Tub and shower valves are very similar to other faucets in your home.  Simply speaking, they allow you to use a mixture of hot and cold water to get a steady stream of water that is the perfect temperature for whatever you need it for.  Even some of the internal mechanisms are very similar to other faucets.  In fact, the “old style” Delta balls, springs, and washers would work in older Delta Shower valves, kitchen sink faucets, and even lavatory faucets.

There are other examples similar to the old Delta scenario, but in this article we will be focusing more on the differences than the similarities between shower valves and other types of faucets.  We will also be referring mostly to newer style valves.

What Makes Tub/Shower Valves Unique

One of the big differences is the fact that shower faucets are mostly “hidden” within the walls.  Usually, all you see of them is the small part of the body that houses the cartridge (or stems on older models), the handle, and a cover (called an escutcheon plate).  The bulk of the body is inside the wall, covered by the escutcheon.

This is important to know, because if the valve itself is damaged and in need of replacement, most of the work has to be done inside the wall.  Also, unlike other types of faucets, shower valves are “hard piped in, as opposed to being connected by flexible supply lines.

Another difference is the way they are made internally.  For one thing, most of the shower faucets you will find can be used for both tub and shower.  They are set up so that the preferred pathway for the water to take is through the lower opening (for the tub spout).  When the tub spout is blocked (as with a shower only installation, or via a lever on the tub spout itself), the water is forced through to upper outlet (for the shower riser).

Another internal difference is the fact that many shower/tub faucets have an anti-scald device in them.  This is usually a simple stop within the valve assembly (usually right beneath the handle) that stops you from turning it all the way to the hot side, so there is always enough cold mixing in to keep the water at safe heat levels.

This can be very important for homes with elderly or small children.  The level can usually be adjusted fairly easily, by removing the handle and repositioning the stop to your desired level.

Finally, the third, and perhaps “coolest” difference between shower valves and ordinary faucets is that many of them come with pressure balancing technology.  A pressure balancing faucet does pretty much exactly what the name implies.  It makes sure that the hot and cold side of the faucet stays at the same pressure at all times.

Have you ever had someone flush a toilet in one bathroom while you were showering in another one?  If so, and you did not have a pressure balancing valve, you probably did not enjoy the water getting really hot.  This happens because the cold water pressure to your faucet dropped when the toilet was flushed.  A pressure balancing valve, on the other hand, senses the drop in the cold water, and drops the pressure in the hot side to match.  At all times, it makes sure that the pressure to each side is the same.

The Takeaway

So not you know a little bit more about tub and shower valves.  If you have a problem with yours, and you have a newer style valve with pressure balancing, most of them can be repaired by a trusted profession, for a pretty reasonable cost.

If, however, you have an older style valve that you are having a problem with, or maybe you are just sick of being suddenly burned or frozen, you may benefit from having a new valve installed.  Either way, giving Allstar Plumbing a call is your first step.  Our shower valves come with a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty, and we back our faucet installations with a 1 year labor warranty. How many other plumbing companies can say that?