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March 15, 2012

Changing 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.


I mentioned my predicament to Eartha Kitsch from Ranch Dressing With Eartha Kitsch and she recommended that we try Liquid Wrench.


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! Winking smile

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?!? Smile


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! Winking smile

Stay tuned, in 2 weeks we install the new Hall Mack Soap holder in the shower!

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21 Responses to Changing Out The Shower Water Valve Stems In Mom’s 50s Time Capsule Condo – Eeks!!!!

  1. Eartha Kitsch Reply

    March 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Three hundred cheers to you and Mike for keeping going when so many others would have just said “screw it” and ripped it all out from frustration. That shower is good for many more decades now – which kind of rocks. And I think that we’ve both had experiences where we’ve learned not to trust what contractors say. Just because they say that something is so…doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.

    And wow! That PB Blaster can is BUSY!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      March 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      You know Eartha, thanks bunches for saying that – it really means a lot! 🙂 Going through all of this with the bathroom and everything else at the condo makes me see how it would be so easy to just rip it all out and start over……not that I ever would in a million years…..but just that bringing it back takes A LOT of time and patience. I LOVED that shower far to much to give up on it easily!

      And contrcators…….some of them are just lower than a snakes belly. ugh!

  2. Jeanne Reply

    March 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I love Thursdays. 🙂 Good to know the Liquid Wrench is “the man.” You are lucky that you had time to let it soak. I would be doing the happy dance, too, on the days the valves came off. lol

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      March 15, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      Jeanne, oh gosh you are such a sweetheart for saying that! Thank You! 🙂 Yeah, if you ever need to remove a corroded/rusted/locked on bolt I’d say Liquid Wrench is the “Man”!

  3. sablemable Reply

    March 15, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Saraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow! I am really learning a lot from all of these posts! Bob will be so proud of me, LOL!

    Earthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! Never knew about liquid wrench, so thanks bunches, girl!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      March 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm


      Glad you are getting some tips from all of these condo posts! Maybe you can use them on your MCM ranch when you renovate it soon! 🙂

  4. Laura Reply

    March 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Wow. Now that’s patience! I would have given in long ago to frustration, um, language, and possibly demolition. Then again, I would have wanted to prove that plumber wrong too, and saved those adorable fishy tiles. Which is exactly what you did! Hooray!

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      March 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks Laura! I just could not give up on those fishy tiles, it would have literally killed me to rip those out. 🙂 I was terrified for months on end it would come to that though, so I was SO happy when we finally got that last valve out! And yeah, I HAD to prove that plumber wrong! hee!

  5. joyce w Reply

    March 15, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    So glad to read you were able to get the plumbing items you needed – and BOO HISS to the plumber who said you couldn’t!. I’m married to a plumber (30+ years on the job) who also loves older homes and MCM and would have gone out of his way to do the job right. Coincidentally, his name is Mike too! Can’t wait for the next installment and again, congrats on getting those pesky valves removed (I’ve heard many horror stories about such things) 🙂

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      March 16, 2012 at 12:13 am

      Gosh Joyce, where was your husband when we needed him!?! 😉 It sounds like he would have been a godsend to us! That’s so cool that your husbands name is Mike too.

      Yeah, I really could not believe the crazy plumber that those valves were not available anymore, it just did not seem right.

      Thanks so much for reading the condo posts, I’m glad you are enjoying them and yes, save all the old bathroom fixtures you can (I saw your other comment)! 🙂

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  8. loveana Reply

    April 4, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I wish I had a husband named Mike, and then I would be happy when he would take care of all plumbing tasks, and me to enjoy his plumbing efforts to fix this hole.

  9. Brian Reply

    June 1, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Is there a second part to this? Did you ever find a new Flange? I cannot seem to find one that fits my pipes and I had to cut mine off as well..

  10. Sandra Gibbs Reply

    February 22, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    I am having my own plumbing problems. I live in a manufactured home and they use cheap fittings that are not brand name. After a search, I located the valve stems at home depot. I stopped tje ;eak for now, but I would like to upgrade when
    I get some money to a Moen or better brand. But, I already paid out $1200 to plumbers and everything is new and good to go -except the tub.

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  12. Robo Reply

    September 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Im new to this..what did you use to cut the flanges?

    • Sara In AZ Reply

      September 13, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      Robo – We used some mini metal files and a hacksaw blade, but we had to hold the blade in our hand for more control. We gently filed and sawed at the flange until we had a groove deep enough to pry a screw driver into the groove to break it apart. We were VERY careful not to damage any of the internal valve threads, so if you do this go at it gently!

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