How to Replace a Shower Diverter Valve in 10 Minutes

If you have a shower-bathtub combination in your bathroom, you then surely have a shower diverter which as its name suggests diverts water to the shower head from the tub spout and back to the spout when needed.

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There are different ways to install a shower diverter in your bathroom. You may have a:

  • A single handle shower faucet. With this type of installation, you will have a pull-up shower diverter on the bathtub spout.
  • Double handle shower faucet. Here you will have 2 shower faucet handles, one for the cold water and the other one for the hot water. You will also have a pull-up shower diverter at the top of the bathtub spout.
  • Three handle shower faucet. With a three handle shower faucet, the middle valve will be the one connected and used to operate the shower diverter valve. The valve handle is either pulled or turned across an 1800 angle to divert water to the shower head.

In this post I will show you how to replace all the types of shower diverters, starting with the shower diverter valve since it is the most time consuming.

The signs of a bad shower diverter are a leaking bathtub faucet when the shower is on, not enough hot water, unbalanced/irregular water flow, sticky handle/knob or a sudden gash of hot water when someone flushes the toilet or runs another appliance.

To replace a shower diverter valve, turn off water to the faucet and remove the faucet handle and escutcheon. Retrieve the old valve with a shower valve socket wrench and install the new valve. Open the water and test the valve while diverted to the tub spout or shower head.

To replace pull-up shower diverters, you will first need to establish if they are slipped-on or threaded to the water supply pipe. If threaded, loosen it with a wrench but if slipped-on remove an Allen wrench at the bottom of the spout and then slide it out.

How to Replace a Shower Diverter Valve

This is the kind of valve you have if you have a 3-handle shower faucet in your bathroom. As I had mentioned earlier, the middle handle/valve is usually the shower diverter valve.

Water flows from both the hot and cold faucet valve and when it reaches the shower diverter it flows either to the bathtub spout/spigot or shower head depending on the position of the valve.

A shower diverter valve has rubber washer at the front which seals against a valve seat installed in the faucet body. When the rubber washer is in contact with the valve seat, a watertight seal is created allowing water to flow to the shower head but not tub spout.

With the time, due to the friction between the rubber washer and the valve seat, the washer starts to wear out, failing to seal properly. This is the main reason you will have water leaking from the bathtub spout when you have already diverted it to the shower head.

The shower diverter valve has 2 O-rings also which can as well wear out causing leaks.

This is how to replace a shower diverter valve.

1. Turn off Water to the Valve

There will be 2 handles supplying water to the shower diverter valve, one on each side. Turn them off. The advantage of replacing the shower diverter valve unlike the other valves is that you do not need to turn off water to the whole house.

If you however decide to replace the 3 valves, you must turn off water to the entire house. After that, turn on the shower faucet and drain out the water trapped in the pipes.

2. Plug off the Drain

You do not want to drop anything and lose it to the drainpipe. For this reason, you should start by plugging off the bathtub drain opening.

Since you will also be working from inside the bathtub, wipe off water from it to prevent the risk of slipping, or better still have an old towel or rag to step on.

3. Remove the Handle

The Shower diverter handle will be connected to the valve stem using a screw, The screw may be visible at the front of the handle but in most causes it will be concealed by a small plastic/rubber cap.

  • Remove the cap using a sharp knife and putting it away.
  • With the cap out, you can now see the screw holding the handle in place. Use a Philips screwdriver to remove the screw. Place it in a safe place as well.
  • Slide out the handle.

4. Remove the Escutcheon

An escutcheon is the trim plate which hides the valve opening on the wall. The escutcheon will either be threaded on the valve stem or held in place using a retaining nut.

Before attempting to remove the escutcheon, check if it is caulked to the wall. If it is, cut through the caulk with a putty knife.

Unscrew the escutcheon if it is threaded to the valve stem. If secured with a retaining nut, loosen the retaining nut and pull it out. Sometime you may have to tap the escutcheon gently with a light hammer to loosen it before pulling it out.

Note: You do not always need to remove the escutcheon. If in your assessment you can retrieve the valve with the escutcheon still in place, go ahead and do exactly that.

5. Retrieve the Valve

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In most cases, the shower diverter valve will be recessed inside the bathroom wall. This makes it very hard to retrieve with an ordinary wrench.

