Unclogging shower valve that is hard to remove

Discussion in 'Shower & Bathtub Forum & Blog' started by Philip S, Jun 9, 2020.

  1. Philip S

    Philip S New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2020
    Location:
    MD
    After flushing my water heater, some debris seems to have gotten loose and spread itself through our plumbing system. As a result, the valve on a shower on a higher level is now clogged. At times there is hot water going through, but most of the time there isn't any.

    I managed to remove the cartridge. But the actual water valve entirely at the back of it can't be removed and that's where the problem is. I noticed that after opening the water supply without the cartridge: the hot water opening didn't have water gushing out.

    The trouble is that I can't remove/access the valve without breaking the tiles or opening the drywall at the back. I tried compressed air to move away any debris but it didn't help.

    Is there anything else I could do before opening the walls? Would chemicals work in dissolving the debris?

    Thanks for any suggestions.
     
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Aug 17, 2004
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Can you post a picture(s) 800 pixels or less of what you have there? They can be uploaded as attachments.
     
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  4. Philip S

    Philip S New Member

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    Jun 9, 2020
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    MD
    This is the set-up. Afterwards, I removed the four screws, the white plastic element and the inner cartridge with the protruding screw.

    None of the items I removed had an issue. What was left was the inside of the brass-looking valve with two holes for the hot and cold. That part I couldn't remove since, as you can see, the opening is too small.

    Thanks for any advice.
     

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  5. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Aug 17, 2004
    Occupation:
    Plumber
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    A Kohler pressure balanced valve. If one side is stopped, it shuts down both sides.
    Did you remove the shower head to make sure that is clear first?
    With the cartridge out, did you get water?
     
  6. Philip S

    Philip S New Member

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    Jun 9, 2020
    Location:
    MD
    Thank you, Terry. I haven't checked the upper part yet but will do tomorrow.
     
  7. Philip S

    Philip S New Member

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    Jun 9, 2020
    Location:
    MD
    With the cartridge out, I got water but it seeped out from the left-side hole (hot, I presume) and only after a while it got stronger, whereas from the right-side hole it was strong throughout.
     
  8. Philip S

    Philip S New Member

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    Jun 9, 2020
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    MD
    Also would like to mention that there was no problem getting cold water. When we turn the handle up completely, sometimes we got hot water as normal after a minute or so, but other times it remains cold.
     
  9. Philip S

    Philip S New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2020
    Location:
    MD
    Hi,

    As mentioned, we would not get hot water at times through the shower. Diagnosed the problem further as follows:

    1) Shower head is clear of any debris. That's not the problem.

    2) When I remove the PBU and mixing valve and let the cold and hot water run out uninhibited, the flow of the cold water is stronger than that of the hot water. The cold water came out immediately whereas the hot water took a bit more time. They both come gushing out eventually, but the cold one is more powerful.

    3) Installing back the PBU and mixing valve, the result was that we just have hot water! (no cold water at all even when I change the handle)

    4) Reversing the PBU upside down, we just have cold water (as before).

    What explains this?

    - A faulty PBU? I let it soak in some vinegar for 6 hours but same result.
    - Or, is it the differential water pressure between hot and cold?

    As I mentioned, we got the problem only recently after draining and refilling the water heater. The affected shower is in one part of the house. We have two other showers elsewhere which do not have the problem. If some debris explains the difference in pressure, how can I best clear it? The shower valve itself is hard to access as it would require opening up the tiles or the wall.

    Thanks for any advice.

    Philip

    PS Below some photos of the PBU if that is of any help.

    IMG_1017.jpg IMG_1018.jpg IMG_1020.jpg IMG_1025.jpg
     
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Sep 2, 2004
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    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    Location:
    New England
    IF you can take the pressure balance valve out, you should be able to feel or hear the spool valve move if you shake it. What you're describing is a stuck spool valve in the pressure balance unit. That could be from debris, or sticky seals...
     
  11. Philip S

    Philip S New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2020
    Location:
    MD
    Thank you, Terry and Jim, for the advice. Replacing the PBU fixed the problem!
     
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