Shower leaking - I suspect diverter but not sure

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by fishsticks72, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    Apr 22, 2018
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    Long Island, NY
    I've had an issue with my upstairs bathroom for some time now, but the problem has gotten worse. I called in a plumber, who initially said there was no evidence of a leak and thought that it was due to the fact that the caulk around the bathtub was older and cracked in some places. He didn't charge me for that (he was on site for some other work that he did get paid for), and suggested I caulk the surround carefully.

    I did so, and it almost seemed to have solved the problem (this is a seasonal house and this bathroom doesn't get a lot of use). The leaks did continue, but it seemed like they had reduced in volume.

    I opened up the house this year and the first time someone tried to use the shower I got a good volume of water coming through the ceiling downstairs. I decided to do some troubleshooting myself, and it seems like there's no issue with the drain or bath. I started by dumping a 5 gallon bucket of water into the tub while I was standing in it, no leak. I turned on the water with the diverter in the bath position, no leak.

    I took off the trim around the shower valve body and repeated the process. I couldn't see any water leaking, but it's tight in there. Same went for the shower pipe (to the showerhead). It was on tight, and although it was a very small hole I didn't observe any water there.

    But when the spout is on and the diverter is in the shower position, I get a full stream of water falling down. I removed the spout and it seemed like there was a decent amount of caulk behind it, but the end of the pipe there seemed to have a fair bit of corrosion (see attached).

    I'm not 100% familiar with how a diverter works, so I'm not sure if this is something that warrants replacement. Could enough water be shooting back behind that caulk to end up flooding my ceiling downstairs? Is the o-ring on the piece shown the only gasket/ring involved in this?

    My next course of action was going to be to buy a new spout with diverter and caulk the heck out of it. This pipe seems like it might be a screw-on piece as well, does it make sense to remove it? Replace the o-ring (which by visual inspection seems OK)? Or do I dig out the inspection camera and get into the wall because maybe there's a leak somewhere on the pipe to the showerhead? I'm assuming if the valve body were leaking I'd be able to see it since I can see/touch it and it doesn't appear to be losing any water.

    Thanks in advance for any feedback.
     
  2. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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  4. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    A diverter like this is simple. There is a tee in the wall that sends water to both the spout and up to the showerhead. If the spout is open, the low pressure cannot overcome gravity to climb. If the diverter spout blocks the flow from the spout, the pressure rises at the tee, the water climbs to the showerhead.

    You would seem to have serious leak above that tee. If the showerhead has a shut-off, the pressure will rise even more. That way a small leak can still spit out a lot of water.

    You might want to replace that o-ring on that Delta adapter. If the o-ring leaks, that could squirt water out of the back of the spout. However your caulk would block that. If you held your finger over the open pipe, that should direct water to the showerhead. If the leaky pipe to the showerhead diagnosis is correct, you would get your leak while holding your finger over the end of the open pipe-- just as you get when you turn on the spout diverter.
     
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  5. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    Thanks Reach. It hadn't occurred to me at all that I could troubleshoot it without the spout on by blocking the water manually (which, just typing it makes me feel really stupid right now :) ) I'll give that a shot first and foremost. If I see water leaking, I can assume that either it's the pipe that runs up to the showerhead or the tee responsible for the leak. Am I correct in assuming that this pipe in the picture is an add-on piece, and is either soldered to the tee or screwed in? Trying to determine whether there's any chance to correct a leak that might exist other than in the pipe rising up to the showerhead.

    The problem I have is that this is one of the remaining original fixtures in the house, a fiberglass bathtub surround, so if the pipe inside the wall is the culprit I'm basically SOL, I'll have to rip it out and renovate that bathroom. It was on the to-do list anyway, but was hoping to not have to tackle it this year.
     
  6. plumber69

    plumber69 In the Trades

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    How do you know its not the overflow, run the spout and direct water in the overflow, cup you hand below it, could be shower arm to
     
  7. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    I don't know - so far my testing has been limited to:
    - Dumping water into the tub with nothing running (no leak)
    - Running the bath (no leak)
    - Running the shower with and without the showerhead (leak in both instances)

    I didn't think the overflow could leak unless there was water backing up into it. I'll have to check into it.
     
