For most people, taking a shower is an essential daily activity – which makes the shower an essential plumbing fixture. We simply assume it will greet us with refreshing, cleansing streams of water at just the temperature and pressure we want whenever we push that little button or pull up the lever. Most of the time, it does. But as an ever-vigilant homeowner, you need to be prepared for the occasions when your shower doesn’t function as it should – and know how to prevent problems whenever possible.
Common Shower Problems and Their Causes
Clogs – This is a common problem for all drains, but shower drains – particularly those in bathtubs – accumulate soap scum and hair. Many bar soaps contain fats and oils, which as our regular readers know, are especially good at clogging drains and pipes. So it really isn’t a matter of if your shower drain will clog, but when. Basic preventive measures include using a drain cover and running vinegar and baking soda down the drain at regular intervals. A drain cover won’t keep all the hair out, but will prevent most from going down and accumulating into a clog. Use chemical drain cleaners only as a last resort before calling a plumber, as they’re harsh on pipes and can cause them to break down with repeated use.
Low water pressure – Expecting a bracing shower but getting a drizzle instead is more than merely annoying – it can indicate a larger plumbing problem. Our colleagues at Pratt Plumbing in Amarillo, TX, provide this list of possible reasons. We invite you to read this informative article in its entirety.
- Low-flow showerhead – Can be too stingy with water; replace with a new model.
- Clogged showerhead – Build-up of mineral deposits can accumulate inside the small holes. To remove, let the shower head sit overnight in a bowl or bag filled with vinegar; use a small tool to remove any remaining sediment.
- Worn-out mixing valve – A single-handle faucet may have an internal part called a mixing valve – also called a shower valve or diverting valve – that controls the amount of hot and cold water sent to the showerhead. If that valve is stuck or worn out, it can throw off the temperature and pressure. The mixing valve can be tricky to access and replace, so it should be left to an experienced plumber.
- Faulty water pressure regulator – The water pressure regulator’s job is to keep your home within a safe water pressure range (usually 46-60 psi). This important component can fail, allowing the pressure to get excessively low or high. The water pressure regulator is typically located on the water supply line before it enters the home and should only be replaced by a qualified plumber.
- Closed valve – There are several valves throughout your plumbing system. If any of them are partially closed, you could experience low water pressure. Make sure the water meter valve, main shutoff valve and all inline valves are entirely open.
- Water heater issue – If the low water pressure only occurs when turning on the hot water, your water heater may be the issue. Contact a plumber to see if the unit needs to be repaired or replaced.
- Corroded or leaking pipes – Old pipes, especially ones made from metal, can corrode or rust from the inside. If mineral deposits are stuck in a water supply pipe, they can disrupt the flow to your shower (or other faucets). Similarly, if you have a small leak somewhere in your plumbing, low water pressure could be a noticeable symptom. It’s important to locate and fix the leak as soon as possible.
Shower faucet leak – This could mean the faucet needs new gaskets, seals or rings.
Shower valve – Also known as a mixing or diverting valve, it’s a device located inside your shower wall that controls the flow of hot and cold water to your showerhead or tub faucet. Its primary function is to mix hot and cold water to the desired temperature when you turn its handle.
As our colleagues at The Pink Plumber in Atlanta point out, “Most shower valves include four connection points. Two are connected to both the hot and cold water supply lines. The other two are used to supply the showerhead and tub faucet when applicable. When these connection points develop a leak, water leaks inside the wall cavity, often going unnoticed until the damage is done.”
The Pink Plumber article is an excellent in-depth look at shower valve issues and the repair work they involve, so we recommend you also read it in its entirety.
Screaming showers – Noise from shower pipes can be caused by a build-up of sentiment inside the pipes, which typically requires replacing the pipes.
Rattling pipes – Rattling pipes are a typical result of cold and hot water fighting for space in your pipes. Call a plumber to determine if the mixing valve is the cause, and adjust it accordingly. As thermal shock or scalding can occur if the mixing valve is overcorrected, this is not a DIY job.
Foul smell – This can result from a clog or standing mold, which can occur from an undetected water leak. Sewer gas emerging from the drain can also cause a bad odor. If the drain isn’t clogged and the shower is used on a regular basis, a water leak may be the issue. Call a plumber to determine the source.
Don’t DIY When it Comes to Shower Plumbing
Shower plumbing consists of two piping systems – a supply pipe that delivers hot and cold water and a drain pipe that removes the wastewater. Because the supply pipe and shower valve are behind the tiled wall, repairs involve removing the tile, which is a project in and of itself for which most homeowners are not equipped to tackle. Hopefully, needless to say, diagnosing and repairing the problem once the tile and green board or cement board have been removed is best performed by a professional plumber.
Mistakes made by homeowners trying to save money can be even more expensive to correct, and could result in additional damage and injury. Our blog post – “DIY Disasters – Plumbing Jobs You Should Never Do Yourself” – covers the many reasons you need to leave repairs to the pros.
The Take-Home Message
Our master plumbers at Adams and Son Plumbing believe the more you know about basic plumbing care and maintenance, the better you’ll be able to recognize when it’s time to call a professional to prevent even more serious damage and major expense. We’ve proudly served Central Florida homes and businesses with the highest level of quality and experience for over 60 years. We are family-owned and operated, and all of our plumbers are state-certified master plumbers. Contact us to get – and keep – your home’s plumbing in top repair.