How to Repair a Three Handle Shower Valve

How to Repair a Three Handle Shower Valve

Ask This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey repairs and replaces a leaking shower valve.

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Time: 3-4 hours

Cost: $80

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Repairing a Three Handle Shower Valve:
Slip joint pliers
Tub sockets
Adjustable open ended wrench

Shopping List:
Drop cloth
Shower valve replacement kit
Shower valve stems


1. Shut off the water at the main water shutoff.
2. Put a drop cloth in the tub to protect it from any work and also to prevent small parts from falling down the drain.
3. Remove the handles from the valves using the screwdriver. They’re usually under small covers that read “hot” and “cold”.
4. Remove the escutcheons from the valves. They can usually be loosened by hand.
5. Unscrew the valve bodies from the wall with the slip joint pliers and the tub sockets.
6. Replace the seats for the valves. They should come in the repair kit.
7. Put the new stems into the valves and tighten them with the tub socket.
8. Tighten the bonnets on each of the stems with the open-ended adjustable wrench.
9. Screw the trim from the replacement kit over the stem and then put the escutcheons on over the trim.
10. Add the handles to the stems and screw them in with a screwdriver. Be sure to have the “hot” and “cold” labels installed right side up so they’re easier to read.
11. Turn the water back on.

Three-handle shower valves are no longer up to code due to a risk of scalding, and should be replaced with a single-handle, pressure-balanced one, particularly if the shower is used regularly or will be used by children. Pressure-balanced shower valves can be found at home centers or plumbing supply stores. You can also purchase cover plates that can hide holes left behind in the tiles when the valves are swapped.

When repairing existing three-handle valves, finding the correct components requires some detective work. Home centers have a book you case use to help you match up the correct parts, or you can go to a plumbing supply store and they will usually have the parts that you need.

Tub sockets and the other materials required to complete this project can also be found at home centers and plumbing supply stores.

Expert assistance for this segment was provided by Eastside Plumbing Supplies Inc.

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Homeowners have a virtual truckload of questions for us on smaller projects, and we’re ready to answer. Ask This Old House solves the steady stream of home improvement problems faced by our viewers—and we make house calls! Ask This Old House features some familiar faces from This Old House, including Kevin O’Connor, general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, and landscape contractor Roger Cook.
This Old House releases new segments every Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Keywords: This Old House, How-to, home improvement, DIY, richard trethewey, plumbing, shower, valve, repair, bathroom, ask this old house

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James Penton says:

people on This Old House do you ever do modular trailers or mobile homes that are almost in disrepair but try to fix them up to where there usable hit me up because I have worked on some trailers and some of them are just repaired and made them back to where they're usable again

MRrwmac says:

Richard, as usual, very well explained and demonstrated! Thanks.

adamlondoner says:

full city water pressure. BINGO!

Lord baal says:

You don't caulk it?

Joseph1NJ says:

Doing all that, replace the darn spout!

Mariusica says:

mark zuckerberg ???

xoxo2008oxox says:

I have the same shower faucets! Crane… but I have different "1950" tile color 🙂 Richard, you need to bring apprentice along…

Que Onda Canal says:

With this video now I feel like a pro plumber.

chappi59 says:

It was about nine years I had this done by a plumber who charge me almost $800 to do this – I feel I was overcharged?

Jashim Uddin says:

Thank you very helpful

BeeFriendlyApiary says:

But if you can't successfully remove the old seats or valve stem because they are corroded solid in the wall you need to open the wall and replace the inner workings…

aral2dmax says:

Do you have a video on how to build a house from scratch.

Jason Becker says:

New drinking game. Watch all Ask TOH videos and whenever Richard says “Full city water pressure” drink beer and whenever he says “cutaway” take a shot

Arie says:

Richard is the best and 100% correct about being lucky if you find the part. I had a nightmare scenario where I was doing a favor for an elderly relative and changing the rubber O-ring on a Sterling stem which has a clamshell type design (not like the one in the video) and the plastic clamshell thing broke off and I couldn't find the right stem anywhere and stores were closing. I couldn't turn the water back on because it would shoot out of the faucet!

Luckily, at the 5th store I found a sterling stem that wasn't an exact match but would still fit there, but even after months of looking for an exact match, I couldn't find it. I found one guy on ebay who had a kit but wanted $200 for it.

svtfast says:

I asked a few years ago on how to properly groud an outdoor antenna. Is that one of the vidoes that you dont have?

Joe T says:

I know how these things work but I like this guy passion in explaining things.

I don't explain shyt I know to no one ✌

MrAlienware1 says:

Through my years I been a handyman and this is one of the careers that if you know your stuff you will make good 💰💰 and I been noticing that the new millennium don’t want this type of work??..why?? I applaud Richard all that knowledge that he has 👏👏👏👏

Cylie Myrus says:

Mine are made of plastic or polymer. Went to all the local stores, even the plumbing store didn't have the diverter I need. Would've been a whole lot easier if my stems were like those.



Father Finger says:

Love you guys!

Blaine Bugaski says:

Richard must be getting lazy with age. There was another "This Old House" video like this where he replaced the 3 valve setup with a Simmons anti-scald. It turns the 3 valve setup into a modern 1 valve setup (also with the anti scalding safety feature to equalize water pressure between hot and cold) and has a big chrome trim plate to cover the big hole that spans all 3 water outlets.

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