To make these easy for you, your new valve will most likely come with a shower valve socket wrench. If it doesn’t, dash to your nearest home improvement store and grab one. They are all universal.

  • Insert the shower valve wrench through the valve stem and engage the valve’s locknut. Grab the sock wrench with another wrench and turn it counterclockwise to loosen it. Alternatively, insert a screwdriver in the hole on the socket wrench and use it to turn it.
  • Once loose, remove the socket wrench and unscrew the valve with your hand. Pull it out.
  • Inspect the old valve. Make sure that both of its O-rings are out. If any is missing, inspect the valve body opening and pull it out with your finger or screwdriver.
  • Check the condition of the valve seat. The valve seat will be at the end of the valve body opening. If the washer at the tip of the valve is badly worn out and there was a metal to metal contact between the screw and the valve seat, the valve seat could be badly burred.
  • A badly burred valve seat will tear apart the new valve’s washer, which will then need another immediate replacement. To remove and replace a valve seat a special Allen wrench is used. Grab one and a valve seat from your nearest home improvement store and replace the old one.

6. Install the New Valve

  • Clean the valve opening. Before installing the new shower diverter valve, clean the inside of the shower diverter valve opening using a rag dipped in vinegar.
  • Apply faucet grease on the seat washer and the 2 O-rings.
  • Push in the new valve and screw it in until hand tight.

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  • Tighten it further with the socket wrench.
  • Install the escutcheon back.
  • Slide in the handle and fasten it with the screw.
  • Pop the cap in to cover the screw head.
  • Turn on the water and divert it to the shower head and check if the pressure and temperature are good. Check if the bathtub spout is leaking with the shower turned on.
  • Divert the water to the tub spout and check as well if everything is at it should.

If everything checks out as intended, you have successfully replaced the shower diverter valve

How to Replace a Pull-Up/Spigot Shower Diverter

If you bathtub spout has a knob at the top of the spout, that is the shower diverter. In essence, to replace these types of shower diverters means replacing the bathtub spout/spigot

There are 2 types of these types of pull-up shower diverters:

  • Threaded shower diverters
  • Slip-on shower diverters

Threaded shower diverters as their names implies are threaded to the water supply pipes, while slip-on diverters are slipped on the pipe and secured using a screw.

To know what type of diverter you have run you finger on the underside of the spout. If you feel a small hole, that is where the screw is connecting the spout to the water pipe and you therefore have a slip-on shower diverter.

How to Replace a Slip-on Shower Diverter

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  • Start by plugging off the bathtub drain opening.
  • Loosen the screw with an Allen wrench. You do not need to remove the screw all the way out, but to prevent it from burring the water pipe as you pull the spout out I prefer completely removing it.
  • Check if the spout is caulked to the wall. If so, cut through the caulk with a putty knife.
  • With the screw out, grab the spout with both hands and pull it out. You may need to wiggle it a little as you pull it.
  • If there are mineral deposits or corrosions on the water pipe smooth it with an emery cloth.
  • Slide in the new spout until it is in contact with the wall. Insert the screw in its hole and tighten it.
  • Turn on the water to the bathtub then divert it to the shower head. Check if the diverter is working properly.

How to Replace a Threaded Shower Diverter

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  • Remove the caulk if the spout is caulked to the wall.
  • Grab the spout with a wrench and turn it counterclockwise to loosen it.
  • Once loose unscrew it with your hands.
  • Clean the water pipe’s threads using an old toothbrush or wire brush to remove mineral deposits and old Teflon.
  • Apply about 6 wraps of Teflon tape on the threads. You should apply the Teflon in a counterclockwise direction since you will be installing the spout in a clockwise direction.
  • Thread in the new spout starting off slowly to avoid cross-threading. Screw it in until hand tight.
  • Tighten the spout further with a wrench. To prevent scratching the finish on the new spout, apply duct tape or wrap a rag around it prior to grabbing it with the wrench. Make sure that the tub spout faces straight down.
  •  Turn on the water to the tub and then divert it to the shower head. Make sure there are no leaks.

In some cases, you will encounter water supply pipes with a brass adapter after removing the spout. These adapters are used to increase the length of the pipe.

The adapters will be threaded to the pipe, slipped-on or even soldered. Replacing threaded or slip-on brass adapters is easy. Soldered adapters will need a torch to remove and replace, which is DIY most homeowner will (and should) steer clear from.

For more information on that check out this post.

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