You engage a plumber to check on your shower as routine maintenance or malfunctioning. Now, the shower has been diagnosed, and the results are out. It’s time to replace the cartridge. The conversation continues as you linger on so many aspects in your head. What is a cartridge? How does it function? How much will it cost to replace?
The cost of replacing a shower cartridge is $100-350. The shower cartridge will cost about $10-80 depending on the type, brand, and material used. A plumber will charge $90-$270 for labor for the same. Replace the cartridge yourself if you have the time, experience and it’s cheaper than a plumber.
Some of the best shower cartridges come from Moen, Delta, Pfister and many others. They include the Moen 1222, the Delta RP46074 and the Pfister 9740420. They’re of good quality, easy to fit into the existing plumbing systems, and reliable.
What is a Shower Cartridge?
A shower cartridge is an assembly of small parts connected within the shower system to control the flow and temperature of the water.
The cartridge can have either 1 or 2 handles. The single handle cartridge controls the water pressure through a rhythmic upward and downward motion. A double handle cartridge is operated by turning either clockwise or counterclockwise.
There are three main types of shower cartridges namely the thermostatic, diverter, or balancing shower cartridge. All these cartridges are long-lasting and, with proper maintenance, can take more than 10 years before you need to replace them. However, the cartridges are not universal, as different brands have customized cartridges.
Shower Cartridge Replacement Cost
On average, replacing a shower cartridge costs $100 to $350. The cost includes the plumbers’ cost and the cost of the cartridge. The amount varies depending on the brand as well.
What Factors Determine the Shower Cartridge Replacement Cost?
Different aspects affect the cost of replacing a shower cartridge. They include:
1. The shower cartridge brand
Since shower cartridges are not universal, every brand sets the cost of the accessories and the complete package.
2. The plumber’s cost
Your location determines how much plumbers charge for the repair works. In some areas, plumbers charge between $90-$200. Compare several plumbers to get the best bargain.
3. The extent of damage
Replacing the cartridge doesn’t have to be to the entire unit. For instance, if it’s just the handle, then that’s all you need to replace. Only replace the entire system if the cartridge fails to function. However, in full, three quarter, and half bathrooms, you may need to replace it since some fixtures share the plumbing system.
The extent of the warranty on your home or the cartridge itself will determine the cost of repair and replacement of the latter. Some warranties cover the total cost of repair and replacement of the cartridge or other home fixtures.
Should I replace the shower cartridge myself?
Evaluate whether you are in a position to handle the replacement of the cartridge yourself by evaluating these factors:
1. The cost
Compare how much you will save by engaging a professional plumber and doing it yourself. If the difference is sizable, then go ahead and fix it.
2. Your level of experience
How well do you know your way around plumbing repairs? Do you trust yourself to handle the entire replacement process from the online DIY videos you learned the process, or is it the catalog? Either way, if you feel confident, go ahead.
3. Time available
When will you find the free time to fix the valve? Secondly, how long will the process take you? A professional may take a few minutes for a task that takes you a day without prior experience.
How to Replace a Shower Cartridge
To replace the shower cartridge, you need to arm yourself with a screwdriver to remove several screws. You also need to have pliers, hex wrench, the new shower cartridge, and glue or silicone.
Once you have all these, follow these steps:
1. Remove the Handle
Being the visible part of the cartridge, you remove it first but before then, ensure you have turned off the water to avoid leakage as you replace it. Next, unscrew the screws holding the escutcheon in place. You may need a wrench to hold the handle as you unscrew. If the screws are stuck, use some WD-40 to loosen the up.
2. Remove the clips
Once the handle is out, you will notice a colored clip that ensures the cartridge is stable. Then, using the screwdriver, unscrew all the visible screws.
3. Remove Cartridge
Before removing the cartridge, take note of the positioning in terms of how the hot and cold outlets are placed. This will give you an easier time as you replace the new one.
With your wrench, pull off the cartridge. Check for a special cartridge wrench in your repair kit and if you miss it, use the regular wrench.
4. Install the New Cartridge
Place the new cartridge in the right position and clip it. Screw the handle and the escutcheon in place.
Test the cartridge to ensure it is working properly. For example, if it only dispenses cold water, the positioning could be wrong. Turn the handle to 180 degrees and try again until you get it right.
Should I hire a plumber to replace the shower cartridge?
Yes, if your answer to these questions is in the affirmative.
- Is the cost of hiring the plumber affordable?
- You don’t have an idea on how to go about replacing the cartridge.
- The last time you tried to do it yourself, it took you days, or you failed terribly.
- The malfunctioning of your cartridge is recurrent.
If the statements aren’t correct for you, you can go ahead and fix it yourself.
How long do shower cartridges last?
This question doesn’t have a definite answer, given that several aspects contribute to your cartridge’s longevity. These are:
There are all levels of cartridge qualities in the market. From superior brands that last between 15-20 years to low-quality ones that can’t hold beyond 5 years.
How well do you maintain your fixtures? Do you have careless users in your home who don’t follow cartridge usage best practices, as highlighted in the manual? Every fixture requires tender care to last longer.
Rust is the number one enemy of plumbing fixtures. Constant exposure to water and aeration corrodes the whole system leading to its shortened shelf life.
Mineral deposits and buildup will also affect the shower cartridge’s durability.
Ideally, a good cartridge should last between 10-15 years.
Signs of a Bad Shower Cartridge
Here are the telltale signs of a bad cartridge:
1. Low Water Pressure
Continued low pressure even after turning it to maximum is a sign that the cartridge has a problem. The problem could be a result of clogging within the system. However, low water pressure in the shower can also be due to flushing the toilet while showering.
2. Hardened Handle
You exert all your energy, but the handle won’t budge. It only turns after a few trials. That’s a clear indicator something needs to be addressed. It could be caused by rust or the buildup of water contaminants.
3. Unpredictable Temperature Fluctuations
You have not adjusted the temperature, but it automatically raises and lowers unexpectedly. Such a problem requires immediate attention, especially if your cartridge doesn’t have a scalding guard.
4. Leaking Showerhead
You turn off the shower, but the water won’t stop running. This would imply the O-rings have failed or a section within the cartridge has disintegrated.
5. Shaky Cartridge
When turned on, the cartridge won’t hold in place. It remains shaky. At a glance, this would be interpreted as a dislodged clip. Every cartridge has an internal clip that holds it in place. In case it breaks or loosens, the cartridge can’t be stable.
Replacing a cartridge is not an everyday affair. However, with proper care and routine maintenance, a cartridge can serve you for more than a decade. The cost of replacing the shower cartridge should motivate you to maintain it properly.
A malfunctioning cartridge is a health hazard. Ensure the cartridge always has a functional scalding guard that automatically adjusts the water temperature if it scales abnormally.
Regular training and a few failures, in the beginning, will help you learn the craft, and you can replace the cartridge yourself in the future.
Get your water tested and install a whole house purification system to ensure the water directed to the cartridge is free from contaminants. This will eliminate any chance of a build-up.