Shower plumbing debacle

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LRH

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Hi everyone. I’d love some help trying to solve my increasingly dire plumbing predicament.

We have a Hansgrohe ThermoBalance 1 tub/shower faucet that we installed in 2008. Normally the handle points straight down when it’s off, we rotate it counter-clockwise to turn it on and then when we turn it back off, the handle stops when it’s pointing down, as if hitting some kind of mechanical barrier. A few months ago it seems that something possibly broke inside of it because then when we would turn it clock-wise to turn it off, the water would go off, but then the handle would continue to go around and the water would come back on. So we would need to find the perfect spot at the bottom where the water was off. Not ideal, but not that big of a problem.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, when I was in the crawlspace, I noticed that the wood around the head of the tub is soaked and I could see a slow drip coming from the area around the back of the faucet. We have a removable panel on the side of the house (that was put in during that 2008 remodel) right over the shower plumbing. So I took a look in there and sure enough the drip was coming right off the faucet housing, even when the water was not running in the shower.

Since it seems like the handle not stopping anymore when pointed down must be related to the cartridge, I called the Hansgrohe warranty dept and asked them to send me a new cartridge, my thought being that that would hopefully fix at least one of the problems and maybe the leak too.

In the meantime, I removed the current cartridge to clean it out and remove some of the corrosion and see if that would make a difference. I put it all back together and it actually seemed to help. I ran the water for a couple of minutes and didn’t see it dripping down the pipe when looking through the wall panel.

Then… I thought I’d check again this morning while my partner was taking a shower and the water was running for more than a couple of minutes. So, I’m looking through the open panel and I see a drip start to form, and just as I’m thinking, “well, darn,” something gives and there’s water spraying everywhere. Down into the wall of the house, up into the wall of the house, out of the panel and over our neighbors’ fence, all over me. Lots and lots of water, with lots of force, everywhere. My partner turns the shower off but it still keeps coming, so I run to the main house valve and turn off the water to the house. I take the trim off the faucet again and turn the water off at the valve stops and try again to turn the house water back on. But it’s spraying out of the joint just before the valve stop on the hot water side (in the pictures, it's to the right of the pipe where you can see a black rubber washer). So now we have no water in our house. And the joint in question is strapped to the other side of a board when looking from the outside and is behind the tile when looking from the inside. And I'm at a loss as to what to do next. I'd love to try to fix it myself if at all possible.

Thanks for reading through my long post! I would love any advice you all may be able to offer!

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jadnashua

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YOu will probably have to remove the blocking to get a better look at what's going on. FWIW, it's not a great idea to have steel strapping up against the copper, if that's steel and not plastic.
 

LRH

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Thanks, Jim. I removed the board, and this is what I'm seeing. Water's spraying out where that black o ring is. I'm having a hard time visualizing how I could tighten that joint without loosening one of the joints on either side of it. Maybe that whole piece needs to be replaced?

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jadnashua

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Look closely at the left side of that nut (to verify that it is actually a nut!), and if it is, try turning that with a wrench. If it's solid, and not a threaded sleeve, I think you'll have to cut some stuff out and rebuild it.

If it is a nut, and tightening it doesn't resolve it, you may be able to loosen both sides of the valve, remove the whole thing (after removing the trim on the inside), and then try to figure out what's going on. Could be a bad O-ring, or if there's a gasket in that sleeve there, the gasket is damaged. If you're lucky, it's just that it needs to be tightened up a little.
 

LRH

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Thanks. Nothing would turn with a wrench, so I ended up having a plumber come out (miraculously found someone to come out today!) and he cut the whole thing out and rebuilt it. The "nut" was the valve stop, and when he cut that section out, it just fell apart into 2 pieces, completely corroded inside. The only thing holding it together was the positioning of the pipes. No wonder it was leaking! I put a new cartridge in as well so the interior handle now stops where it should, and I think we're all set.

Thanks for your help!

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