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How to Fix a Recessed Faucet

A number of faucet designs are used in showers, but recessed shower faucets are a bit more challenging to repair than other faucet types. Because the faucet is within the shower’s wall, accessing the faucet is not possible with a traditional wrench because the wrench cannot reach the base of the valve. To overcome this problem, a special socket is required. At the back of the valve is a rubber washer and a plastic washer. If the valve leaks, chances are good that one or both of these washers have failed.
  1. Accessing the Faucet

    • Whenever you remove any faucet, you must first turn the shower’s water supply off. Some showers have shutoff valves in a nearby closet or behind an access panel. If your home does not have shower shutoff valves, turn the water off at the valve located next to the water meter. Remove the faucet handle’s retaining screw and pull the handle off the faucet. The handle retaining screw is typically located within the center of the handle. Oftentimes, the handle is concealed behind a decorative cap. Pry the cap off the handle with a screwdriver to access the screw. Some faucet designs instead feature a small setscrew within the base of the handle. Loosen the setscrew with a hex wrench to release the handle. With the handle removed, you must remove the escutcheon plate from the wall to access the valve. Remove the screws within the face of the plate with a screwdriver and pull the plate off the wall.

    Removing the Faucet

    • Note that a large bonnet nut surrounds the tip of the valve. Turn the bonnet nut in a counterclockwise direction with an adjustable wrench until the nut detaches from the faucet. The base of the valve features a knurled edge designed to accommodate a socket. Although there is some variation in faucet sizes, most recessed faucets accommodate a 29/32-inch or 31/32-inch deep socket. Consider purchasing a shower valve socket wrench, if you do not have a deep socket of the appropriate size. As with a deep socket, a shower valve socket wrench can reach into the wall far enough to turn a recessed faucet. Insert the tool into the wall and turn the faucet in a counterclockwise direction until it detaches from the water supply pipe.

    Replacing the Washers and Reassembling the Faucet

    • Within the back end of the valve is the rubber washer. The washer is secured to the valve with a brass stem screw. Remove the brass stem screw with a screwdriver to release the spindle from the body of the faucet. The spindle is the cylindrical rod that slides through the center of the valve. Discard the rubber washer, and slide the plastic washer off the spindle. This is an opportune time to remove any mineral deposits that have accumulated on the valve by scrubbing the valve with a wire brush dipped in white vinegar. Before reassembling the faucet, you should coat the new washers with heatproof grease. Slide the new plastic washer onto the spindle and insert the spindle through the body of the faucet. Position the new rubber washer onto the bottom of the spindle, then insert and tighten the brass stem screw through the center of the washer and into the spindle.

    Installing the Faucet

    • Installing the faucet is essentially the reverse of removing the valve, but you must exercise care to avoid damaging the faucet’s threads or the threads within the faucet’s water supply pipe. Hand-tighten the valve into the water supply pipe to ensure that the faucet’s threads align with the pipe’s threads. With the threads aligned, tighten the valve into the pipe with the deep-socket or shower valve socket wrench only until the valve is snug. Using too much force here can damage the valve and break the pipe. Tighten the bonnet nut onto the tip of the faucet until the nut is snug. Position the escutcheon plate over the valve and against the wall and tighten the plate’s screws. Reinstall the handle and turn the water supply on.