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How to Replace a Shower Head

Before calling a plumber, you can try showerhead repair yourself, or take a shot at showerhead replacement. A leaky showerhead, like a leaky faucet, can be wasteful and costly to your home. These problems, while annoying, often have simple solutions that can be implemented in just a few steps.

The most common spot where a showerhead leaks is around the threads where it is attached to the shower arm. The head may just need to be tightened by hand or gently with a channel lock style pliers with the teeth covered by tape so not to damage the chrome finish. Hold onto the shower arm with your other hand or with another set of channel locks (again with the teeth covered in tape) to prevent it from twisting and breaking off. If it still leaks after tightening, remove it and wrap a piece of Teflon plumbing tape around the threads on the shower arm and reattach the showerhead. This will fix most leaks.

Replacing the Washer/O-ring:

The first step is to make sure the shower valve is turned off. Have a towel or some buckets prepared for water that’s still in the pipes when you go to open them. Unscrew the showerhead, either by hand, using a pair of pliers or a wrench. Make sure to hold onto the shower arm with your other hand or channel locks with the teeth covered with tape to prevent it from twisting and breaking while you unscrew the showerhead. After removing the showerhead, look for a plastic washer or rubber O-ring inside the threads. Cover the drain with a towel so small parts don’t fall in. Check the O-ring or washer for wear or damage. If there’s damage, this is probably the reason your showerhead is leaking. Replace the washer or O-ring, then turn your water back on to see if the problem is solved.

Cleaning the Showerhead:

If your washer/O-ring is fine, or the replacement didn’t fix the leak, take the time to clean the showerhead. This is essential if you’ve noticed decreased flow from your showerhead. Sediment or mineral buildup can affect water pressure coming through the showerhead, and definitely contributes to a leaky showerhead. Add three cups of vinegar to a pot of water, and bring it to boil. Once it’s boiling, turn off the heat and place the showerhead in the water.  Let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes, after which you should rinse the showerhead, and scrub any remaining deposits out with a toothbrush. Plumbing tape can be applied on the pipe threads after a washer replacement, or after your showerhead is cleaned, for extra leak prevention.

Diverter Valve:

If neither of these is the solution, the problem may be with the diverter valve, which allows water to switch back and forth from the bathtub faucet to the showerhead. The diverter valve can be weakened or clogged with sediment over time, causing a leak. You can clean the diverter valve, or replace it. As always, shut the water off (either to that bathroom or the whole house) before you begin. To find the diverter valve, unscrew and remove the bathtub spout from the wall. Disconnect the diverter valve and remove it from the wall.

To clean the diverter valve, use a brush (either a toothbrush or wire brush) and white vinegar to remove deposits. While it’s drying, examine the valve for cracks or damage. If you find any, you’ll have to replace it. Once the diverter valve is replaced, it’s as simple as installing the new one, just as you removed the old one

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