Unstoppable shower handle leak


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Old 07-19-07, 07:13 AM
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Unstoppable shower handle leak

I have two upstairs bathrooms. Each had a leaking cold water shower faucet handle. The water only leaked from the handle when the water was turned on. I bought a replacement kit for each one and decided to just go ahead and replace both the hot and cold handles. The replacement in the shower/tub in the main bathroom went perfectly--problem fixed, no leaks, nice shiney new handles. The shower in the master bedroom bath has been frustrating. I replaced both stems, and both the cold and hot faucet leaked water from the handle. I tried two new stems, and the hot water stem was fine, but the cold still had a leak. I tried putting in the two good stems (from the hot handles) from the old original sets. The hot water was fine, but the cold still leaked. I can't tell you how many times I turned the water main on and off to check differrent stems, but I can't seem to get one (new or old) that doesn't leak on the cold side. The old original faucet handles were Gerber, so I got a Danco Tub and Shower Remodeling Kit for Gerber. The stems are identical to the ones that I took out. One other thing, I didn't replace the valve seat, but that shouldn't matter, should it? Thanks in advance for any advice.
 
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Old 07-19-07, 07:47 AM
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If the seat is bad, yes that would matter. But if the seat was bad you'd have a drip out the spout. But if you had both a drip that COULD come out the spout and the packing was loose aound the stem at the same time, maybe it is allowing all the water to just come out the stem. You always want to inspect and relace if necessary a bad seat as long as you have the water all shut off and the stem removed.

And did you try to tighten a smaller nut or make sure the nipple that goes over the stem is good and tight, to pack the packing that goes around the stem? With your handle/stem leak, your packing is not tight. Always remember that when trying to tighten smaller nuts that you don't use great big wrenches and/or with too much force, to do so.
 
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Old 07-19-07, 08:03 AM
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I did try tightening the smaller nut. Made it worse. Maybe I went too tight. There has been no leak from the shower head, but I'll try replacing the valve seat.

Thanks for the input!
 
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Old 07-19-07, 09:12 AM
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Makes me want to cuss!

Makes me want to cuss!! Okay, how do I get the valve seat out if the metal is weak and the square is stripped. I tried using a huge screwdriver first, not knowing there was a tool. Went and found the tool for it, but the tool won't catch. The only solution that I can think of is to tear out the plastered wall on the back side of the shower (which is the wall above the toilet in the main bath) and change the whole piece that the stems screw into. Oh, tell me there is an easier solution!
 
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Old 07-19-07, 04:23 PM
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They sell a tapered-end seat extractor tool and you drive it in with sharp quick blows with a hammer and it will cut new ridges and allow you to unscrew the seat.

Whenever you work on plumbing jobs you must think things through in advance so as to not cause yourself grief. It is for reasons like what you gave as to why many people don't like working on plumbing. It can be sort of surgical at times. I have always been able to get out a seat under similar stripped circumstances. The key is patience. Do NOT try to turn the tool until you are pretty sure you have cut grooves into the sides of the brass seat and can get a good bite on it. For added power slip a cheater pipe over the handle and go slow. With any luck, like the good luck I have, it will go "snap" and crack loose and come out.
 
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Old 07-19-07, 05:54 PM
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It should have been a 5/32" Allen wrench opening when you started.

There are 2 different types of nipple extractors that can be used. 1 looks like a short, stubby E-Z out type reverse bite extraction tool. (a regular E-Z out is too long for the faucet body) The other is a little extractor that has a part that locks itself in place when it is turned counter clockwise. Neither of these are very expensive to buy.

You could try a slightly larger Allen wrench but chances are, it will not be a very positive outcome.

Once you have the tool you choose in place, use a short, quick motion to snap the part loose. As ecman51 stated, make sure you have the tool properly positioned. Hurt knuckles comes to mind....

Good luck with your project...
 
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Old 07-20-07, 09:31 PM
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What next?????

Okay, I got the old valve seat out and put the new one in. I went ahead and put the valve stems in and then checked for leaks. I started with the handles turned to the OFF position--- great, no leaks. I turn the handles to the ON position and here comes the water dripping out of the handles again. What now? Could it really be possible that I have four brand new faulty stems?? I mean, really, this job isn't that hard! You take one stem out and screw in a new one. Everything worked just fine on the first bathroom. What is so different with this one? It is the same everything. I am just perplexed. Any ideas left to try?
 
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Old 07-21-07, 12:01 PM
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I feel sorry for you. Some times vexxing things do happen. But it really should be impossible for water to come out of the stem if the rubber washer at the bottom of the new stem is tight against a new seat, AND the seat is in tight and not leaking in it's own right (which can happen by the way, and some people like to wrap teflon tape around the new seat threads and/or pipe dope.