  8. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    That adapter is soldered on in your case. There are other Delta spouts that screw onto that adapter. You could buy a new o-ring from Delta, or you could find one at a hardware store. Take the old o-ring to the store for comparison.
     
  9. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    What is behind the wall of the valve? If it an interior wall can the wall be opened from the other Side?
     
  10. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Have you replace the shower arm yet? That is the most likely location for the leak now.
     
  11. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    Tiled wall of the master bathroom. Would rather just rip out the dopey fiberglass surround.
     
  12. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    I haven't - I tried tightening it a bit but it wouldn't budge (and the pipes behind the surround are not secured much, if at all - you can basically pull the shower arm 6" forward with little to no effort.

    Given the low cost of replacing, it's definitely doable. I just didn't think it would be a likely culprit, especially given the fact that the stream of water continued unabated even after I took the shower head off (I figured with lower pressure the leaking would slow down inside the wall).

    Since the plumbing is so loose back there and the leak is pretty bad, I'm starting to think the best option is just to rip out the surround.
     
  13. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    If removing the shower head doesn't change it, there might be something rather radical back there that isn't right. It seems you've looked at most of what you can.
    You have a one-piece enclosure, they do make a remodel plate that gives you more access to work around the valve if needed.
    I would still want to remove and replace the shower arm though. I have seen large leaks that were behind the surround from a cracked arm. You need to eliminate that possibility before you start throwing money at it.
     
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  14. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    Thanks Terry - just for my reference, the remodel plate you're referencing is a surround for the tub? Or a trim for the valve body in case I need to break open that space a bit?

    I'm going to replace the shower arm and change that o-ring first and foremost only since it's a relatively easy and inexpensive fix. I think from there, I get into 'rip it all out and start from scratch' territory.
     
  15. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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  16. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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  17. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    With the water off, remove the showerhead and cork the shower arm. It seems to me that if you can build air pressure by blowing into the pipe in your photo, there is no leak in the tee or pipe up or the shower arm.
     
  18. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    So I tried all but Reach's last suggestion. At first I thought I was gold - plugged up the diverter by hand, showerhead off, no leak. Replaced the shower arm and repeated, no leak. Put the new diverter on and changed the o-ring, no leak. Added the showerhead - leak.

    I had one of those cheapo boroscope type cameras but couldn't get a good look at where the leak came from because it kept dying on me, but I think it was on the pipe coming up to the elbow for the shower arm.

    Now for a stupid question, since this is a seasonal home and it's now in-season, where it's impossible to get any kind of tradesman to do work for at least a few weeks because everyone is busy. Is there a diverter out there that has a shower attachment to let me bypass that pipe? That will at least keep the shower in operation until I can get someone out to change the tub.
     
  19. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    No. If you had a device that would attach a hose with a showerhead, the pressure would still push the water up the pipe.

    You understand that the plumber will need to open the wall, one side or the other, to troubleshoot and fix this. Jokes about the gynecologist who became a plumber notwithstanding. I am not a plumber.

    Take baths for a while.
     
  20. fishsticks72

    fishsticks72 New Member

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    Yeah, I know that unless the plumber or contractor finds something I've overlooked it means that surround is a goner. I don't mind either, I've hated that thing since the day we bought the house, it's the epitome of cheapo builder quality junk (and I won't get started on how the plumbing inside that wall is loose enough for me to pull the shower arm and diverter a full 6 inches out of it).
     
  21. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    While the walls are down, you could screw and glue some 4x4 pieces to the studs. Record the locations. Then if you need grab bars later, you will have a good place to screw lag bolts or #12 screws.

    You could also consider opening the other side, and cover the wall patching with a full-length mirror, or whatever.

    Another work-around, which would reduce, but not eliminate, leaking, is to get a really high flow showerhead instead of that flow-reducing one that you have. That way the pressure at the leak would be much lower.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2019
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