Fix a leaking shower faucet

A leaking shower head can bring on many problems. Whether the dripping occurs while you’re taking a shower (it’s not part of the spray) or worse, when you’ve turned the faucet off, it’s definitely time to make a repair. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to diagnose, and not too involved to fix.

The biggest issue with this kind of problem is water waste. Most of us know that water is scarce, and one of the first things we can do to conserve it is stop unwanted leaks. Bathrooms are the biggest culprits for obvious reasons. As such, it’s good that you’re ready to make a fix to your leaky shower head.




As mentioned previously, you may encounter one of two situations. 1) You notice water dribbling out of the shower head, down the handle and along the hose until it falls into the tub. In other words, it never makes it to the area it’s intended to go, such as when you take a shower! 2) You turn the water off tightly (valves are closed), and you see and hear drip-drip-drip as water comes out of the shower head. Read below depending on your circumstance to see how to go about fixing your leaky shower faucet.

Water drips out of shower head as you shower
If this describes your problem, then you have it relatively easy. The most likely problem is that the washer inside the shower head tightening nut needs replacing. It’s either worn out (e.g. cracked, broken apart) or has become compromised with mineral build-up from hard water. Here’s how to go about getting to this washer and putting in a new one.

  1. You first need to loosen and remove what’s called a knurled tightening nut. This nut is the one you see that holds the shower head to the arm or shower hose. Knurled describes the type of nut. It means it is not hexagonal shaped like a regular nut. Instead, it is rounded, but grooved. Supposedly this allows you to simply grip and hand tighten it. The problem is, you usually have to use tools to REMOVE it as over time, it gets pretty stuck! Use two wrenches; one on the arm and one on the nut. If you have a flexible shower arm, then hold that part with your hand. Just put a rag under your wrench so you don’t damage any surfaces.
  2. After you’ve twisted off the nut, you should immediately see the rubber washer inside. Pry it out. Unless you have a specialized shower head, you can use a universal replacement washer from a shower head/hose repair kit. See photo and link at right.
  3. When the washer is in place, you can put everything back and tighten the knurled nut back up. Don’t forget to use plumber’s putty or teflon tape on the threading to ensure a good seal.

If you run into a problem, where you discover a lot of corrosion or other damage (perhaps it was very difficult to remove the shower head!), then it may be time to just replace the leaky shower head altogether. Peerless, Delta and WaterPik make some inexpensive but nice shower heads that are worth looking at.

Water drips from shower faucet when it’s off

This situation truly is a concern, since it has the potential to waste a lot water and can have a bigger impact than you think on your water bill. Unlike above, the cause isn’t quite as simple as a worn washer that isn’t keeping water in check. The problem is actually down at the faucet, also called the shower valve.

The fix for this issue goes beyond the scope of this article. This is because it involves replacing the valve in your shower faucet. There are several different types of valves, and yours could be any one of them. Also, the process will be different, depending on if you have a one or two-handled faucet. If you can tell the temperature of the water dripping from your shower head, it will make things easier for which valve you need to work on, hot or cold.

Regardless you’ll need to turn off the water supply to fix this kind of leaking shower head problem. Your process will involve removing your valve to determine what you have. Then, referring to the brand if possible, buy a replacement valve. For standard types, you can usually do this at your local home center. For more specialty varieties, contact the manufacturer to get a replacement kit. Instructions in the kits will help you as needed.

When you’re done, make note of how you did things. Record the type of kit you purchased and parts you needed in case your leaky shower head problem returns!

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