When you are installing these stems are you making sure the stems have the washers backed into them and stay there and are not binding up while you tighten the big nut down? I always check for this as I tighten, by spinning the stem back and forth some.

Other than that, you must still be having a packing issue around the stem, or an o-ring issue inside of it. You may have to take back out your stem and then unscrew the two halves of the valve stem. Then make sure you have the o-rings in place and that they aren't chewed up, and that they have round, not flat edges to them, and fit tight, and that you lube them with a coating of silicone grease or plumber's grease, and when you reassemble the two halves by screwing them back together, you should feel this nice initial resistance feeling when the bigger outer half of the valve stem slips over the the stem part with the washer on the end of it and that has the o-ring in it.
 
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Old 07-21-07, 01:24 PM
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Just making sure I communicated correctly:

Thanks for bearing with me. One thing you said made me wonder if I have miscommunicated along the way. I just want to make sure.
You said,
"Other than that, even if the packing was not even in the stem, it should not be leaking out the stem at all if you don't even have the water on."

The stems do not leak when the water is turned off. They leak when the water is running. This was the original problem that I was having with the cold water faucet that caused me to start this whole repair job.

Here is what I have been doing. Maybe it's some little quirky thing I am doing in the process of installing. Anyway, the water is shut off at the main. I take the stem and I turn the stem so that the back side of it is withdrawn fully into the body (I guess this would be the fully turned on position) so that I can get the stem threads to reach the receiving threads. The seat for the stem is set fairly deep into the wall. I hold the part of the stem where the handle screws in in order to reach the receiving piece inside the wall. Once I get the threads to catch, I take the stem removal tool and tighten the stem first by turning the tool with my hand and then slightly more with a wrench until it is just snug. I turn the handles to the WATER OFF position, and then I go and turn on the water main. I go back to the faucet and check the joints for leaks with the water OFF. Everything is always okay to this point. It is when I turn the faucets to WATER ON that the problem shows up. When the shower is running, water leaks from the front of the stems. If the handles were on the stems, it would appear that the water was coming from the handles. The leak stops when the water is turned OFF.

That is as much detail as I can think of. Did anything in there stand out as being faulty? Thanks again for bearing with me.
 
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Old 07-21-07, 02:26 PM
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You have to have a problem with either packing or o-rings inside those valve stems, as stated in my previous post.

It is not an installation problem on your part nor a washer or seat issue as then, if it were, the water would continue to drip out the spout after you shut the handles off. And you have never said it does THAT. So I advise you disect the valve stem to make sure there is either packing inside with a nut tightening down the packing or that you have to tighten down a threaded nipple inside the nut (on the outer end of the nipple is where a chrome trim ring, called an escutcheon, screws on), or o-rings, depending on your type of stem.

In a nutshell - could be one of three things depending on your make of valve stem: Either you have an o-ring(s) inside the two halves of the stem that create the seal, or you have a smaller nut around the stem that when tightened makes some packing crush more against the stem, or it also relies on that nipple, that slides over the stem and then screws into it, to push against packing.
 
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Old 07-24-07, 06:32 AM
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Well, I have had to take a couple of days away from my plumbing problems, but now I think I may have figured something out. Is it possible, that if the water pressure/amount of outflow of the water exceeds the amount of water that the shower head can put out, that it might cause excess pressure on the packing in the stems? Does that make sense? My faucet handle didn't start leaking until I had to change the shower head pipe. The original pipe was all one piece, in other words, the shower head was part of the pipe going into the wall. It put out a better than normal flow of water. I installed a new pipe and then have tried two different shower heads. Neither puts out the water like the old one, but I wouldn't say that they put out less than the average shower. Anyway, could that be causing the handles to leak when I turn the faucets on?

If so, how and where can a buy a shower head that can handle high water pressure or water flow?

Thanks!!
 
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Old 07-24-07, 07:40 AM
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I actually was going to make this very post about what you just said. That idea came to me after I quit posting fo the day. Yes. That is a possibility I suppose. The water is trying to get out the easiest path it can.

BUT - this theory sounds good, until I think of cases where I have turned on tub/showers with those shutoff valves at the shower head and had 100% backpressure to the valves and no water coming out the stems. So that said, you still really need to recheck how the packing system is done/principle on how it works and gets tight, inside the valve stems.
 
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Old 07-26-07, 06:42 AM
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Well, I took the shower head off and that has helped the leak, but there is still a very small drip, almost unnoticeable. You mentioned earlier about greasing the fittings. This stem has a thick felt gasket for packing, then a brass bolt tightens against it. Should I smother the gasket with plumber's grease, and then snug them down with the bolt? Would it be wise to get new packing even thought these are new stems?
Thanks for your help. I feel I am getting close to fixing it now.
 
