Best Options for Replacing Shower Valves

LESLIE: Craig in Rhode Island is on the line and he needs some help with replacing shower valves in a bathroom makeover. What are you working on?

CRAIG: Well, actually, my second bathroom in my master, it’s kind of old. It has a Symmons water mixer – a shut-off valve. And actually, I’m looking to replace it. It’s cracked, it has some issues. But I can’t get behind the shower to open the wall up to replace it because it’s actually adjacent to my first bathroom shower. It’s a fiberglass, one-piece pop-in.

My first thought is, “Take the insert out, tile it.” But then I have to put a shower pan in. I’d have to do a lot more extra work and money. And then I heard possibly cutting the hole bigger and they have bigger back plates. But I mean I don’t want it to look awkward, as well, you know?

TOM: So what exactly is wrong with the valve you have there now?

CRAIG: Well, see, I don’t think the mixing valve – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But the plate on the shut-off valve, it’s cracked. I also have well water. I know it’s been taking a toll on the pipes. The home is 20 years old. I’m pretty sure it’s original to the home, as well. I’ve only owned it for about coming up on two years now and …

TOM: So you basically are telling me that it’s a cosmetic piece?

CRAIG: It is, it is. But I’m redoing the bathroom and I want to update the fixtures. And like I said, it’s kind of your typical apartment, Symmons, very like a chrome – the kind of cheap, chrome finish.

TOM: Well, look, you have the most impossible scenario for replacing shower valves because you have back-to-back plumbing walls. And typically, you design bathrooms so that one side of the wall’s a closet where you can go and tear out the back wall and then you can get to the valves. But in your case, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, because you either have to take apart the fiberglass shower or you’ve got to take apart the shower that’s basically getting you started here.

And I don’t really have a good solution for you for replacing shower valves. I was asking you about the existing valves because I was wondering if maybe – sometimes, plumbers can rebuild all the working parts of that from the action side, from the inside and maybe pick up some additional faucets that will look like they’ll work in there. I wouldn’t go to the tear-out without at least exploring that.

I, for example, recently had a new shower valve that had to really be replaced. And it turned out that the valves were plastic – inside, some of the valve components were plastic. The seats? And we tore them out and we replaced them with brass. And we were able to find those at a plumbing-supply store. And so I didn’t have to actually replace the faucet.

CRAIG: My next step is going to – I’m going to go to a plumbing supply and see if they just have an updated kind of – updated Symmons where I could keep that valve in and everything is kind of pieced together, as well.

TOM: Right. I think that’s a smart thing. What you want to do is take some pictures of that and go talk to a knowledgeable guy behind the counter and figure out what your options are for replacing shower valves.

CRAIG: Yeah, yeah. That’s my next step and it’s not a – I guess I’ll be tiling a new shower.

TOM: Yeah. If you can figure out a way to make it passable, I think you should do that because you know what?

CRAIG: Yeah?

TOM: Nobody’s going to see that space and I’d hate to see you spend a few thousand bucks redoing it if all you’re trying to get is new valves.

CRAIG: That’s what I’m trying to stay away from. Well, thank you, guys, very much.

TOM: You’re welcome.

LESLIE: Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

 

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