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36 year old shower fixture - RIP?

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Rebecca

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This shower fixture was installed when my south Florida home was built in 1984 and I've owned it for 20 years. Keeping it working properly has been a challenging DIY learning curve. I've replaced the cartridge and adjusted the flow more than once. I've a few questions for the pros:
  • What indicates that cartridge replacement, rather than adjustment, is required?
  • How long should a cartridge last and what triggers the need to replace?
  • What is the likelihood that a plumber could replace this fixture without damaging the surrounding tile? An exterior wall backs the fixture.
  • What questions should I ask of a plumber to determine their capability to replace the fixture without collateral damage to tile, if at all possible? I understand that this cannot be guaranteed by anyone. I am not prepared to re-tile the shower enclosure at this time.
Thank you in advance for your responses!

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Rebecca

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I think the chances of installing a new valve without tile being torn out are zero.
Jeff, I suspected as much. To the plumbers out there ... I’ve been incrementally tightening the H & C valves on a 6-month old cartridge in an attempt to stop the leak. Can you suggest any options? A new shower wall is not one of them at this time.
 

Jeff Handy

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Your tile looks pretty generic.

A good plumber or tile guy could repair the enlarged opening for a few hundred bucks.

You can also replace the removed tiles with an accent color, if you can’t find an exact match.
 

Jeff Handy

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Maybe you are leaving debris or mineral crud inside the valve body when you change the cartridge?

Make a little foil ramp to put under the valve, tape it up behind the the valve, shape it like a U so it carries away water into the shower.

Then briefly open each supply stop, to flush out crud.

That crud might be tearing up your new valve seals.

And coat the cartridge seals and inside the valve body with a thin coat of plumbers silicone grease.
 

Rebecca

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Hi Jeff,

Your effort to help is appreciated! I let each side run full open for 2 minutes before tightening, so I don't think that's the problem. I followed the attached instructions from the original manufacturer. There is no access to the inside of the valve. This was designed at least 40 years ago and may be designed differently than what you imagine.

I can get it to stop leaking for a few hours and then it starts up again. I don't understand. Right now, the valves are both shut tight and it's quiet.
 

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Jeff Handy

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I was referring to the service stops, which are the two valves with flat screwdriver slots, at the left and right of the main valve.

You can close them, then open them once the foil ramp is installed.

If they don’t turn anymore, you can still do the valve flush by carefully opening the main house shutoff enough to get a good flush, without knocking off the foil.

Because there is no tub spout flow, mineral can build up in there from gravity, and 40 years of use.

Maybe try a different vendor for your parts, the quality can vary widely.

I think Nibco is out of business, so look for a better supplier, check reviews.
 

Rebecca

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Thanks so much for the hand holding! I may be stepping out of my league here, but am willing to give it a try. Do I understand the process correctly?

Build a foil trough to channel the water. Shut off the water to the house. Turn the screw of both service stops counterclockwise (until movement stops) to close. Remove the cartridge. Turn on the water to the house (not full on). Open the first service stop and let it run. Close the service stop and repeat for the other side.
Replace the cartridge and adjust per mfg instructions.

You are correct about Nibco. I have been buying from Danco. I have had problems with their cartridges in the past where I could insert the Allen wrench in one side or the other, but not both. Can you suggest another source?

The big question here is if I have the strength to turn the screw, which likely hasn't been touched since the house was built. Is there anything that would provide me with a mechanical advantage? I have a socket set. Is there a way to utilize that? I know there are sprays that can be used to lubricate, too.
 

Jeff Handy

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You can just ignore the service stops, and control the water from the main house shutoff.

It helps if you have a spotter who can talk by cell phone or loud yelling, in case too much water is spraying behind the wall or somewhere else.

Otherwise, you had the flush procedure correct.

Afterwards, try to clean out the valve cavity with a tiny rag or paper towels, soaked in vinegar.

Don’t leave any lint behind.

Rinse with some clean water from a turkey baster or whatever.

Goop up everything with a thin coat of silicone valve grease.

Try another new valve if old one still leaks.

Google for tips on problems with that same exact replacement cartridge, if you had troubles others probably did also.
 

Rebecca

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:thumbsup: Danco is sending a replacement cartridge. Once it arrives, I will enlist a spotter and perform the replacement. I'll let you know how it goes. Again, Thank you for your help!
 

StrongEagle

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Out of curiosity, what is on the other side of that shower fixture? That is, the wall on the other side of the shower? Is it tiled? If not, then, it's much easier to open up a sheetrock wall on the backside and make the swap out. This will make it possible to access the piping.
 

Jim Jensen

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they stated an OUTSIDE WALL is on other side, but did not state what KIND of wall, what siding, etc, which would make all the difference....
 

StrongEagle

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they stated an OUTSIDE WALL is on other side, but did not state what KIND of wall, what siding, etc, which would make all the difference....
Oops. My bad... thanks for pointing that out. If exterior wall is hardie plank or shake, might be a way to do it.
 

Jeff Handy

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Warning, long post ahead!

If you are patient and careful, it’s not that hard to remove old tiles from the wall, and usually they stay intact.

Cut through the grout lines with a grout saw or multi tool with a thin carbide blade, down to the drywall or backer board.

Then, VERY gradually heat up a few tiles with a heat gun on low setting, keep it moving.
Ten or fifteen minutes gradual heating for a few tiles.

Otherwise, tiles can crack, and you can light the wall on fire behind the tile.

Have extinguishers ready, and push back the insulation, and use a spray bottle to mist behind the area.

Then coax and wiggle a thin drywall knife (or similar thin flat sharp tool) under the edge of a tile, and cut the bond of the adhesive.
Don’t lift, just push in deeper til it lets go.

Have some towels underfoot, in case a tile pops off before you can catch it.

Soak the old tiles in a bucket for a few days, with some drywall stripper mixed with water, or even dish soap or other mixtures that you can find online.

Then take the old adhesive off with a wire wheel on a bench grinder, or whatever works for you.

Let tiles dry for a week before gluing back up to the new wall patch.
 

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