New shower arm dripping in wall

Discussion in 'Shower & bathtub Forum & Blog' started by jsa, Jan 29, 2009.

  1. jsa

    jsa New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Florida
    Hello, everyone,

    My home was built about 5.5 years ago. At the time we had a rainfall-type (Down Under Wonder) shower-head put in our upstairs shower. This was connected by a (3-inch I believe) nipple. At some point we also added a Sprite slimline filter between the nipple and the shower-head fixture.

    Recently, we decided to replace the shower-head with an inexpensive hand shower fixture, the type that has a bracket so that you can use the hand shower as a fixed overhead head and take it off to use it as a hand-held. However, to use it in its fixed position without directing all the water at the opposite wall, of course we needed to replace the nipple with a regular shower arm.

    Having bought one of those the other day, today I removed the nipple, quickly cleaned and dried the threads in the Sprite filter and the female receptacle in the wall, taped both ends of the arm with pipe-sealing tape, and installed it. It was very difficult to screw in, and I could barely turn it a full turn, which only brought it to about the 4-o'clock position. With a lot more work I finally got it to the desired 6-o'clock position.

    I connected the filter and shower-head/hand-shower to the arm, and ran the water without the escutcheon pushed back, as I was (am) concerned about possible leaking in the wall. Indeed, it did drip at a moderate speed when I ran the water. When I took off the filter & head, and just ran the water through the arm, there was no apparent dripping. It struck me that I really never checked whether it was dripping when the nipple was in place. (I never figured I had reason to do so.)

    Here are my concerns/questions:

    Is it normal to only be able to turn the arm once, and barely that? (By the way, the threads did not break off the nipple as far as I can tell.)
    Is it possible to now take off this new chrome arm without damaging it? It wasn't that expensive, but times are tough and I'd rather not lose it unless it's cheaper just to let it go.
    Any advice as to the best course of action?

    Thanks...

    Jim in Port St. Lucie
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,892
    Location:
    New England
    WEll, you may have problems...sounds like you cross-threaded things. Pipe threads are tapered, and you'd normally be able to turn it 2-3 turns without much of any resistance. It will leak and continue to leak. You may be lucky and be able to take it out and reinsert. You might need a thread chaser to clean the threads up, or, worst case, you may have to take the ceiling apart and put in a new fitting.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,486
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    arm

    WE cannot tell you WHY the new arm did not screw in farther, but it is obviously not in properly. If it is only engaged the amount you say, it SHOULD leak, but it could also break off.
  4. jsa

    jsa New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Florida
    Thanks to both of you for the helpful responses. It is good to know it should turn at least 2 turns. I was having a lot of trouble getting it threaded, so I figured when I finally got it, I got it. But the cross-threading hypothesis makes sense. I guess damaging the arm when taking it out should be the least of my worries!

    Will report back...
  5. kingsotall

    kingsotall Plunger/TurdPuncher

    Does your nipple have a bend in it¿ If it does insert the handle of a pliers into it to help turn the nipple. You should be able to get the necessary tightness you need by doing this.
  6. jsa

    jsa New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Florida
    Another attempt

    After putting back in the old straight nipple and using it that way (apparently with no leaking) for a bunch of months, we wanted again to try the shower arm with the bend in it.

    So with the help of a long screwdriver, I was able to turn it about 2.7 turns. I thought this might be pushing it so I stopped. Also, I used pipe dope on top of the Teflon tape since someone (the guy at Home Depot) I talked to thought the tape might not be making a good seal.

    It didn't seem to leak without anything on there, but once I put a little resistance in the form of the Sprite filter and handshower, there was a moderate drip again. I should note that before I went to 2.7 turns, I tested it at 1.7 turns where there was obviously a leak.

    Should I try going another whole turn (to about 3.7 turns total)? Was it a mistake turn the arm the extra turn without first removing it and drying everything and reapplying the sealers? Is it a bad idea to use both Teflon tape and pipe dope, and if so, would the pipe dope be the better choice?

    Thanks again...
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,892
    Location:
    New England
    The thread on the shower arm may not be a typical tapered pipe thread. If so, it will never seal properly. There's a lot of junk out there. You may just need a different shower arm. It should seal (if it can) if it was damp when installing it.
  8. jsa

    jsa New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Florida
    Thanks, Jim. This is a DANCO shower arm purchased at Home Depot. I had sort of wondered about that; the thread is slightly tapered, but not as much as the thread on the straight nipple that was in there before. I'll take your advice and maybe visit my local plumbing supply or something.

    --Jim
  9. Runs with bison

    Runs with bison Member

    Messages:
    892
    Location:
    Midwest
    It's that POS Danco shower arm! Their threads are CRAP. I'm not saying this out of snobbery, but because I got burned the same way. I've looked at several dozen Danco's recently in several stores, with various finishes and they all have the same FUBAR threads.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,486
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    thread

    ANY properly made pipe connection should rotate a lot more than 2 or 3 turns to seal properly.
  11. K.

    K. New Member

    Messages:
    19
    Location:
    Ontario
    I too wondered about this sort of question with shower arms and pipe nipples. Eventually I read that standard pipe thread has a specified amount of overlap ("engagement") for each nominal pipe size. Combine that number with the threads per inch to figure out how many turns you can get. Eg: for half-inch pipe, the numbers are 14 threads/inch and .534 " of engagement => about 7.5 turns for maximum engagement. You can typically get the first 3-4 turns by hand, the rest by wrench. However, with teflon tape in there, you probably won't need (or even be able to get) the full number of turns to make a seal.

    - Jonathan
  12. jsa

    jsa New Member

    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Florida
    Just a long overdue followup to say that after trying two Danco arms with the same problem, I shelled out a significantly higher sum of money (probably overpaid a bit) to get a shower arm at the local plumbing supply, which worked just fine the first time.

    Thank you to everyone here for all the help.
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