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Old 07-27-07, 05:26 PM
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Brass BOLT? Not really a bolt, is it?

I have a feeling that whatever is pushing on the 'felt', is causing it to push more outward, rather than inward against the stem tighter. I fought this same scenario today when installing a replacement vanity sink drain and pop-up assembly. Tightening the rubber washer underneath wedged it into the sink hole underneath the way it should, but must have expanded the rubber outward at the nut, causing it to drip once every like 5 minutes. Tightening the nut more to compress the rubber more did not help. It actually made it worse, so I had to improvise to fix it. (Others have posted my same scenario here, on this board!)
 
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Old 07-28-07, 06:41 PM
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Naw, it's not just a plain old bolt. I guess it is called bushing--a bolt with an extension out the back that pushes against the packing.

So, your scenario sounds like mine...tightening the bushing makes the leak worse. So, how did you fix it? If the answer is located somewhere else in the forum, where would I find it? Do I smother the felt gasket with plumber's grease? Get a new gasket?
 
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Old 07-29-07, 09:53 AM
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I doubt what I did will work for you. Mine was a pressureless sink DRAIN line. As stated, I added additional rubber in hopes the new rubber washer on top the old one would squish inward to the pipe (similar to your stem senario). But even THAT didn't help, as that ALSO squished OUTward. So I had to loosen the (in essence, like a packing nut) and force silicone caulk inbetween everything, rubber washers, sink bottom hole, and then retighten, as I forced the caulk in with my fingers while I tightend. Let it dry for a couple hours. Later test and had no more drip.

You see, my situation was also different from yours in the sense that packing inside faucet stems is held in by a cup all the way around it. When you tighten the bolt down, as you call it, it HAS TO force the packing to squish - and since it can't spread outward due to the outside of the cup that is holding it (mine had no cup you see!), then it HAS to squish inward up tight against the stem. If that is just like a felt in there, and you have tightened it to no avail, you may want to dig it out and put in fine string packing in it's place. That stuff works for sure.

But oddly, didn't you say these are new Gerber stems? This sure seems odd.
 
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Old 07-29-07, 05:11 PM
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Sure enough!! They are brand new. Not only that, but I tried an additional new set and got the same results. These are actually made/distributed by Danco and the package says it replaces Gerber stems. They are identical to the original...right down to the leak--argh.

I have never used string packing before. Is it just a string that you wrap around the stem? Is there a method to it?

Thanks again for the help
 
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Old 07-30-07, 07:53 AM
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Before we go any further, I have to tell you, that until you clarify this "bolt" that you have to tighten, I don't get what kind of packing system you have. I have worked on practically every valve stem known to man and can't recall anythign resembling a bolt. Usually they either have a packing nut that tightens over the valve stem, or there is an 0-ring inside the stem that when you unscrew the two halves of the stem apart, the o-ring is inside the small piece.

Please try to describe your stem as well as you can. And by chance you still don't happen to have the bag the Gerber valve stems came in, do you?, with the number on it? Or have the receipt with the code number on your receipt where you can call up the store and ask them what stem model number this is? Because if you can get this, I could then find the stem myself and tell you how it works. It sounds unbelievable this should be leaking like this. Even like I said in earlier post: That even IF the tub spout and/or shower head were all plugged up and all the force was exerted at the packing, you'd still think it would not leak out. Under reasonable house pressure that is. (Did you ever say what your water pressure is in yor house?)
 
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Old 07-30-07, 11:10 AM
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Oh, silly me!!! I have been saying bolt all this time when I meant nut. Yes, it is a nut that tightens onto the stem to push the packing down. The stem is all one piece. The NUT on the front of the stem is male and tightens down against a (the package refers to it as) felt packing. Seems more like a car tire to me than felt. This felt packing is between a 1/4" to a 1/2" thick. I don't see anything like a model number. Danco markets these kits and has replacements for all kinds of brands like Pfiser and Gerber, etc. The packaging says "TUB AND SHOWER REMODELING KIT for Gerber" The product ID# is 39617. You can find these kits at any home improvement store like Lowe's or Menard's. As for the the water pressure in the house, I have no idea. Don't even know how to find out. I can tell you this. When I moved into the house in 2001, I remember thinking the water output in the showers was more than usual. The shower head that was in originally was all one piece with the pipe that connects it to the pipe in the wall. The water flowed through the shower head quite freely. My faucet handle did not start leaking until I had to replace the pipe/shower head piece. I don't know if that is coincidental or not.

I was looking for packing string this morning and saw two types - Teflon and graphite. Am I looking at the right stuff?

