Single Handle Tub and Shower Faucet: Plumbing Explained

A single handle faucet is often used in a tub, shower, or sink. It is easy to use, needing only one hand to operate it and to select the water temperature. There are four kinds of faucets, each operating in a different way to give you the result you want.

Compression Faucet

The first is the compression faucet. You can identify a compression faucet because you will see a washer when you remove the faucet handle. A compression faucet has a compression stem that looks like a large threaded screw. On top of the stem is a rubber washer. When turning off the water the seal pushes against a valve seat and stops the water. These kinds of faucets may have problems with leaks.

Ball Faucet

A ball faucet has a ball inside the faucet. It was the first washerless faucet. The metal ball is held in place by a cam. The handle screw connects to this cam. How you rotate the ball determines both the temperature and pressure of the water. The ball inside has slots and the water flows through the slots and mixes the hot and cold water. The parts of a ball faucet are as follows from the top down: the handle held on by a set screw, the cap, the spout (with an aerator on the end), the slip ring, cam and packing and then the ball assembly. Below the ball are the seats and springs and the o-rings. Below the o-rings is the faucet base and in the base are diverters.

Disc Faucet

A disc faucet is the newest technology. It has ceramic disks inside a cartridge. This kind of faucet has two discs. One is the upper disc which is moveable. The bottom disc is stable. As the upper disc is shifted side to side or up and down against the bottom disc, the water flow is controlled. If this faucet develops a leak, check the seals or look for sediment buildup. The parts of a disc faucet are as follows from the top down: index cap, handle screw, handle, cartridge stem, retaining ring, spout, faucet body.

Cartridge (or Stem) Faucet

A cartridge faucet has a stem made of brass or plastic that controls the water flow. The stem moves up and down. The handle is pushed back or forward to increase or decrease the water flow. The handle is moved side to side to select the water temperature. The parts of a cartridge faucet are as follows from the top down: the handle (with a screw cover and set screw), nut, spout (with aerator), diverter, replacement cartridge, retainer clip, spout o-ring and the faucet base.

The washerless faucets are usually preferred because they don’t require as much maintenance because there are no leaks from worn out washers. All of these faucets are easy to operate and bring you just the right mix of hot and cold water and water pressure on demand.