“How To” Guides

"How To" Guides, Popular Posts

Shower valveLet’s take a look into some of the usually unseen parts of a great shower. In this post we’re going to look at the shower valve and why you might replace it.

Maybe you’ve heard your friend or a plumber talk about a leaking shower valve or that one was required when building a new shower. Ever wondered what the heck are they actually talking about?

When people are talking about a ‘shower valve’ they are usually talking about one of the following;

  • a pressure balancing valve

  • a thermostatic valve / thermostatic mixing valve

  • a diverter valve or a transfer valve

Pressure balancing valves and thermostatic valves are involved in controlling and maintaining the water temperature of your shower. While diverter valves and transfer valves are involved in directing or re-directing the flow of your shower water from the shower head to the tub faucet (or to the hand-held shower head, etc).

Pressure-balancing valve

The most common type of temperature control valves in the household shower. The valve maintains shower temperature by ensuring that the ratio of hot water to cold water stays constant. The valve (more info) utilizes a piston or diaphragm with ball-bearings that responds to changes in the pressure of the hot and cold water pipes. Even when pressure fluctuates, say when the toilet is flushed, the valve will restrict the flow of hot water so you don’t suddenly get scalded in the shower. Instead, the cold water is a reduced as well so overall pressure is lowered, but your shower water temperature remains the same.

Thermostatic mixing valve

This valve acts to control the water temperature specifically and to a pre-set temperature. The big advantage of the valve is that you can turn the shower on and simply wait for the shower water to reach your desired and pre-set temperature. No more fiddling around with the shower taps, acting like a bank robber trying to crack a bank safe!

Thermostatic valves can come in digital electronic form or in the more common manual form. The manual form uses a heat-sensitive material, usually wax, which expands with heat and restricts the flow of hot water. In an automatic balancing act, as less hot water gets through, the temperature reduces and the wax cools and shrinks letting more hot water through. This balancing act gives you a steady temperature controlled shower.

Diverter & transfer valve

As mentioned above, diverter and transfer valves change the flow of your shower water. Diverter valves only divert water in one direction. So with a diverter you can run water from either the shower head or the bath faucet for example. With a transfer valve, you can run water from multiple outlets. Some hand-held showers or shower panels will use a transfer valve to run water from both the fixed shower head and the hand held head or horizontal sprayers.

Why change or replace your shower valve?

  • It leaks. Obvious right? You should replace a leaking shower valve as soon as possible as it might be leaking more behind the wall where you can’t see. This could do a lot of water damage to your bathroom walls.

  • It’s slow to react. Your shower used to be great. Now every time someone turns on another tap in the house whilst you’re showering you shriek in terror! Suddenly scalding hot then the next moment chillingly cold, it’s time to change or upgrade your shower valve.

  • You want the benefits of a pre-set automatic temperature. Having a preset and controlled temperature can save you time and hassle fiddling around with water temperature. Also, having a preset shower temperature can be a good safeguard for young children and the elderly.

A selection of popular shower valves

PictureNameTypePriceRating

Delta R11000 3/6 Setting Diverter Rough
Diverter Valve$$3.8

Moen 3510 IPS Pressure-Balancing Valve with Volume Control
Pressure Balancing Valve$$$4.4
KOHLER Rite-Temp Pressure Balancing ValvePressure Balancing Valve$$4.2

Moen 2510 PosiTemp 1/2-Inch IPS ValvePressure Balancing & Temperature Valve$$3.9
Moen 2570 Posi-Temp Pressure Balancing Cycling ValvePressure Balancing & Temperature Valve$$4.2

Moen S3600 3/4-Inch ExactTemp Volume Control ValveTemperature Control Valve$$5.0
PictureNameTypePriceRating

Problems with shower valves

  • Lime build up. Lime and dirt can build up over time in the shower valve causing problems like hot/cold temperature changes.

  • Wear and tear. As shower valves age and suffer wear from everyday use, eventually you’ll get some problems that need a repair. Valve seals may eventually fail and start to leak water. Also as ball bearings wear, the reaction speed of pressure and thermostatic valves may slow. This means your shower temperature might start to fluctuate wildly as your valve becomes too slow to react to sudden changes in water pressure.

  • Hot water service change. If you change the temperature of your hot water service or the unit entirely, this might cause problems. You might need to adjust the stop in your pressure balancing valve or the temperature setting in your thermostatic valve to accommodate any change.

Fixing problems with shower valves

  • Clean it. Remove the cartridge and anything else that is simple to disassemble and soak in CLR or other lime remover product (check CLR is safe to use, it might damage some plastics – try white vinegar for plastics). Lubricate with silicone grease and reassemble.

  • Replace it. Not totally simple, but should fix any issues. You’ve probably had the valve for a very long time, it’s time to install a new one.

