3 Types of Shower Diverters & How They Each Work

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Do you have both a bathtub and a shower in your bathroom? If so, you need a good shower diverter. The shower diverter valve is responsible for rerouting the water back and forth between the showerhead and tub faucet. In theory, it is a very basic and simple device. But even the simplest valves also malfunction and need to be replaced over time. 

To learn more about how diverters work, the types you can choose from, and how to replace them when they get broken, keep on reading.

Shower Diverter Mechanisms 

In the bathroom, pipes both deliver and dispose of water. One of those pipes connects to your showerhead and tub faucet. The diverter works like a switch, allowing you to open or close the flow of water to either the shower or tub. When your shower diverter valve is open, water directly flows through the faucet and into the tub when you’re having a bath.  When it is closed, it creates pressure and water is forced upward – when you want to take a shower instead. This happens when you turn on the lever or knob of the shower.

Benefits of Shower Diverter Valves 

The shower diverter valve lets you enjoy modern luxuries in the bathroom, such as installing a shower over the tub. This gets rid of the need to have an entirely separate shower enclosure or stall. This is a great way to go if your bathroom is small and has limited floor space. You also enjoy not having to install extra faucets, pipes, and tiles. Often, a rubber washer is responsible for cutting the water flow off from the tub and vertically through the showerhead.

Three Types of Shower Diverters

Now that you’ve gotten a good understanding of how these diverters work and what they are for, take a look at the different kinds there are.

3-Valve Diverters

This diverter is found in between the taps of two-tap faucets. This can deliver water to both the tub and the shower. To get the right level of temperature, hot and cold water taps are turned on, mixing the water. Typically, the properly blended water flows out of the showerhead by turning the diverter clockwise 180 degrees. And if you turn it counter-clockwise, it will divert the water flow back to the tub.

Brass Shower Arm Diverter Valve for Hand Held Showerhead and Fixed Spray Head,G 1/2 3-Way Bathroom Universal Shower System Replacement Part(Polished Chrome)
Brass Shower Arm Diverter Valve for Hand Held Showerhead and Fixed Spray Head, G 1/2 3-Way (Image: Amazon)

2-Valve Diverters

Similar to the 3-valve diverter, this model brings water through the tub faucet until you get the right blend of water temperature. It has 2 valves that form an L shape. It pushes water vertically (upwards) to the showerhead. This valve can be found in the middle of a faucet which controls the temperature with a single dial turned right for cold and left for hot water. It can also be used in between the taps of a 2-tap faucet.

100% Solid Metal Shower Arm Diverter Valve for Hand Held Showerhead and Fixed Spray Head | G 1/2 Two-Way Bathroom Universal Shower System Replacement Part (Oil Rubbed Bronze)
100% Solid Metal Shower Arm Diverter Valve for Hand Held Showerhead and Fixed Spray Head | G 1/2 Two-Way (Image: Amazon)

Tee Diverters

Finally, we have tee diverters. These are one-valve models that are usually located in the spout of the tub. As you run the water to achieve the right amount of heat that you want, pulling up the diverter pull arm in the tub spout will then deliver the water through the showerhead.

Dura Faucet DF-RK900-BK RV Shower Faucet Diverter Tee Replacement (Black)
Dura Faucet DF-RK900-BK RV Shower Faucet Diverter Tee Replacement (Black) (Image: Amazon)

Properly Turning Off a Shower Diverter

You can get any of the three types of shower diverters, but the decision will mainly depend on the kind of tub faucet that you already have. All types are equally capable of keeping water directed through the showerhead until the valve is released. It’s recommended to release the diverter to let the remaining water to flow back to the tub spout, at least for a few seconds before you shut off the water. This is a good preventive measure to reduce stress and strain on the diverter valves.

Don’t worry if you do not know how to operate a shower diverter at first, or at least know how it works. You can start the water while you’re still outside the shower stall to make sure you don’t get injured with scalding hot water. And if you experience water that’s flowing out of both the bathtub and shower all at once, you will want to clean and maintain your diverter valve. If that does not fix the problem, it’s time to replace it with a new one. 

Typical Diverter Valve Problems and Issues

It’s easy to identify a problematic shower diverter valve. The most common one is when water starts to flow out of both the tub faucet and showerhead at the same time. This means that there is something that is preventing it from functioning correctly. This can be due to wear and tear, as diverter valves can experience clogging up due to sediments and wearing out from a long time of use. When these issues are present, the valve is unable to close fully and properly, allowing water to flow out of both ways even if you have activated the diverter.

How to Replace a Shower Diverter Valve

  1. The first step is to identify that there is indeed a problem. Once that’s established, you will want to turn the water supply to your shower off. Then, you’ll want to seal off the drain using tape to prevent any screws and tiny parts from falling down by accident. Identify the type of diverter your shower has.
  2. Now, try troubleshooting. It is possible to clean the shower diverter and get it back to top shape. Do this before replacing it altogether. Try tightening the screws behind the diverter valve’s faceplate if they’ve gone loose. Check if water keeps leaking both ways. If this doesn’t fix the issue, move on to step 3.
  3. Take out the old shower diverter. Then disassemble the shower diverter. If the valve is rotating, unscrew the nut at the stem and remove the full valve. If it’s a gate-type valve, unscrew the threaded tub spout.
  4. Get your new shower diverter. Install the new unit, ensuring that parts aren’t cross-threading each other. You’ll need a wrench to tighten the valve in place. Be careful – do not overtighten. Make sure the valve is in the right position by twisting the gate or adjusting the stopper.
  5. Finally, do a test run. Turn the water back on, activate the diverter. The water should flow to the showerhead. If the shower sprays well with no leaks from the tub spout, then you have been successful.

Was that too confusing? Here’s a video guide for visual learners!

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