What is a Shower Diverter Valve? Types, Problems Etc.


A shower diverter valve is an essential component in a shower plumbing system that controls the flow of water between different outlets. Its primary function is to divert water from one pathway to another, typically from the tub spout to the showerhead or between different showerheads. Here’s a brief overview of shower diverter valves, their types, common problems, and solutions:

Types of Shower Diverter Valves

  • Three-Way Diverter Valve: This type of diverter valve allows you to divert water between two different outlets, such as a tub spout and a showerhead.
  • Two-Way Diverter Valve: A two-way diverter valve switches water flow between a fixed showerhead and a handheld showerhead.
  • Integrated Diverter Valve: Some shower faucets have an integrated diverter valve within the faucet handle, which simplifies the operation.
  • Transfer Valve: A transfer valve is used in more complex shower systems, allowing you to control multiple showerheads or body sprays independently.

Common Problems with Shower Diverter Valves

  • Leaking: Diverter valves can develop leaks over time, causing water to drip from the spout or showerhead when it’s not in use.
  • Stuck Diverter: Sometimes, the diverter valve may become stuck in one position, preventing water from flowing to the desired outlet.
  • Reduced Water Flow: A malfunctioning diverter valve can lead to reduced water flow to the showerhead or other outlets.

Solutions to Shower Diverter Valve Problems

  • Leaking Valve: To fix a leaking diverter valve, you may need to replace the seals or O-rings. If the valve is severely damaged, replacing it with a new one is the best solution.
  • Stuck Diverter: A stuck diverter valve can often be resolved by gently turning it back and forth to free it from its position. Lubricating the valve with silicone grease may also help.
  • Reduced Water Flow: If the water flow to the showerhead is weak, it could be due to mineral buildup or debris. Remove the diverter valve and clean it thoroughly. Additionally, ensure there are no obstructions in the showerhead or pipes.

Types of Shower Diverters

All shower diverters are not the same. There are 3 types of shower diverters that you are likely to come across. These are:

1. Three-Valve Shower Diverter


If you have separate hot and cold shower faucet handles with a third handle in the middle (commonly referred to as a 3-handle shower faucet), the third handle is connected to the shower diverter.

The cold and hot water are mixed inside the valve and sent either to the shower head or tub spout. If you want the water to flow out of the shower head, turn the middle valve 180 degrees clockwise.

Turn the handle in the opposite direction if you want the water to flow out of the tub spout. The shower diverter stem looks very much like a shower faucet stem.

If you are tired of operating 3 shower faucet handles, you can easily replace it with a single-valve shower valve. Check out this post for more information.

2. Two-Valve Shower Diverter

This type of shower diverter is usually found in the center of single-handle shower faucet but could also be found between 2 handles. It works the same way as a three-valve shower diverter.

3. Single-Valve Shower Diverter


This is the most common type of shower diverter. If you have a small knob at the top of your bathtub spout then this is the diverter you have. It is used with single or double shower faucet handles.

If you want to divert water from the spout to the shower head, you will only need to pull the knob up. To redirect water back to the spout just push the knob down.

There are 2 types of these valves (which basically means 2 types of spouts). If you are replacing the diverter valve, I usually recommend replacing the spout as well.

You could have a threaded spout or a slipped-on spout. A threaded spout as its name applies is threaded to the water supply pipe coming out of the wall while a slipped-on spout is basically slipped inside the pipe and secured with a hex screw.

To know what type of spout you have, run your hand under the spout. If you feel a small hole, that is the hex screw opening and you therefore have a slipped-on tub spout.

Single-valve shower diverters are also known as tee diverters. More about tub spouts and single-valve shower diverters in this post.

How they Work

Let us start with a single-valve or tee shower diverters. These are the easiest to understand.

The little knob at the top of the spout is connected to a piece of nylon inside the spout. On both sides of the spout (the vertical section) are gate-like slots where the nylon piece moves up and down when the knob is pushed or pulled.

When you pull the knob up, the piece of nylon (backed with a washer) blocks off the spout opening, forcing the water to move up and flow out of the spout. Pushing the knob down unblocks the spout allowing water to flow out.

Three-valve and two-valve shower diverters work the same way. The flow of water to the spout or shower head is controlled by a shower diverter stem.  Shower diverter stems are controlled by the middle handle/knob ( in 3-handle shower faucet).


At the front of the shower diverter stem is a washer and a spring. By turning the handle clockwise, the spring is compressed and pushes the washer hard against valve seat creating a watertight seal. This blocks off water to the spout meaning that the water can only flow out of the shower head.

When you turn the handle counterclockwise, the spring relaxes and the washer pulls out of the valve seat. This allows water to flow out of the bathtub spout.

Common Shower Diverter Problems

Due to the constant pushing and pulling of the shower diverter stem, the washer will starts to wear out, meaning it can no longer make watertight seals. As a result, you will notice that your bathtub faucet/spout will be dripping when you turn on water to the shower head.

I have written an article about that problem in more detail as well as how to fix it. Find it here.

With single-valve shower diverters, a leaking spout means that the washer inside is worn out as well and will need to be replaced. The most common problem with these types of shower diverters however is a stuck shower diverter.

A stuck shower diverter is caused by accumulation of mineral deposits especially calcium inside the tub spout. This prevents the shower diverter piece inside the spout from moving freely and you will notice that you are unable to divert water to the shower head as you may like.

I have written a separate post on how to fix a stuck shower diverter. Read it here.

And basically, that is everything about shower diverter valves. I hope you enjoyed this piece.

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