Shower diverter problems?

By July 31, 2016 Plumbing, Problem Solving
Screw on diverter

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 44 seconds

Stump the Plumber

Dripping shower head

Dripping shower head

This is another in the stump the plumber series.

A friend called from out of state, he was visiting family. They had a typical tub shower situation with a single valve so it had to be fairly new.

The situation

When he turned on the water, the tub started to fill and the water was heating up when he noticed a dribbling out of the shower head. He had not activated the diverter yet and was wondering what the heck could be causing it to happen.

Naturally his first thought went to the cartridge but before he swapped it out he called a lifeline.

Here’s your problem

The diverter valve is part of your tub spout. When activated it diverts water against gravity to the shower head. These things fail in three ways

  1. They usually are incapable of obstructing the flow so you get water out the shower head and the tub spout simultaneously.
  2. They are partially obstructed by a screen, (yes some of them have screens for some reason) or something and start to obstruct the flow prior to activation.
  3. They just stop working all together and can no longer obstruct the flow to the shower head
Screw on diverter

Screw on diverter

Fix or replace?

They are held on in a number of ways.

  1. If a copper tube is coming out of the wall, there is an Allen screw hidden beneath it that causes a clamp to release.
  2. If is a galvanized pipe spout, then the entire diverter head unscrews. These can be tricky and stuck. you may end up replacing the galvanized nipple too (I said nipple) HINT If you plan to reuse the diverter…Remove it without scratching or gouging it with a strap wrench or something like it. (Images shows a combo, copper and screw on)
  3. If cleaning is all that is needed, you likely have sediment in your water and already are aware that your aerators need cleaning periodically.

Happily ever after

Armed with the correct information the troubleshooting went as expected. The faulty diverter “tub spout” was replaced. After a few hours of work the situation was resolved.


A faulty tub spout can cause a flood. They can be installed with a reverse grade back to the wall and water can actually roll back into the wall. This is why you often see a hole in the bottom to allow back flowing water to escape. If it is clogged or not able to handle the flow it can roll back into the wall. Caulking around tub spout and tub/shower valve is important too to avoid water getting behind the escutcheon and dripping into the wall.

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Disclaimer: Some of these images came from the WEB. If they are yours, and you object to them being used, please claim them and I will gladly remove and replace them at once.

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