March 15, 2012Changing Out The Shower Water Valve Stems In Mom’s 50s Time Capsule Condo – Eeks!!!!
By Sara In AZ
This project, changing out the shower valve stems, probably has the most significance to me of any project we did on the condo. I suppose it’s weird to say that because you never ever see the valve stems, so just looking at the tub you would never know anything had been done. But we had some real lows and highs during this project…….can we keep the original tile, do we have to rip it all down??? Let me tell you all about it.
It all started off with the inspection. The inspector said that water was leaking from under the ‘hot’ side handle when you turned the faucet on. He also said that water still came out of the tub spout when you turned the shower on. We were partially aware of this problem before the inspector came through, and we thought it would not be a huge problem to take care of it.
Here is my only close-up “before” picture of the handles. Sorry it is such a weird angle, I think I was aiming more for the hole where the soap holder goes.
So after Mom got the place we called up a plumber that we had used in the past and had him over to take a look at the shower situation. We told him how water was leaking from under the handle and still came out of the spout when you turned the shower on and we just wanted the valves changed out.
This plumber wanted absolutely NOTHING to do with just replacing the valves, he wanted to rip down ALL the tile around all the handles and spout and put in all new plumbing and valves. He said that there was NO WAY just the valves could be replaced because he was SURE they did not make them anymore.
I got really pissed and told the plumber there was no way in hell I was going to rip down this shower after it has lasted for over 50 years and that he had a screw loose if he thought I was going to do that. So he took his cue and left. Boo hiss on that bad plumber!!!
I started freaking out to Mike “What are we going to do?” “I don’t want to destroy this shower”, we were at a crossroads and we needed to decide on the right path. One other thing I should mention, we could not re-plumb from the other side of the wall, as the kitchen cabinets back up to this wall and it would destroy the cabinets to remove them.
I would say that this was a turning point our renovation path. This was where Mike took the reigns and really became proficient at doing plumbing. We knew the only way to save this shower was to do the work ourselves, so that is just what we did.
Mike started by taking off all of the shower handles and all of the other hardware too.
You can see that we had to actually cut this flange piece off in order to remove it. We needed to have full access to just the valve stems and this was the only way to do it.
Once we got down to just the valves we could not actually just wrench them out because they were SO bonded on there from years water deposits. We did not want to damage any of the internal copper plumbing by “brute-forcing” the valves out and we knew this was going to take some time. What to do, what to do????
We tried WD-40, no dice.
We tried PB Blaster, no dice.
So literally, for a month or two, we faithfully applied Liquid Wrench to the hot and cold valves every time we were at the condo. We even wrapped the valve and nut in plastic so the oil would stay on there. Mike would check it every so often to see if the nut and valve would budge, and we just kept right on applying the oil.
And then one day out of the blue the valves and nuts finally broke loose! That was almost the happiest day of my life!
Now we were on a mission to find the right replacement valve stems. We had assumed (correctly we later found out) that we were dealing with all American Standard plumbing. If you remember from my Grout Post I saw ‘Standard’ on the bottom of the tub. There was also an original American Standard label on the bottom of the bathroom sink.
We went to the specialty plumbing store armed with the knowledge that we probably needed American Standard valve stems. And they agreed that we were right, and handed us this American Standard Valve Stem.
We were concerned at first because the length and size were the same but our valves did not have a rubber end, they had a screw end. The plumbing store swore up and down that this was a “new” version of the valve stem and that it would work just fine.
And it didn’t. ugghh. After we turned on the water the water pressure blew out the back end of the rubber and the valve stem would no longer function.
So we went back to the plumbing store and insisted that we needed this EXACT American Standard Valve Stem. So they dug around in the bowels of their store and finally found the right valves. Just so you know, there are different valve stems for the left and right.
It seems like American Standard still readily makes this valve stem and is available to order if it is out of stock at your local plumbing supply place. So I guess our plumber was wrong anyway! Boo Hiss again on ya dear old plumber!
Ta-Da!!!! Here are the new hot and cold valve stems are they are ready to go! I was almost out of my mind with happiness the day Mike put these in.
But, there is another pesky problem that still lies in the way of me keeping that shower intact and that is the shower diverter in the middle. You can see it above, all wrapped in plastic – rest assured Liquid Wrench IS in there too!
For some reason this diverter stem was MUCH harder to extract that the hot and cold valve stems.
We oiled it faithfully. Then there was talk of carefully removing some tile in order to access the internal plumbing in case we could not get the diverter out. More oil was applied. I started stressing out over the ever growing possibility of removing tile. More oil was applied.
And then boom, one day it was just ready to come out. Mike and I did a little happy dance around the condo that day!
Here is a nice close-up of our old nut and diverter.
So off we went to the plumbing store to order our new Shower Diverter Valve Stem. And what a joyous day that was!!!
And here we are with the 3 new valves all in place – FINALLY, and I feel like all is right with the world.
*Angels Singing* Have you ever seen anything so lovely?!?
I know it probably does not mean that much to most people reading this post, they are just water valves after all. Something we will never see again once the handles go back on. But trust me, when those valves went in and actually worked a HUGE wave of relief went through me – we could keep the shower intact after all!
YAY!!! We did it even when the plumber said we couldn’t!!!!!!!! Take that mean plumber!
Stay tuned, in 2 weeks we install the new Hall Mack Soap holder in the shower!