When your shower faucet is leaking or broken and you need to repair it, you should know the type of valve used for the repair to be a success. This will depend on the manufacturer and the valve’s purpose. Luckily for you, this guide makes identifying shower valves very easy.
Check behind the shower handle at the center of the trim plate to find the manufacturer’s symbol or brand name. “K” is for Kohler, “M” for Moen while Price Pfister, Delta, and American Standard have their full names on the faucet. You can also use the cartridge length to find the brand name.
There’s a difference between a shower valve and a shower faucet. The shower valve is the hidden part of the shower control while the shower faucet (trim kit) is the outside part with the handle. However, the design of a shower handle/faucet often denotes the design of the shower valve. Basically, the types of shower faucet handles tell you what valve is underneath them. Also, shower valves are different from shutoff valves which are the valves controlling water in the whole bathroom. Some shower panels have their own shower valves.
What type of shower valve do I have?
To better answer this question, we need to look at the various aspects of shower valves and how to know yours as follows:
Identify the shower valve manufacturer
If you want to know how to identify the shower valve manufacturer, check behind the shower handle at the center of the trim plate for the manufacturer’s symbol or brand name. You will see one of the following shower faucet logos:
- K: the manufacturer is Kohler.
- M: the manufacturer is Moen.
- American Standard, Price Pfister, or Delta: these brands print their entire names on the faucet.
This information is vital in repairing or replacing the shower valve since some have specific measurements which may not fit into the others. Simply put, you identify the shower faucet brand by looking at the writings on the shower faucet. Shower faucet types determine the shower valve underneath them.
Number of handles
Take a look at the shower faucet and count the number of handles it has. If it has:
- No handle: It’s a panel shower faucet and will have buttons for controlling the water flow.
- 1 handle: It’s a single-handle faucet with the handle controlling the water flow and temperature.
- 2 handles: It’s a double-handle faucet where each handle controls the hot or cold water flow.
- 3 handles: It’s a three-handle faucet with the two handles for controlling the hot and cold water respectively and with the third handle working as a diverter between the bathtub and showerhead.
Of the four types of faucets, the single-handle shower faucet is the most common and easiest to use. Shower dials like these ones are easier to identify since you don’t need any tools. Shower handle types are important in identifying the shower valve type.
Type of connection
Check above the faucet for the connection between the showerhead pipe and the rest of the plumbing. You will notice one of the following:
- Handset/handheld showerhead: This is when a hose runs from the showerhead to the shower pipe behind the faucet handle.
- Fixed/mounted showerhead: This is when the showerhead is directly mounted to the shower pipe from the wall.
Handheld showerheads offer flexibility when in use while fixed ones may or may not be turned around through different angles.
The water flow
Turn on the showerhead then go through the different shower settings while taking note of the behavior of the water. If there’s one constant flow, the showerhead is a normal one. If water bursts from the showerhead in a series of bursts, the showerhead is a massaging or pulsating one.
With the aspects above, you have a wholesome picture of the type of shower knobs and shower valve you have in your shower. You can then get a replacement from the manufacturer with the right specifications.
Types of shower valves explained
Using the design of the shower faucet for shower valve identification isn’t always accurate. You need to remove the shower faucet to access the shower valve inside it. The following are the shower valve types with pictures:
|Shower valve||Main feature|
|Shower mixing valve||Mixes hot and cold water from taps|
|Thermostatic valve||Controls water temperature and pressure|
|Shower transfer valve||Controls water flow to multiple outlets|
|Pressure balancing valve||Balances hot and cold water pressure|
|Shower diverter valve||Diverts water between the bathtub and showerhead|
Shower mixing valve
Shower mixing valves are one of the old shower valve types and are meant to mix water from the hot and cold taps before delivering it to the showerhead.
Shower mixer valves are often found in old buildings and won’t regulate a sudden change in water pressure. This might scald you if, for example, the water pressure for cold water drops when someone turns on the water in a nearby tap or flushes the toilet. You can avoid this by keeping the hot water thermostat to a maximum of 120°F (48.9°C).
