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bathroom nightmare 01-09-2008 12:38 AM

Are shower water problems caused by old pipes?
I'm in month 2 of a bathroom remodel that was supposed to take 1 week. We're (hopefully) on our last leg, and the contractor had told us that the shower was supposed to be working. When I turned it on, it was barely a drip. The contractor explained that the new shower heads had this filter which would get clogged by my old pipes, and he would just remove the filter. When he removed the filter, there was more water pressure, but nowhere like before, and the water only goes to lukewarm and never hot. The contractor is blaming it on the pipes, and saying that the new shower heads can't take to the pipes, since the openings are smaller than the old shower heads. I don't buy that, since if that was true, then I want my old shower head back (which they've now disposed). Anyone have any suggestions on how to fix this problem?

Chris Johnson 01-09-2008 12:54 AM

Have your contractor hire a plumber to do the plumbing work instead of himself trying to do it.

There is no way a professional plumber would give you an answer like that.

jpplumber 01-09-2008 07:45 AM

What brand and type (single handle) of shower valve did they install and what did you use to have. If they installed a single handle scald guard valve they may not have adjusted the temperature limit feature on the valve which would explain the lukewarm water. Most new shower heads also have flow restricting features and I guess some have filters too so you will have unchlorinated hair washing, although pointless to me. Have someone who knows what they are doing check it out.

AllanJ 01-09-2008 04:40 PM

It is possible for sediment accumulated in the pipes (like cholesterol deposits in arteries) to have loosened and come forward and clogged the new faucet assembly (like a heart attack or stroke).

If you unscrew the shower head and also fully open the combination antiscald and shutoff valves (if present) behind the shower faucet trim plate you should be able to dislodge the deposits.

Otherwise turn off the water and remove the faucet stems, then very slowly turn the water back on (so water doesn't shoot out all over) and see if any foreign matter is dislodged. In extreme cases you may need to turn on the water for short bursts letting it shoot all over.

Marlin 01-09-2008 05:41 PM

As someone already stated this is what happens when contractors think they're plumbers. I've seen contractors mutilate plumbing countless times.
If you have old galvanized pipes he might be correct. Otherwise he screwed something up or the shower body he probably bought at Home Depot (a plumber would never buy any fixtures from there) is bad. Hopefully he just didn't set it up right. Otherwise he may have filled the thing with solder, dropped something in the line, or done something else wrong. Don't accept the excuse he is giving you and don't pay him until it's fixed.

biggles 01-10-2008 07:31 AM

take the shower head off and then remove the handles and valve seats and have him flush them all out probably....solder balls you will hear or see them

bathroom nightmare 01-22-2008 11:08 PM

Thanks everyone for your advice! He readjusted the temperature, but the water pressure is still weak. He's coming over tomorrow to see if we can figure out the pressure. I really appreciate all the great advice and am keeping my fingers crossed it's easy to fix.

bathroom nightmare 01-24-2008 11:12 PM

The shower head was clean, but the filter of the valve inside the face plate (which mixes the hot and cold water) was clogged with what looks like little pebbles. Am I going to have problems with having to keep on flushing this out? I never had any problems with my old shower and fixtures, but I had a separate controls for hot and cold, and now it's a single handle control. The contractor claims that the old faucets could support the debris, but the new ones can't. But it seems like someone should still make a valve which can handle the debris. Is there any solution for this other than changing the galvanized pipes?

Marlin 01-24-2008 11:21 PM


Originally Posted by bathroom nightmare (Post 91790)
Is there any solution for this other than changing the galvanized pipes?

Shy of using one of these for a shower body probably not.
The only thing that might help is to remove the cartridge and thoroughly flush it. Most likely the debris broke loose from turning the water on and off again (which isn't the contractors fault). It may be good for two days, two months, or ten years after that. The only real fix is a re-pipe though. I can hardly believe that anyone who knew what they were doing would do a bath remodel and leave galvanized pipes though.

bathroom nightmare 01-24-2008 11:32 PM

What is the item in the picture called if I want to install one of those? How expensive are they and is it possible to install it inside my single handle shower faucet? Where would I get one of these? Seems like it would be a lot cheaper to do that, then change the entire pipe system.

Is the cartridge what I've been calling a valve? The thing that mixes the hot and cold water together? He did flush it out with the valve/cartridge out, and more rocks came out, so we'll see what happens.

Thanks! I really appreciate the advice.

