Need to fix your shower water diverter?

Published: 08th December 2008
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We've all been there at one point or another. Enjoying a nice relaxing shower, perhaps some singing ensues, and just in the chorus of our favourite balad, when, zing! A blast of intempent water suddenly disrupts a moment of well deserved peace.

First, how does a shower diverter work?

Bath and shower head diverters frequently incorporate some sort of pressure balancing feature so that the hot/cold mixture ratio will not be affected by transient changes in the pressure of one or the other of the supplies. This helps avoid scalding or uncomfortable chilling as other water loads occur (such as the flushing of a toilet).

The latest designs do this using a built in thermostat. These are known as thermostatic mixing valves, thermostat valves, or TMVs, and can be mechanical or electronic. Another type is an anti-scald valve, which is only to prevent the water from getting to hot, but not chilling.

If you have a custom shower (with multiple jets), a pressure balance valve is not a high flow valve, and cannot be expected to replace a thermostatic temperature control valve, especially in a multiple shower outlet installation. If the number of shower outlets desired is more than one valve can accommodate, it will be necessary to use two (or more) thermostat valves.

Sometimes figuring out what's wrong with your toilet, drain, or other plumbing-related area is half the battle. Uneven water flow, low pressure when the pressure at other faucets seems all right, or troublesome switching back and forth from spray head to sink spout can be caused by a malfunctioning diverter valve or by a restricted hose.

Because diverter valves can only change the direction of water, and not turn water flow on or off, they are rarely used in custom shower systems. Custom showers are multiple-head showers. They consist of valves, water outlets, volume controls, shower heads, hand showers, or body sprays.

Custom showers require plumbing changes and/or major considerations before installing. You cannot just simply add more shower heads or sprays to an existing shower stall or tub enclosure. Custom showers should be installed by a licensed plumbing contractor.

A diverter valve can channel water to the showerhead OR the handshower OR the body sprays...but not all at the same time. If a hot supply and a cold supply were plumbed into a diverter valve, the water would run constantly with no way to stop it.

You've figured that you have a shower diverter valve problem. Tackling plumbing problems in the home can be quite daunting. Shower diverter valve replacement or replacing a diverter washer can be tricky if you're not familiar with the process.

Some shower faucets have the pressure/anti-scald valve built into the mixing valve and others have a separate valve completely (not built into the unit at all).

Replacement unit must be exact, so take faucet manufacturer's name and unit model number or old valve.

Stephan Bevan writes for the Toronto Plumbing contrator: If you have any bathroom renovations or plumbing repairs you require, we would be happy to give you a free estimate. Please fill out our Estimate form.

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