Showers stand among the most used fixtures in a home. Not only do you want your shower to work perfectly, but perhaps you also want it to look the part. Two handle shower valves have a vintage feel you may not like. Could you replace them with a modern single handle?
To replace a two handle shower valve with a single handle mixer, shut off the water and remove the old valves. Cut a hole in the wall and connect the cold and hot water supply lines with the new handle valve, then cover everything with a repair escutcheon plate.
Things You Will Need for Shower Faucet Valve Replacement
Replacing your shower faucet valves could seem daunting, but the project only requires minimal construction and plumbing skills. This is a good project for beginner and intermediate DIYers, or you could hire a plumber if you don’t feel confident enough. If you do, gather the stuff below to get started.
- Abrasive tile blade
- Utility knife
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Soldering torch
- Copper solder
- Slip joint pliers
- Pipe fittings
- Single handle shower valve
- Support braces
- Conversion plate
- Protective equipment
Replace Two Handle Shower Valve with Single Handle in 7 Easy Steps
Did you gather all the tools and materials above? Follow the quick steps below to replace the two handle shower valves in no time.
1. Select the right conversion plate
A conversion plate – or repair escutcheon plate – allows you to convert the shower handles from two to a single valve without tearing open the wall. However, you need a plate that is big enough to cover all three holes – the ones you’ll be left with after removing the shower’s handles and the new one you must cut into the wall to install the new valve.
The easiest way to select the right conversion plate is by measuring the hole size (even if you haven’t cut it yet).
Consider that you will place the new valve and handle more or less halfway between the old handles. Measure the size of the new handle and the distance between the two handles you currently have, from the center of one handle to the center of the other handle.
Based on these dimensions, decide how big a conversion plate you need to cover all the holes in your wall. Alternatively, consider if you’d like to repair the wall and retile it.
2. Remove the old shower handles
Shut off the water supply to your shower by closing your bathroom’s shut-off valve or, if you don’t have one, but cutting off the main water supply to your home.
Remove the shower handles by unscrewing them. Most handles have a set screw located under a decorative cap (generally blue for cold water and red for hot water). Remove the cap with a flathead screwdriver and use the right screwdriver to unfasten the knobs.
Once you’ve taken off the knobs, remove the escutcheon plates behind the faucet handles to access the wall behind them.
3. Remove the old shower valves
The two-handle faucet valves are generally located inside the wall, so you’ll have to cut a hole to access them if your shower doesn’t have an access panel.
Cut a 12-square inch hole with a jigsaw through tile, or use a utility knife to cut the drywall if your shower isn’t tiled. Open the wall directly behind the existing shower faucet and locate the water supply lines.
Unfasten the union nuts connecting the faucet handles to the water lines or, if they are soldered, use a copper tubing cutter to cut the pipes about six inches away from the faucet. After you’ve cut the lines supplying the faucet, remove a section of pipe that connects the faucet to the showerhead.
4. Install the new shower valve
Install the new shower handle following the instructions that come with your product. Pay attention to centering it exactly halfway between the two holes left behind by the old handles.
Depending on the pipes you have, you can use threaded nuts to connect the new faucet to the water lines or solder it in place if your water lines are made of copper.
Secure the faucet in place with wood or metal support braces, then connect the showerhead pipe to the faucet.
5. Install the cover plate
To cover the holes, install a new faceplate that will hold the repair escutcheon plate in place. Then, slip the repair escutcheon plate over the valve and fix it to the wall. Seal the edges with clear silicone or latex caulk to prevent water leakage.
6. Install the new faucet handle
You can now attach the new faucet handle to the valve by screwing it in place. The actual method can vary from one faucet model to another, but basically, you’ll have to locate the set screw under the handle and fasten it on the valve.
7. Turn on the water and test the shower
Turn on your bathroom’s shut-off valve and turn on the shower. Direct the showerhead away from the handle if possible, or block the stream with a bucket otherwise, and check the faucet for leaks. If everything’s good, you can now enjoy your new shower.
Which is Better: One or Two Handle Faucets
Replacing a two-handle faucet with a single-handle one isn’t very hard, but should you do it? Aside from the more streamlined look, a single handle faucet brings, which one is better?