This has become quite involved. I feel like I have written a novel. Thanks again for hanging in there along this journey.
 
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Old 07-30-07, 05:20 PM
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From what I have in my stock I carry with is the teflon, that is thinnner (I don't know where it is now as I haven't used it in quite sometime.) and the graphite that is thicker. I can't remember off hand if you have enough space between the wall in the nut and the stem to get in a wrap of the graphite kind. Maybe. The trick with doing packing is that if you wind too much around in there, you can't start to thread the nut back on to compress the packing. You need at least one complete revolution of the graphite. What I often do is wrap enough in there so I know I have about 2 threads to get it to start to thread. Then after tightening I take it back off to see how far down the packing squished and if possible I do another wind down in there.

Now let me ask you this since like I said in earlier post, this really should not be doing this with new valve stems like this. Have you analyzed the principle on how the packing nut works? For example, are the parts all in there that allow the nut to actually crush in the packing, as it should when you tighten it? In theory, it HAS to do this if the guts are all there to do so. It HAS to. Because, the packing has nowhere to escape to when in the cap nut. It HAS to compress inward against the stem. In fact, if one overtightens a nut like this?, you can actually cause it to be very difficult to even turn the faucet handle! That is what is so strange about your problem. So take a look inside the cap and see if the necessary metal washers or whatever is there to be able to crush in against that felt or tire-like packing. And make sure nothing is split.
 
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Old 07-30-07, 08:19 PM
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The stem is packaged with the nut already in place. I took it off only after I tried installing the stem into the wall and then had difficulty with the leak.There were no other pieces behind the nut other than the felt packing. The nut has the threaded extension sticking out the back, and behind the threaded section this same nut piece is a little thicker so that it is like a washer attached to it. There is a bit of a gap (just wide enough for the tip of a paper clip to fit in), however, between the inside rim of this "washer" section of the nut and the stem itself.

I could try to tighten the nut even more! Everytime something is to be tightened, the instructions keep saying "don't over-tighten". I snugged it up pretty tight, but I didn't take it to the limit of how tight I could get it.

As for the thread, what kind do you use when you use it? And, while I am thinking about it, several messages back you mentioned plumber's grease. Is that not part of the solution now?
 
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Old 07-31-07, 07:02 AM
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I had to go to my bog box store this morning anyway. Checked out what is problably your stem. Danco replacement for Gerber.

It HAS to stop leaking, just as said. I removed packing nut from their display model and yes, there is this fibrous packing inside. The bottom of the packing nut only has a slight gap between it and the stem. Very slight. When you tighten downn more on that packing nut it HAS to squish that fibrous packing against the stem. It HAS to.

Work the stem, and as you do, use a small crescent or openend or box wrench and slowly tighten the packing nut as you work the stem (opening and closing it). It really should stop leaking. It really should.

But if it don't, let's say, which seems unbelievable to me, then you will have to gouge out that existing fibous packing and wind around some packing in that 1/8 "+ void around the stem. (or go to a plumbing shop and get another couple of fibrous packing pieces that are preformed to fit.)

Plumbers grease will not stop a leak. I use it quite regularly to be able to get parts apart again in the future or to assist with the tightening process so threaded parts don't bind before they are fully tight and for o-ring lubrication.

If by CHANCE your clearance between the packing nut and stem is more than just this tiny smidgeon, then you may want to buy a perfectly fitting brass washer to put down in the nut that ALMOST touches the valvestem, as to cut down on that clearance. But I have a hard time believing this is your issue. IF it was, then your fibrous packing would be oozing out of that gap as you tightened down the packing nut.


If you really are getting that packing nut tight and it still leaks, and you know the nut did not get stripped, then the only possibility I can think of is that those valvestems you bought are so old that the packing became dried out and brittle.
 
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Old 08-10-07, 09:03 AM
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Closure.....

Well, I had to be out of town for a few, so it has taken me awhile to get back to the project. Now that I have, I'm thinking how this whole thing comes back to the simplest of solutions. I tightened those nuts about as snug as they would go and sure enough, no leaks. I guess my judgement was clouded by the words in the directions reading, "DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN". I guess I was just being too careful not to go too tight. The first set that I put into the main bath went so well that I just didn't expect to have a problem with the second installation in the master bath. Oh well, time wasted...frustrations for naught, but lessons learned. Thanks for your help along the way.
 
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Old 08-10-07, 04:16 PM
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See? By design, it HAS TO stop the leak. At least if the factory packing is good. Technically if you tighten it too much, it will be difficult in even turning the handles as the pressure on the stems, by the packing up against them, will get greater and greater the more you tighten. The typical spigot? They act the same way.

Glad you got it. This was getting drawn out.
 
 

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