Do It Yourself Repair: How To Replace Shower Fixtures

Describes how to remove an old leaky showerhead or arm and how to chose and install your new shower fixture. You can do it yourself with these tips and instructions

Replacing your showerhead is one of those rare home improvement projects that takes very little time, costs very little money, requires only tools you already own, and makes an immediate, positive change in the appearance and functioning of a bathroom. The right new showerhead can even help conserve both water and energy. Why live with that awful drip any longer?

Choosing a New Showerhead

Choosing a new showerhead is a lot of fun. There are several different styles and options, and different price ranges as well. The least expensive is a very basic model, costing about $25. For a little more money you can purchase a low-flow showerhead or one that filters out chlorine and sediment. Hand-held showerheads are also available in the $25-$50 range, and many of these have adjustable water settings and a massage feature. Rainfall showerheads are often the most expensive, and will cost anywhere from under $50 to over $200. Those who use top-of-the-line rainfall showerheads say they are worth every penny.

Removing Your Old Showerhead

The first step in replacing your current showerhead is to remove it. You'll need masking tape, a pair of slip joint pliers, and an adjustable wrench. Wrap the masking tape around the heads of the pliers and wrench, so that you do not scratch the finish on your shower arm. You can also wrap masking tape around the shower arm and showerhead themselves. Grip the shower arm firmly with the pliers, and then tighten the wrench around the nut on the shower head. Turn the wrench counterclockwise to loosen the showerhead. Once the nut is loose, finish unscrewing the showerhead by hand and remove it from the shower arm.

If your showerhead will not unscrew, you probably have years worth of mineral deposits gluing it to the shower arm. First, try lubricating spray. If that doesn't work, soak a rag with white vinegar, and then wrap it around the nut you can't unscrew. Pour some more vinegar on the rag, then wrap plastic wrap around the rag to keep the vinegar wet. After about 12 hours, the vinegar should dissolve the deposits. Once the showerhead is off, use vinegar, warm water, and a toothbrush to clean the mineral deposits off of the shower arm before you attach the new showerhead. If you still can't remove the old showerhead, you'll need to unscrew the shower arm from the wall and replace that too. Grip it with your slip joint pliers and turn counter-clockwise until it comes out.

Installing Your New Showerhead

Attaching the new showerhead is simple. First, wrap Teflon tape, a non-adhesive tape used in plumbing repairs, several times around the threads of the shower arm. This tape will prevent leaks. It stretches, but to work properly it should wrap once around the threads without stretching. Then, hand-tighten the new showerhead into place, and turn it one more half-turn with a wrench. Turn the shower on to check for leaks. If you have one, tighten the showerhead one or two more half-turns. If you still have a leak, unscrew the showerhead. Carefully dry the threads, then rewrap the Teflon tape and try again.

Assuming all goes well, this project should take about 30 minutes and cost less than $50, or more for a top-of-the-line showerhead. Even if you run into problems, such as a showerhead that won't unscrew or a leak that won't stop, you can still complete the job within a weekend. When you've finished replacing your old, leaky showerhead with a new, environmentally friendly, adjustable massaging deluxe model, reward yourself--take a long, hot shower.

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