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a two handle faucet works differently from a single handle one.
The two handle faucet features a handle or knob that controls the cold water and another one that controls the hot water. You can turn on only the hot water or only the cold water, as needed.
A single handle faucet combines the hot and cold water through a single lever, and the handle’s position governs the amount of cold or hot water running through the spout. Some people prefer the simplicity of this design, whereas others prefer having more control over the flow.
Single- and two-handle faucets don’t have different plumbing requirements, aside from the number of valves you have to install and the number of holes you have to drill in the wall. This makes faucets an attractive choice for beginner DIYers.
Water Temperature and Flow Control
The two-handle faucet is the clear winner of this round. A single handle faucet opens both the cold and hot water valves at the same time, making it hard to reach the desired water temperature sometimes. In fact, homeowners often complain about the water coming out either too hot or too cold.
A two-handle faucet lets you choose between hot and cold water. You can also control the flow better so that you can reach the perfect shower temperature.
Another area where the two handle faucets excel is the leak control. When a single handle faucet starts leaking, you have to shut off the main supply valve and wait for the plumber (or fix the issue yourself). If a two-handle faucet starts leaking, on the other hand. You can turn off only the cold or hot water – provided that you have different valves – and keep using the other handle if needed.
When choosing a faucet, it all comes down to preference and your interior design. Two handle faucets have a more traditional appearance and work beautifully in classic interiors. From traditional city homes to country-chic cottages, they can all benefit from the timeless look of a two handle faucet.
Single handle faucets deliver a more streamlined look that works well in modern homes and contemporary interiors.
Both styles could pair well with industrial or steampunk interiors, but it depends on the actual style and finish of the faucet.
Changing Shower Valves: DIY or Call a Pro?
Changing shower valves isn’t complicated, and you could complete the task yourself – as long as you have at least some plumbing skills.
Things are easier if you can thread the valves onto the pipe rather than solder them. However, if you have soldering experience, you shouldn’t face any difficulties.
Changing the shower valves yourself can help you cut off costs; after all, you’ll only have to buy the new faucet and a handful of materials. Things could become more complicated if you don’t seal the valve well because water could leak inside the wall.
If you’re not confident enough, you could hire a plumber. In this case, you won’t have to worry about the work quality, but you’ll face higher costs.
You can expect to pay anywhere between $495 and $788 for labor and materials, whereas a new faucet would only cost you about $130 on average.
Whether you decide to replace the two handle shower valve yourself or hire a professional, you might still have questions. Check out the answers below.
Are 2 handle shower valves illegal?
According to the Uniform Plumbing Code, all shower faucets must have a thermostatic mixing valve or pressure balance valve. Most two handle shower valves don’t fall in any of these categories, so they are considered illegal in most states.
However, this doesn’t mean that you have to replace the two handle shower valves with a single handle one if you already have the two handle valve installed in your home.
If you are just remodeling a bathroom as opposed to adding a new bathroom to your home, you can replace the two handle shower faucet with a similar one. That’s why most plumbing and faucet companies still manufacture two handle showers.
However, if you’re adding a new bathroom or installing a bathroom in new construction, you might have to go for the single-handle type.
Since each municipality can adapt to the regulations, you should check your local plumbing code to understand whether these faucet valves are illegal in your area and what valve to install instead.
What is the average cost to change a shower valve?
If you hire a plumber and only have to replace the valve alone, expect to pay around $310 on average. An entire shower valve replacement (including the faucet handle) will cost you about $540 on average. Both prices include the cost of labor and materials.
Can you replace the shower handle without replacing the valve?
You don’t necessarily have to replace the valve unless it is leaking. However, you have to buy a compatible shower faucet handle. Depending on the age of your installation and type of faucet, replacing the handle alone may or may not be feasible. If the valve doesn’t leak, but the handle has lost its aesthetic value, search the market for a compatible handle and only replace the knob if you find it.
Switching from a two handle shower valve to a single handle one is a fairly easy project. You will have to cut a hole in the wall, but all you need is a conversion plate to cover it. Considering that two handle shower valves have been outlawed in some states, upgrading them could increase the resale value of your home.