Ripping out the shower isn't an option . . .
May 27, 2005 8:20 AM   Subscribe

This weekend my husband and I are planning on re-doing the guest bathroom. The house is run-of-the-mill American wood-construction, built in 1985. The shower fixtures seem to be "original equiptment," as it were, and look bad enough that I'd like to replace them. The shower is fiberglass and there is no "acecss panel" to get to the inner workings of the shower. How do we replace the knobs, spigot, drain, and shower head/neck with the least hoopla?
posted by Medieval Maven to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Typically all that stuff has semi-hidden ways to remove it without going into the interior. Look for screws, allen wrench sockets, etc. They tend to be on the underside of faucets and shower heads. Sometimes there is a metal plate that is held on by one of these, or just friction, that once you get that off you can remove the rest of the apparatus. Honestly if you get a book from home depot of simple home plumbing you'll be treated to all the pictures and step-by-step that you'll ever need.

Turn off the water before you start taking off faucets and knobs.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:28 AM on May 27, 2005

This is the book I have

I've successfully done plenty of home plumbing projects with it. It goes into detail on all the types of shower fittings and how to get them off, repair them, replace them, etc.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:33 AM on May 27, 2005

The drain's going to have a threaded brass ring underneath with a rubber washer that secures the drain to the base of the shower stall (plumber's putty between the lip of the drain & the stall keeps water from seeping around & down). I'm not sure how you can change this out unless you can get to the floor underneath (I had to cut a hole in the ceiling sheetrock of the floor underneath) & thereby knock the ring off & replace the whole drain fixture with a new one.

You should be able to remove the knob(s) & spash ring behind it & tell whether you can just replace them on need to get behind & use a pipe wrench in to change the fixture - TURN OFF THE WATER MAIN FIRST before you work on the on-off knobs (I learned this the hard way with a Delta fixture - you don't want to be running around looking for the house main valve while water shoots all over the place)! Changing out the shower head pipe or "neck" (as opposed to just changing the shower head) sounds like a challenge, unless you can come at it from behind so as to get wrenches on both the pipe itself & the supply line, so that you can keep from torquing the supply line when you twist the neck off.

You may have to resign yourself to coming in from the back through the adjoining wall & then doing drywall repair & repainting of that area. However, IANAP (plumber) - I've just had to do this kind of crap before. Good luck!
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:37 AM on May 27, 2005

Yeah, as a general rule, changing out the shower head and the knobs really shouldn't be a problem. The shower head almost certainly just screws off, and the knobs will very likely have something like a screw in the middle (under the plastic insert) that you can undo to remove the knob itself. One point on the knobs...unless you change out the washer/valve stems, too, you'll be more limited in your replacement choices. Replacing the stems isn't really a big deal, but should see whether using the knobs you want means you need to change those out, too.

The spigot is probably next-hardest, but many of them just screw on and off--you might try wrapping yours in a towel, and using a monkey wrench to see if you can turn it. If it turns relatively easily, you should be in luck, but don't force it. If it doesn't move with a reasonable amount of pressure, that's either _not_ how it detaches, or it's frozen, and either way you're risking cracking the pipe inside the wall if you jam it too hard.

Finally, the drain and the shower pipe are things you want to leave alone without professional help. (Remember that the drain's got a connection that reaches up and around within the wall to connect to the little lever beneath the spigot, so it's no simple thing.) If you find them really objectionable, have a plumber come in and give you an estimate for changing them out.
posted by LairBob at 8:56 AM on May 27, 2005

As others have pointed out, the handles and shower head are easy. The handles will have little covers that pop off revealing the screw that holdes them on. The shower head will unscrew. 99% of shower pipes screw just on as well, but since you can't be certain, don't try to muscle it off. Put a wrench with a rag on it, and and give it a spin. The spigot should just unscrew as well.

Doing the drain is a giant pain, you really need access from below.

If you are going to all this trouble, you might as well replace the washers. You'll need stem sockets, unless you have a single knob head control.

You're best bet is to start early Saturday morning, and make sure your local plumbing shop is open. Bring the parts you're replacing with you, at least you'll avoid the nightmare of parts that don't fit.

I can't repeat it enough: Turn off the water first!
posted by Marky at 2:48 PM on May 27, 2005

Marky, those look pretty cool, but I've never needed any special kind of socket to change out the stem valves on a faucet or shower. In my experience, a crescent wrench has always worked fine (although I guess I may have only had to deal with a certain kind, that doesn't need special equipment, but I have done a few).
posted by LairBob at 9:19 PM on May 27, 2005

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