Thermostatic shower valves control the temperature and pressure of the water coming out of the showerhead. A thermostatic valve has a thermosensitive element that adjusts the flow of both hot and cold water in response to temperature changes.
You preset the water temperature then the valve maintains it that way no matter the changes in the incoming hot and cold water. You can also set the volume of water from each water source (hot and cold) after which the valve does the rest.
The thermostatic shower valve is one of the most expensive shower valves given its features.
Shower transfer valve
Transfer valves regulate water flow to multiple outlets such as bathtub spouts, handheld showerheads, and others at the same time. With transfer valves, you can use more than one outlet at the same time such as both fixed and handheld showerheads or showerheads with a tap.
Pressure balancing valve
Pressure balancing valves automatically balance the water pressure from the hot and cold pipes to within 2-3°F of the set temperature. Also called shower pressure valves, anti-scald valves, or mechanical valves, pressure-balancing valves are the most common and effective shower valves. It’s one of the best shower temperature control valves given how accurate it is with temperature control.
Pressure balancing valves work through a series of diaphragms or pistons which move to balance the pressure of the water from the hot and cold water sources. They usually have a single knob that changes the water temperature when turned to the left or the right.
Shower diverter valve
Shower diverter valves divert water from a bathtub faucet to the showerhead thus allowing for the installation of a shower and bathtub in the same location.
The main types of shower diverters are as follows:
- Tee diverter: Uses a pull arm whereby the water runs in the tap and, once a favorable temperature has been attained, the arm is pulled to block the faucet or tap thereby directing the water to the shower.
- Two-valve diverter: Uses a rotating control for the hot and cold water with a second control for diverting water between the tub and shower.
- Three-valve diverter: Uses three knobs, two for the cold and hot water, and the third one for diverting water between the tub and shower.
Knowing your shower valve type helps in easy repair and replacement. You can tell most of these shower valves from the types of shower knobs you have in your home.
How to remove a shower faucet handle
To access a shower valve, you need to remove the shower faucet handle as follows:
1. Turn off the water supply
Locate the mains shutoff valve then turn off the water before starting work on the shower valve.
2. Remove the faucet handle
Use a screwdriver set (or Allen wrenches) to remove the handle. For single-lever handles, locate the set-crew in the handle then use an Allen wrench to undo it. For crystal handles, pop off the plastic cover with a flat-head screwdriver then unscrew the handle with a screwdriver. For faucets with two handles, remove the cover with a screwdriver then use the screwdriver to undo the bolt in the middle of the handle.
3. Pull the handle off
When the screw has been removed, pull the shower faucet arm off the wall to expose the shower valve. You can then use the guide above to determine the type of shower valve you have.
Shower cartridge identification chart
One other way to identify the type of shower valve you have is to find the brand of the cartridge in your shower as shown in the steps below using a cartridge identification chart:
- Remove the cartridge as shown in this Moen cartridge replacement procedure below. The same guide applies to the removal of the Delta Type P shower valve and many others.
- Measure the length of the cartridge from the base to the tip (seat to splines) using a ruler or caliper.
- Find the length tier of the cartridge (from 1-12).
- Find the broach pattern with the broach chart (page B-5).
- Find the length tier of the stem (on the side of each page).
- Find the matching broach pattern on the sides of the cartridge photos.
- Find the part numbers matching with your cartridge measurements.
Once you identify the part numbers, you will know the manufacturer of the cartridge. Given that cartridges work with specific valves, the manufacturer of the cartridge is the same manufacturer of the shower valve.
Are shower valves universal?
Shower valves are not universal and you cannot mix manufacturers when it comes to trim and rough-in valves. Besides that, one manufacturer will have different valve sizes and types which may also not be universal and interchangeable with each other. Luckily, shower sets are always sold as a complete set.