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What in the world is wrong with our bathroom shower?
May 30, 2008 11:19 AM   Subscribe

What in the world is wrong with our bathroom shower?

When I turn on the faucet in the bathtub, the water runs just fine. Plenty of water pressure there (and plenty throughout the rest of the house). However, when I pull the lever to divert the water to the shower head, the water only trickles out of the shower head. No water comes out of the faucet once the shower is on. Shutting off the water and restarting the shower will sometimes result in slightly better water flow, but still nowhere near normal levels.

The house and shower are relatively new (8 years old). The shower head is brand new as it was replaced by the previous owner right before we moved in (the old shower head had errant spray). I don't remember noticing any problems with water flow during the inspection.

Is this a shower head problem, a diverter problem, some other part problem or should we stop guessing and just call a plumber already?
posted by geeky to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does it flow out quickly if you take the shower hose off?
posted by Rabulah at 11:26 AM on May 30, 2008


You might try and "debug" the problem one piece at a time; first, remove the showerhead and see if a significant volume of water comes out of the system. If it does, try a different showerhead (available inexpensively). Don't forget to use teflon tape when replacing it!

If not, you'll have to figure out if you're comfortable taking about the diverter or want to call a plumber.

My bet would be on the showerhead, which you likely didn't check during the inspection. Something blocking the flow might give the symptoms you describe.

IANAPplumber (at least not in the sense of plumbing water for a living)
posted by JMOZ at 11:27 AM on May 30, 2008


I actually had exactly this happen - turns out there was a loose... ring? something? on the diverter mechanism, such that it was "slipping" instead of actually turning the mechanism. A handyman fixed it for me in thirty seconds by pulling the knob out and tightening some bit at the end. Apparently it's a bit that gets worn out fairly predicatably.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:29 AM on May 30, 2008


Wow, you guys are quick!

We can try taking the shower head off and see what happens this evening. That will definitely help us narrow down the problem.

restless_nomad: Good to know! We actually have a handyman type guy coming out on Monday to look at our other bathroom (*sigh*), so maybe we can get him to look at this one too while he's there.

I'm pretty sure we can handle replacing a shower head, but if it comes down to messing around with plumbing and diverters and such, we'd probably do more harm than good since we're totally clueless.
posted by geeky at 11:35 AM on May 30, 2008


It could also possibly be sediment blocking flow through the shower head.
posted by iamabot at 11:51 AM on May 30, 2008


I'm pretty sure we can handle replacing a shower head, but if it comes down to messing around with plumbing and diverters and such, we'd probably do more harm than good since we're totally clueless.

I used to think the same way, but got over it.
Unless it's some inscrutable, over-engineered unit mounted in the wall (certain Moen installations come to mind), taking apart and fixing the diverter valve isn't hard at all. If you know what brand or type it is, you can usually find the necessary parts at your local big-box, like Lowes.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:51 AM on May 30, 2008


I had a problem like this in an apartment I was renting. It turned out that there was a far-too-effective low-flow insert in the showerhead. Get a wrench and remove the showerhead. Is there a rubber insert with a couple of tiny holes in it in there? Take it out and put the shower head back.

This solved my problem. It may or may not solve yours.
posted by dersins at 11:54 AM on May 30, 2008


For me it was just a knob identical to the hot and cold knobs - pry off the little decorative cap, unscrew, pull out, tighten washer (or whatever - memory is fuzzy) stick back in, screw, pop cap back on. I could do it, now that I know what to look for. However, you may well have a different setup.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:55 AM on May 30, 2008


Err, note to aspiring plumbers, it's actually quite simple to work on your own plumbing *assuming* you have easily reachable and fully functional water shutoffs for the house. Check those before doing anything...speaking from the experience I've had over the last 2 weeks...where..I...err didn't have that.
posted by iamabot at 12:00 PM on May 30, 2008


Is it a Moen with a single hot/cold lever? I just had this same problem start and all I had to do was replace the diverter valve. Free exchange at Home Depot, $1 for whatever type of lubricant it mentioned on the package. The guy recommended that I briefly run the tap with the valve removed (high pressure all over the tub! make sure the curtains are closed) which fileld the tub with a lot of hard water deposits.

Hardest part? Putting it all back together and realising the valve was upside down so hot and cold were reversed. Whole job still took less then 20 minutes.
posted by jeffmik at 1:10 PM on May 30, 2008


Shutting off the water and restarting the shower will sometimes result in slightly better water flow, but still nowhere near normal levels

That sounds to me like there's a loose piece of something in the pipe between the diverter and the shower head, and it's worked its way into the shower head and is blocking up the flow restrictor like a miniature bathplug. Could be a piece of lime scale, or a little chunk of rubber or fibre that's crumbled off an old tap washer. Starting and stopping the flow would move it around a little, and change exactly how much of the flow it blocks.

If that's the problem, removing the shower head should reveal it. That's also the simplest thing to check first. Remove the head, set your taps to "shower" and see if you get a goodly gush from the shower spigot. If so, clean out the shower head.
posted by flabdablet at 10:44 PM on May 30, 2008


Update! We didn't have a chance to troubleshoot the shower ourselves, so we had the handyman look at it when he came out this morning. There was something clogging the shower head. It's been removed and now everything works just fine! Thanks for all of the helpful suggestions :)
posted by geeky at 9:27 AM on June 2, 2008


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