Chris Johnson 01-25-2008 12:53 AM

Marlin's pulling your leg...haha...that's a laundry valve, your beautiful new bathroom is not going to get one of those.

If your having problems and they don't clear up, time to re-pipe, at some point that house is going to need re-piping and today seems like a good day to start.

jpplumber 01-25-2008 06:34 AM

Marlin would have you taking a bath in your laundry tub.:no:

Or change back to the old style valve that you had originally (compression style)....of course you will have to redo the tile around the valve, but your shower head itself would eventually plug up. Were the "little pebbles" actually pebbles or were they particles of rust? It may also be that the rust particles broke off due to the water being turned off and back on and banged around during work on the bathroom and could be not as bad as you may think as the loose particles diminish. You will know the answer if the shower valve you have now plugs up again. If it is rust, eventually or now the repipe is probably in order.

bathroom nightmare 01-25-2008 09:42 AM

Thanks guys. This goes to show why this site and you guys are so valuable, b/c I'm so ignorant about plumbing, and don't know whether to just believe my contractor (or Marlin :)). It's nice to be able to ask advice, or at least just check-in to see whether I'm getting my leg pulled.

I guess I'll just have to wait and see. There were little pebbles in there, as well as bigger chunks of rock (when he flushed out the system), and some flakes/goo as well and i believe rust b/c I saw some rust colored stuff in there as well. The thing is that my other bathroom (bathtub/shower combo) that is not remodelled has no problem with pressure or build up. I didn't have any problem with my old shower before the remodel. My pipes aren't blocked up, and it seems like it's just the new shower head and/or valve that is causing the decrease in water pressure since particles will get trapped in the filters in either.

I know eventually the pipes will be replaced, but we're planning on moving, so would really rather not put the money in to change the pipes if I don't have to. I would hate to think that I brought this headache upon myself by remodeling a bathroom, and will have to end up spending a lot more money repiping than what it cost to remodel.

1. Don't they make any of the "old" shower heads and valves, with the bigger holes that won't get stopped up for the old pipes? Or is there anywhere where I can buy old parts?

2. Is Compression style valve used with the 2 handle temp control, as opposed to the new single handle temp control? If not, what is it, and also, where can I get it? Would I have to buy a new faucet set, or can the valve fit into my delta single handle control? It seems like if I can get this compression style valve, and an old shower head with big holes (as my plumber claims the old ones were), then my problems would be solved. For now.

3. Why were there little pebbles and rocks in the pipe? And why would changing the pipes get rid of those, as those seem to not come from the pipes.


bathroom nightmare 01-25-2008 09:45 AM

Sorry, one more question:
4. If I do have to repipe, can I just repipe to the shower, since it's just that shower that is giving me problems after the remodel. I'm thinking the answer is probably no, but just checking. And now much will the repipe cost me? I'm scared to even ask, it sounds very expensive. Would they have to rip out my newly done bathroom to do it?

jpplumber 01-25-2008 05:01 PM

Repipes are expensive and any plumber could give you a quote on what it would be in your area. The rust could come from anywhere in the piping all the way back to the water meter or any where you have galvanized pipe.
The pebbles indicate that they probably cut the lines near the ground or in the ground and didn't cover the open pipes. Compression style faucets are still available and are either 3 handle (the center one being a tub diverter) or 2 handle (for a shower stall only or a pull knob on the spout for the shower)
My house I live in was built in 1945 and had only been partially repiped (the hot water side) when I bought it and I have not changed a thing. I still have galvanized pipe and have no problems with rust or low pressure.
I still have the original American Standard 2 handle shower valve and removed the "o" ring restrictor from the shower head I installed and the water absolutely blasts out of it. I have 70 PSI water pressure coming into the house. A compression style valve generally has larger openings and when you turn the knobs you have to keep turning (turn turn turn) as it acts like a screw and backs away from the valve body and is actually threaded inside the stems and when you turn the knob off you are "compressing" a rubber washer onto a brass seat in the valve body.
Just because it has two knobs doesn't make it compression, Single handle faucets (for the most part) are washer less and many 2 handle and 3 handle are also washer less, you can tell the difference because the knob will not turn more than 180 degrees. Go to a plumbing supply house to see and yes you would have to buy a new one if that is what you end up wanting to do and no it wouldn't fit in your Delta single handle hole. Compression faucets are not as visually glamorous and hence not as popular and do not have anti-scald features like your Delta probably does.

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