How to change or replace a shower valve

If you need to repair a shower valve or are looking to upgrade to a thermostatic one you’ll need some quite good DIY know how. Replacing a shower valve is a lot more work than replacing a shower head as you need to get into, cut and refix plumbing pipework.

As a broad overview here are the steps you’ll need to tackle;

  • shutting off the water

  • remove shower mixer trim and handle

  • remove caulking and trim plate

  • cutting a larger access hole

  • disconnecting pipe fittings – both threaded screw and soldered that’ll require cutting

  • cutting out the old valve

  • cleaning and sanding new copper pipe

  • soldering copper pipe

  • disassembling plastic parts from your new shower valve before soldering

  • reassembling plastic parts from your new valve after soldering

  • maneuvering the valve within the wall cavity

  • testing for leaks & fixing leaks

For a detailed how-to guide, we like about.com’s plumbing guide here: http://plumbing.about.com/od/shower_and_tub/ss/Replace-A-Shower-Valve.htm

If you don’t have basic plumbing equipment, good to advanced DIY skills or the time, we’d recommend getting a plumber in. A plumber will be able to fit your new valve quickly, test for leaks for you and give you peace of mind.

"How To" Guides

cleaning-productsEver had an awesome shower? Good pressure, lots of hot water, plenty of room and a sweet shower head… only for it to be ruined? Ruined by dirt, soap scum, mold, mildew or worse. Yuck! You just can’t have a great shower in a dirty bathroom.

Luckily, agreatshower.com is here to help. Keep your shower and bathroom sparkling clean with the cleaning tips in this comprehensive guide – and be sure to check out our guide to the best shower cleaner to make sure your bucket is filled with the right cleaners for the job.

What causes a shower to get dirty?

Dirt & hair. Day to day use of your shower will cause ordinary dirt and hair washed from your body to accumulate in your bathroom shower and in the drain (pretty obvious right?).

Soap scum. In addition to the obvious dirt, soap scum will build up over time on your shower walls and fittings. Soap scum forms when soap is mixed with ‘hard water’ or water that contains minerals such as calcium and magnesium. All household water (and even bottled water) contains minerals that will cause soap scum to form. How ‘hard’ your particular household water is will impact on how much soap scum forms over a given amount of time. The chemical reaction that occurs to form soap scum technically creates a ‘lime soap’, which is really ineffective for cleaning and washing (plus it looks gross in your shower).

Mold and mildew. They thrive in warm and wet environments, just like your shower. Puddles of water eventually drying increase the humidity in your bathroom, combine this with poor ventilation or air flow and you’ve got a fungus feast! Yuck!

Why even clean a shower?

Nobody really likes cleaning their bathroom – and no matter how much time you spend cleaning it, it’s just going to start getting dirty from the first shower after you’ve finished cleaning it, so why even bother?

For the looks. No one likes the sight of a dirty, moldy, soap-scum-filled shower. Everyone loves a sparkling, shiny and good-as-new bathroom. You’re not going to impress your girlfriend/boyfriend with an ugly messy shower… they might never stay over again!

For the feel. A clean shower head spray will have more pressure and better direction. Unclean bathroom tiles can feel slippery and slimy in the shower. We don’t think we’ll find a sane person who likes the touch and feel of a fuzzy mold in their shower either! Clean just feels better.

For your health. Mold and mildew in the shower can cause you and your family to become sick or unwell. Also, soap scum on vinyl shower curtains has been shown to have a rich ‘biofilm’ hosting bacteria and other microbes – see this page on Wikipedia for more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap_scum. A clean shower floor can help prevent the spread of foot fungus such as athletes foot or tinea. Keep your health great by keeping your great shower clean.

How regularly should you clean your shower?

Generally speaking, a basic clean once a week should be sufficient to keep your shower looking good, feeling good and healthy.

Rinsing the shower walls quickly after each shower helps prevent dirt and soap scum build up. If you rinse your shower often and have good ventilation with airflow in your bathroom, you might be able to stretch to doing a clean every two weeks. Though this might not work if your shower gets a lot of use by the family or if you have a very dirty job (or hobby).

If you leave it too long between cleans, the cleaning becomes much harder. As soap scum builds up more and more, it becomes very difficult to remove, requiring harsher cleaning products or more elbow grease. Also, longer periods between cleans gives mold and mildew a greater chance of getting established. In our experience, a quick clean often is easier, quicker and cheaper than a deep and troublesome clean less often.

What to clean and how

Shower walls, tiles & stall

  • Try get some airflow into your shower area and bathroom. Open a window or turn on your bathroom fan.

  • Use rubber gloves & bathroom shower cleaner with spray bottle.

  • Rinse your shower first with a wet cloth or your hand held shower head.

