip. Pull it out being careful not to drop it inside the wall.
  • If the cartridge has not been replaced for a long time, pulling it straight will most likely break it. You need a cartridge removal tool. The cartridge removal tool allows you to twist the cartridge right and left thereby freeing it.
  • When the cartridge feels completely free, pull it out with a pair of pliers.

Now that you have your shower faucet stem/cartridge with you, there are 2 things you can do to identify the original manufacturer. You can either take it with you to the nearest home improvement store and ask there or you can use a faucet identification chart.

Home improvement stores have a lot of experienced professionals who will tell you exact what type of a faucet you have by just looking at the stem/cartridge. They also have plumbing bibles to refer to in case you have an uncommon stem.

The benefit of following that path is that they will also sell you the best replacement kit which you can install on your own. That will save you the money you would have used to pay a plumber.

A shower identification chart is another way of identifying the type of shower faucet you have. This however involves measuring the length of the stem, identifying broach patterns, matching the broach patterns and other activities.

I find all these to be quite tedious especially for folks without plumbing experience.

If you are lucky to identify your shower faucet manufacturer, look for their customer care number on their website and give them a call. They will send you a brand new replacement kit free of charge.

Have a look at the video below for more information.

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