A shower handle loose is not only annoying, but it can be expensive. If the handle is loose, water can leak out and cause damage to the shower or bathroom. Humidity and hard water deposits can cause problems with discoloration, but corrosion that has damaged the valve stem is often to blame for a loose handle.
What Causes a Loose Shower Handle?
In addition to corrosion, a few things can cause a shower handle to become loose. One reason is wear and tear. Over time, the screws that hold the handle can become loose.
Another common reason is that the washers or O-rings that seal the connection between the handle and the shower stem may be worn out.
There are several shower handles, but the most common are lever and knob handles. Lever handles are often easier to grip, especially for arthritis or other hand problems. Knob handles may be more stylish but can be more challenging to turn.
When choosing a new shower handle, selecting one that is durable and easy to maintain is essential. A good shower handle should be made of rust-resistant materials and have a smooth finish that is easy to wipe clean.
How To Fix a Loose Shower Handle
Repairing your shower handle is a relatively easy task. You will need a few everyday items before you begin working:
- Phillips head screwdriver
- Flat head screwdriver
- Allen wrench
- Damp cloth
- Teflon plumber’s putty
Turn off the water in your bathroom. Doing this step is essential because you don’t want to be sprayed while working on the valve stem.
You can find your water shutoff valve control behind the showerhead or on the wall near your bathroom sink. You can also shut off water for the entire home if you can’t find the valve.
Turn the shower on and allow any water still in the pipes to drain. Doing this will help you avoid getting wet while you work and clear any debris from the valve.
Place a towel over the drain, so small parts don’t disappear. You don’t want to experience the rage that comes with watching a screw go down the drain.
Find the main screw or screws. To access the valve assembly, you will need to either remove the decorative circle from the front of the handle or loosen the set screws near the base of the handle.
Next, remove the plate. You may need to remove an escutcheon plate to access the set screws. The escutcheon plate is a decorative cover that sits behind the handle.
For the following step, remove the screw or screws. Use the Phillips head screwdriver or the Allen wrench to remove the screws that hold the handle in place. In some cases, there will be two screws, but there may only be one.
After removing the screws, examine the washers. You should see the plastic cover on the valve stem. If the washer or O-ring is damaged, you will need to replace it.
Carefully remove the handle from the shower stem. If the handle is difficult to remove, you may need a flathead screwdriver to pry it loose. Be sure not to chip the finish on the handle.
If the handle is stuck, use a screwdriver to create space and place a piece of wood in the gap. You can then press against the wood to pry the handle off without damaging the wall.
For the following step, examine the handle. See if you can tell what caused the handle to become loose. Next, clean the handle and look inside the hole on the back. If the inside is stripped, you need to buy a new handle.
Next, examine the valve assembly. If there are still sharp teeth inside, you can tighten the assembly that connects to the handle. Do not overtighten because this can cause leaks.
Check the teeth on the assembly you just tightened. If the teeth are stripped or broken, you must buy a new part for the assembly.
Replace the handle and tighten the set screw. Make sure it moves correctly, and turn on the water for a final test.
If you are dealing with a plastic valve stem, you can try to repair it with plumber’s tape. First, cover the stem with tape and place the handle over it, keeping everything tight. You can still put a small amount of tape around the valve stem if it’s not plastic, which should create a watertight seal.
If you don’t feel comfortable completing this repair, it is best to contact a professional. The damage resulting from an incorrect repair may outweigh the cost of having a plumber initially perform it.
How To Remove Different Types of Shower Handles
Different shower handles have differences in the valve stem and the tools required. These steps occur after the water has been turned off in the bathroom.
Traditional Hot & Cold Valve
This two-handle shower valve consists of a hot water intake, a cold water intake, a mixing valve, and an output. The mixing valve combines water to the right temperature and sends it to the showerhead. You will rarely see this type of valve in new showers.
Remove the caps or screw covers from the front of the knobs and remove the screws connecting the knobs to the stems. Next, remove the handles, the escutcheon plate, and any excess caulk. Finally, find the correct socket to remove the stems.
Pressure Balance Valve Single Handle
This handle changes the water temperature and flow rate. The handle is connected to a valve that controls the water pressure and temperature.
Look for a set screw in the bottom of the handle. Loosen it and pull the handle off. Next, unscrew the handle assembly, remove the sleeve, and then remove the stem.
Thermostatic Single Handle Valve
A thermostatic valve is similar to a pressure balance valve. However, it has temperature control, allowing you to set the water to a specific temperature and remain there, regardless of the water pressure. A separate volume control valve controls water pressure.
A diverter valve directs water from one valve to another. It does not affect temperature. Switching valves is done by shutting one off and opening the other. A typical example of this is turning off the shower head and turning on the output.
Thermostatic valves are more advanced than other valves, and it is recommended that most people contact a professional to perform this work.
Multi-Functional Control Valve
A multi-functional valve has three outlets and controls, and all controls act as flow control, temperature control, and diverter. You can find these in systems with an overhead shower and body jets.
These systems are also complex, and repairs are not recommended for amateurs.
Plumbing issues can be concerning, but a loose shower handle is usually an easy fix. In most cases, all you need is a screwdriver and a wrench.
A shower handle can become loose for various reasons, such as corrosion, wear and tear, or poor installation. You will need the correct tools and a little know-how to make everything tight and functional.
A good shower handle is easy to use and provides a solid grip. It should also be made of quality materials that can resist corrosion. When choosing a new handle, check compatibility with your valve. Once you have the right one, follow the instructions for proper installation.