  • Spray your bathroom cleaner onto your shower walls and glass (following the instructions on the bottle).

  • Scrub the shower walls and glass clean making sure you get all the soap scum off completely.

  • Wipe down the shower again with the wet cloth or rinse with a hand held shower head, then leave your shower to dry.

  • All done!

Shower glass & shower tiles

  • For the outside of your shower glass use a glass cleaner product to remove any finger marks or streaks

  • Some people recommend using car wax or Rain-X on your shower glass and tiles to help reduce the need for cleaning. As Rain-X makes the water bead and roll straight off your tiles and glass, there is less chance for soap scum to form.

Shower curtain

  • For plastic and vinyl shower curtains, unclip them, remove the shower rings and then put them in your washing machine. Add a couple of towels that need washing as well. The towels will help scrub your shower curtain clean in the wash.

  • Make sure you wash plastic and vinyl shower curtains only on the cold water setting. You don’t want to melt your shower curtain with hot water.

  • Once finished, hang your shower curtain back up in the shower to dry. Again, don’t dry them in the dryer or they will melt.

  • To help prevent soap scum build up you can use baby oil on the bottom quarter of the shower curtain. By rubbing the baby oil onto the curtain you create a film of oil which will help stop soap scum sticking to the curtain, making it easier to clean next time (or reducing the need to clean).

Shower grout

  • Cleaning your shower tile grout can make your shower look like new again!

  • An old toothbrush or narrow scrubbing brush is the best tool for the job.

  • Use plenty of your bathroom cleaning product or get some more specialized grout cleaner for really tough and stained jobs.

  • Let the product work its magic for a little while, then apply your brush with a bit of elbow grease.

  • Rinse or wipe clean once you’re done.

Shower head

  • Often we miss cleaning the shower head – usually we just forget or don’t think about it until we have a clogged shower head. Over time, calcium and other minerals that are present in our water supply start to build up in the shower head nozzles. Eventually your shower head will start to spray in different directions or with less pressure as the mineral deposits build up.

  • You can use ordinary white vinegar or for a quicker, more powerful clean try a product like CLR.

  • With CLR, the process takes about 2 minutes with a mix of hot water. Meanwhile cleaning your shower head with white vinegar takes around 20 minutes with hot water and sometimes as long as overnight with cold water.

  • With either white vinegar or CLR, remove the shower head first, then heat your water (enough to just submerge your shower head) finally add your vinegar and your shower head.

  • With white vinegar you need approximately 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar. With CLR, simply follow the instructions on the pack, though generally a 50:50 mix of hot water and CLR works well.

  • Make sure you leave enough time for either the vinegar or CLR to work its magic and dissolve the build-up of minerals in your shower head. You shouldn’t need to do any scrubbing whilst cleaning your shower head this way.

  • If you don’t wish to remove your shower head, you can try holding a bowl of CLR up to the shower head for the 2 minutes. For vinegar you’ll need to tie a ziplock bag filled with the white vinegar solution very tightly around the shower head and arm. Try using a rubber band or duct tape, though be careful not to put too much solution in the bag. A heavy bag will come loose and leave an unpleasant mess in your shower. Remember, it will need to stay up all night overnight.

Shower drain

  • Most shower drain issues will be caused by hair trapping more dirt and gunk. This will prevent your shower from draining quickly and quietly, turning a great shower into a noisy shallow bath. Bleh!

  • To clear a slow and noisy shower drain, first remove the grate or cover. Then, whilst wearing rubber gloves, just get in there. Don’t be scared, use an old toothbrush, wire or your fingers to pick out the offending hair and gunk. Also flushing with hot water can help.

  • For more messy drains that you don’t really want to touch (even with rubber gloves and a 10 foot pole), you might consider using a drain cleaning product. Chemical drain cleaners can be very effective at burning away gunk and hair (maybe even a little fun as you hear the pop and sizzle as it burns through your messy hard work). Just make sure you follow the instructions. For a selection of the best chemical drain cleaners, click here.

  • Please note that chemical drain openers won’t clear large blockages from objects. If you get a really big blockage your best option might be to call your local plumber. Cleaning your shower and drain regularly will help prevent this expensive call out.

What about cleaning fibreglass?

  • Make sure your bathroom shower cleaner is fiberglass friendly, or you can use a white vinegar solution to clean. Some products like CLR will etch fiberglass so use them sparingly and quickly if necessary.

  • For stubborn fiberglass stains, you can try using baking soda. Sprinkle the baking soda on the stain, then cover with a paper towel soaked in white vinegar. Remove after 30 minutes then scrub clean.

  • For really stubborn stains, you can try an oven cleaner product. Make sure the product says ‘no fumes’ and does not contain any lye as this will damage fiberglass. Spray on the oven cleaner thick and leave for at least an hour then wipe or wash clean.

