Replacing 1950s tub fixture -- advice on selection and installation

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by mc510, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. mc510

    mc510 New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    El Cerrito, CA
    After too many years of banging my head against this 3-handle bathtub/shower fixture, I think I'm ready to just replace it. There's a closet on the other side, so I'm assuming that I can just tear out the back of the closet and have easy access to the shower plumbing. But what to replace it with?
    [​IMG]

    Any sage advice on selecting a decent (and not ludicrously expensive) replacement, preferably one that uses all three existing holes? Is this Moen 3-handle job (or something like it) a good idea? [edit: whoa, I see that a related fixture has terrible customer reviews.] Any ballpark guess on cost (or hours) for me to have a professional plumber install it, if I take care of opening up the wall? I think I could probably do it myself, but maybe this is one of the jobs where it's worth it for me to avoid the headache and let the professionals handle it?
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2013
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    If you replace it, you must bring it up to current codes which requires an anti-scald technology tub/shower valve. Most of those are single handle. Those valves look identical to what was in my mother's house, also built in the 50's. To update it, I bought a renovation plate which covered the existing holes, then the new valve body was installed, and it's trim mounted on top of the renovation plate (sometimes called remodel plate - most of the manufactures make one). The plates are available in various shapes from a clean oval to some with various profiles and various finishes.

    I happened to use a Delta R10000 rough-in valve with a set of 1700-series trim. The nice thing about that rough-in valve is that Delta makes three different series of trim/valves that work in it giving you a choice in varying costs and features from: simple pressure balanced, single handle valve; pressure balance with a volume control; thermostatically controlled. Any of these will fit in their R10000 rough-in valve, and you could change it later, should you change your mind. Most of these valves do not contain an integral diverter, so you'd replace the tub spout with one built-in. I like the Delta with the pull-down diverter - it's a big ring around the end of the spout that you pull down to divert the water; it springs back to tub function when you turn the water off. Their mounting system is quite flexible, too, which makes it a nice spout to use. They also come in various shapes and finishes, in plastic bodied to chrome (but CA may have limited that choice because of the low-lead, and that is extending the entire country). Lifetime finish warranty, so you don't' have to worry about that.

    The big-box stores tend to sell these things as a kit which may include a valve, rough-in, trim, spout, and showerhead. If you go to a plumbing supply house (or online), you can buy the pieces you want and probably get similar pricing and more variety.
  3. mc510

    mc510 New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    El Cerrito, CA
    Yes, even if code didn't require it, I'd want to use a pressure-balanced/anti-scald shower faucet. claims that the 3 handle Moen (that I linked to in my first post) has this feature, but Moen doesn't make that claim on their web site, so maybe it's not true. Quick review at Delta's web site shows no 3-handle faucets with pressure balance. So perhaps I need to reconcile myself to the renovation plate that you describe (or replacing a few tiles) .... though if anyone knows of a decent 3-handle shower/tub faucet with anti-scald, please let me know.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 6, 2013
  4. Renovation Guru

    Renovation Guru Pro Renovator

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Somerdale, NJ
    I personally have never installed a pressure-balance valve with a 3 handle configuration. I may not have installed as many as some plumbers, but have a high interest in all types/brands of fixtures, including high end. It's just my personal opinion, but I'd think the center valve on a 3 handle unit is what controls the temperature/flow, so it would not normally be pressure balanced the way a single handle unit is designed. I have installed a 2 handle unit that is pressure balanced and will post a link below. There may be a 3 handle(look) unit where the center fixture purely acts as a "dummy" for an easier replacement option. In my opinion, the less moving parts, the less chance of future issues. I would go with a single handle "pressure balanced" unit and a cover plate...pay attention though, not all single handle units are pressure balanced either ...good luck
    http://www.faucet.com/kingston-bras...on-showerhead-tub-spout-and-american/f1506562
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 3, 2014
  5. Renovation Guru

    Renovation Guru Pro Renovator

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Somerdale, NJ
    These units are made in China, but I've never had an issue with Danze products and consider them to be pretty good quality. This unit though, talks of water pressure issues.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    You indicated price was a consideration. To get the retro look, it tends to cost more. They also make external anti-scald valves that can be used with 'normal' valves, but the plumbing can get more complicated...again, costly.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,835
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Guru; (it may be what you call yourself, not what you are), NEITHER of those valves specify that they are "pressure balanced" and from their appearance they are NOT. The center handle on a three valve unit controls the flow to the spout or showerhead. It has NOTHING to do with controlling temperature. Delta and Price Pfister USED to make a two handle pressure balanced valve years ago, but no longer. Even if they were still available, the center hole in the wall would be a consideration.
  8. Stuff

    Stuff Member

    Messages:
    53
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Danze description says "anti-scald pressure balance"

    I have a Price Pfister three handle with temp on the right and volume on the left. The cartridge ball has been replaced twice after it broke.

    Also just because you replace a three handle with another doesn't mean that it will fit without some carpentry. What about removing some tiles then put in contrasting ones afterwards? Some Delta single handle have huge trim rings that might help.
  9. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,130
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    An easy fix is something like this

    [​IMG]

    It covers the three holes and allows you to use a new single handle valve.
  10. mc510

    mc510 New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    El Cerrito, CA
    How do you seal that remodeling cover plate against the tile, just silicone?
  11. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,130
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    You can, but we use clear polyseamseal.
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    They all come with a closed cell foam gasket seal on the back, but you can augment that if you want. Unless you're using a handheld spray, you can't get direct spray on that wall normally, and sealing, while important, may not require more than the manufacturer's gasket. Depends somewhat on how flat the tile surface is. Those plates are available in various shapes and finishes. Best to pick one from the same manufacturer, but not necessarily required.
  13. mc510

    mc510 New Member

    Messages:
    36
    Location:
    El Cerrito, CA
    Okay; thanks everyone.

    Anyone able to ballpark the likely billing hours (or cost) to have a professional remove the old fixture and install a new one? Probably requiring that the tub faucet also be replaced with one that has the diverter control built-in. I don't know whether or not to assume that the upright and shower arm will need to be replaced. I would plan to open up (and close up) the wall myself.
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,153
    Location:
    New England
    If the wall behind is open so all he has to do is cut out the old valve and install the new one, it's not a terribly long job. To save some money, you may also want to cut the tile to make the bigger hole required to allow the new valve to be installed. Depending on the tile, it looks like it is soft bisque, the job is fairly easy. If it were hard porcelain, that's a different story. Do you have a RotoZip or similar tool? The diamond or probably even carbide bit for that would make pretty quick work of making the hole (the renovation/remodel plate comes with a template for the required hole). An alternative would be to use a carbide drill bit and make a closely spaced series of holes (don't pierce your plumbing!), then it will crack out fairly easily. It doesn't have to look good. As long as you abide by the template size for making the hole, the plate will cover it fine. The riser should be fine unless there's any galvanized piping in there (i.e., all copper or brass), it should be fine to reuse. Requiring a diverter in the valve will limit your choices...it's not a big deal to replace the spout with one in it.
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