shower diverter problem

katyroadpinkJanuary 6, 2007

I recently started using my 2nd bathroom since I'm having to do wall and tile repairs in the master bathroom (termites, another story). Since I hadn't used it regularly, the shower diverter in the guest bathroom won't turn the shower on anymore. There is real hard, alkaline water here.

I unscrewed and removed the diverter handle with the idea of replacing the cartridge. I can't get the sleeve off to get to anything else, although I can get the sleeve to rotate. I sprayed it with penetrating oil, and later sprayed it with lime away (several times), wrapped it with duct tape and tried to pulled it off with pliers. It still won't come off, nor will it unscrew.

The plumber came out to check it yesterday (and to replace some shut-off valves and faucets for me that were corroding). He sprayed lubricant on the diverter part sticking out of the sleeve (I hadn't tried the Lime Away yet) and attached the handle and tried to turn it. It didn't budge.

He said it is not repairable, and that he will have to break the tiles up with a hammer for several rows and replace the whole faucet set, and that he could recommend a guy to fix the walls and re-tile with non-matching tiles after that. He wants $250 for his part, including the faucet, hot and cold knobs and shower diverter. He only uses the parts he supplies, BTW, and does not give you a choice of styles. He wants to do it that way so he knows what he's dealing with. My pipes are copper and the house was built in 1965. I think he might be worried about the pipe breaking if he twisted the cartridge out, because one broke when he replaced a toilet valve, and he had to cut into the bedroom wall to resolder it.

He also recommended that I replace my gas water heater, which is exactly 9 years old now. It's not leaking (yet) or making noise, but he said they usually last 8 years here. It will total almost $700 for a 40 gallon. He only carries Bradford White and does not have a choice of styles or warranties (ie 9 year or 12 year). He said there is going to be a big problem putting it in because there is not much room in the closet (it has to get past the air heater). The current one is also 40 gallon. I had seen regular and tall, skinnier ones at stores, so I asked about getting a tall, skinny one. He said that those only come in electric.

The plumber works by himself and did seem to do good work on things he accomplished. However, is it really going to be necessary to destroy the wall in order to have a shower again? The shower worked fine before the diverter froze, and there are no leaks there. I'm going to be putting out a lot of money soon due to the termites, and eventually for the water heater, and I really can't afford $250 for a new faucet, plus whatever the it would cost to replace the wall and tile. Plus, Mom is coming to visit in March, and this is the bathroom she will use!

Also, what do you think about the water heater and that brand? I don't want to have to worry about it leaking, but it's a big expense right now on top of other big expenses. I had originally asked for a Rheem or Ruud, but he said he can't get those here.

I would appreciate any input anyone could give me.

Thanks in advance,


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I am a bit worried about the gas water heater in the closet, from what you describe it sounds like very little space, and likely a code violation.

For the shower, if the can't get the cartridge out to replace it, then it will be necessary to replace the whole unit.
As for not having a choice of styles, most plumbers will give a customer some choice on things like faucets and fixtures. The simplest solution would be talk with a different plumber if you are not satisfied with this guy.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 1:15PM
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What brand and style is the diverter?

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 10:04PM
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Jason and Ann, Thanks for your replies. The faucet has a cold water handle and a hot water handle. The diverter handle is between the two of them, not on the faucet. It says Union USA in fine print. The sleeve is still over the diverter handle, and I guess I will have to try to cut it off to see if I can get the cartridge out. If I can't, do you think it could be replaced separately without breaking up the wall? There is a round plate behind the diverter, so it looks like it was replaced in the past without messing up the tile.

Jason, the gas heater is in a large hallway closet 12 inches off the floor. The door to the closet is 38 inches wide, but the water heater is in the corner and will have to be slid past the gas furnace. It looks like there are a couple things projecting from the furnace that will have to be moved, but they are just bolted on. Frankly, it didn't look that complicated to me, but the plumber said it was going to be difficult, and thus cost more to replace. Even so, you're right, my gas plumbing does not meet today's codes. It is plumbed with aluminum tubing in the attic.

Thank you,


    Bookmark   January 8, 2007 at 7:23AM
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Every shower/tub faucet "should" be on an interior wall and have an access panel behind it. makes it easy to check for leaks and possible to replace the faucet. Not easy to replace the faucet from the back but it is possible without destroying the tile.

Aparently a lot of homebuilders don't agree with me about the access panel.

Don't give up on the old faucet just yet. Keep squirting lime-away or other acids into it. try to cover it up with saran wrap or plastic inbetween squirts to keep it wet. may take a couple of days. everything removeable can be replaced so don't be to concerned about tearing it up.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2007 at 12:39AM
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