Three Handle Shower Faucet: Diverter Installation

three-handled shower faucet
  • 2-4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-200

A three-handle shower faucet has a separate handle for hot water, cold water and to change the flow from the shower head to the tub. Single-handle shower faucets combine these features into one handle. Single-handle faucets tend to occur in newer construction or remodeled bathrooms. The three handle shower faucet style, though, can be highly desirable in a home with traditional elements.

After years of use, a shower faucet will show signs of wear. One common problem is a faulty diverter that allows water to continue to flow out of the tub when the shower is on. This may seem complicated, but fixing the problem is easy enough and you can do it without a plumber.

Step 1 - Remove the Old Cartridge

The cartridge is the piece of piping that connects the handle to the plumbing behind the shower wall. The front of the cartridge connects to the handle and turns when you turn the handle. The back of the cartridge connects to the diverter stem, telling the diverter which way to open.

To access the cartridge, start by preparing the tub area. Close the shower drain to avoid losing small pieces. Shut off the hot and cold water and drain any water from the pipes. Next, you may need to pop a faceplate off of the handle to access a screw. You can do this using a screwdriver or a knife. Once you can see the main screw, loosen the screw, and remove the handle. If your shower faucet has an escutcheon, or face plate, remove this as well. Set the pieces aside, and pick up your pliers or wrench. The nut that holds the cartridge in place should be removed carefully by turning the nut with your tool. Finally, use the pliers or wrench to grab the end of the cartridge and slowly pull it out from the wall.

Step 2 - Replace the Diverter Stem

Old bathtub surrounded by lime green tile walls

The diverter stem is a small plastic wedge attached to the back of the cartridge by a round nut. You can remove the old stem by twisting the nut and pulling it loose. Be careful when you do this because the pipes are usually made of soft copper. You may want to place a towel between the wrench and the nut.

To ensure you are getting a proper replacement, you may want to take the old diverter to your hardware store. Replace the old stem with the new.

You will also want to take advantage of the time the cartridge is out by cleaning it thoroughly. Wash the cartridge in warm water with a soft toothbrush or cloth.

Step 3 - Reinstall the Cartridge and Test

Reinstall the cartridge using the same method you used to remove it. You may want to add plumbers tape to the threads on the nut holding the cartridge in place. This will create a water seal even if the threads are slightly stripped.

If you are working on a three-handle shower faucet, you should test each handle after the installation. Make sure the hot and cold water is working correctly. Next, test the diverter for both the tub and shower operation. Replacing the diverter stem in a three-handle shower faucet will extend the life of the fixture.