What about cleaning marble?

  • If you’re lucky enough to have marble in your bathroom, remember never to use vinegar. Vinegar is acidic and will eat away at the marble and ruin the finish.

  • Instead of vinegar, use hydrogen peroxide for light colored marble. For darker marble, don’t use hydrogen peroxide as it might lighten the color and look odd in the spot you just cleaned. As another alternative, you can use baking soda. Mix baking soda with water to form a paste. Leave for 24 hours and then gently wipe clean.

  • There are also a number of products specially made to be gentle on marble. Cleaners such as “Granite Gold” are specially formulated to be safe on all natural stone surfaces, like marble and granite. 

  • If you’ve got yourself in a lot of trouble with your marble (i.e. you’ve had a wild party without Mom & Dad’s permission and someone has stained the marble badly…), then it is best to consult a professional marble cleaner.
"How To" Guides

Is your shower head old and tired and not spraying as well as it used to?

Is it turning what could be a great shower into an average or bad one?

Don’t put up with it any longer, get one of the best shower heads and replace your old one today. It’s easy with the right know how.

Replacing a shower head is usually just a matter of unscrewing the old one and screwing on new one.

Tools & equipment you’ll need;

  1. Groove joint pliers

  2. Adjustable wrench

  3. An old tooth brush or steel wool (to remove old pipe thread tape)

  4. Two rags or cloths (to protect fittings from damage whilst installing)

  5. Your new replacement shower head

  6. Pipe thread tape (to ensure that there are no leaks)

groove joint pliersadjustable wrenchold tooth brushcloth ragsnew shower headpipe thread tape

Steps

  1. The first step is to remove the old shower head. Use the groove joint pliers with one of the rags or cloths on the shower head arm. Be careful not to scratch or crush any of your shower fittings with your pliers. Whilst holding the shower arm with your groove joint pliers use the adjustable wrench to loosen the old shower head. Once loosened you can remove the old shower head by hand, turning the head counter clockwise.

    As a kid I was always taught “Lefty loosely, righty tightly.” Meaning if you turn a fitting left or counter clockwise it will loosen; and if you turn a fitting right or clockwise it will tighten.

  1. Now that you have removed the old shower head, use the old toothbrush or steel wool to clean away the old pipe thread tape. Make sure you remove all the old tape and that the screw thread is clean, otherwise you will not have a good seal for your new shower head and it may leak.

  1. With the old pipe thread tape gone, wrap a length of the new pipe thread tape around the shower arm pipe thread. Go around the thread two or three times. Be sure to wrap the tape on in a clockwise (right) direction, this will stop the tape unraveling when the screw the new shower head on in a clockwise (right) direction. If you were to put the tape on in an anti-clockwise (left) direction it might come undone when you screw the shower head on in a clockwise (right) direction and cause leaks.

  1. With a good seal of pipe thread tape you can now screw on the new shower head by hand until the new head is a snug fit. Finish tightening the new head using the adjustable wrench and groove joint pliers. Remember “righty tightly” here. Also remember to use your cloths or rags to prevent scratches and dents.

  1. You’re all done! Well done, you deserve a great shower for all your hard work.

Pro tips:

  1. If your shower arm are is quite high you might find it easier to install the new head using a ladder. Be careful when using a ladder in your bathroom; ensure the shower floor is completely dry (we don’t want any slips!)

  2. The above video shows a nice clean and dry shower head. When changing yours, you’ll likely have a little bit of water leakage if the shower was used in the last day or two. This is fine, just be aware you might get a little wet, and make sure you wipe any spills to prevent any slips.

  3. If your shower head is very stiff and difficult to unscrew, try using a small spray of WD-40. For old and rusted shower fittings, spray the offending tight thread with a quick dose of the WD-40 lubricant. Wait for a few minutes, and then the head should come off like a charm.

  4. If you have a more complicated shower head system, such a sliding wall mounted hand held shower head unit, you’ll need a few more steps. To mount a hand held shower head unit you’ll need a special drill bit to go through your shower tiles and special wall mount brackets that are spring loaded. All good hand held shower brackets will come with detailed instructions and usually come with the spring-loaded bracket. Always make sure the seal between any new fixtures and the shower wall is waterproof, you will need to use some bathroom silicone caulk to make sure.

  5. The process to replace an old shower arm is mostly the same. Simply remove the arm in addition to the head (and use a Stanley knife to remove the existing silicone caulk). You can check out TheTwinPlumbers guide here on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTZgibOKvTg

  6. When installing the new arm to the wall ensure the seal between the shower arm fitting and the wall is watertight. You will need to use some bathroom sealant.

  7. If all this DIY bathroom installation is beyond your skill set, then you can simply call up your local plumber who’ll be more than happy to help you out.