How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Shower Cartridge?
Plumbing, electrical, and HVAC trades can be overwhelming to homeowners. Even if you’re a DIY master, some prefer to leave these skilled trades to the pros. While you can replace a plumbing cartridge yourself, you should have a professional plumber help you.
The average cost to replace a shower cartridge is $240. Homeowners spend an average of $175 on labor to replace a shower cartridge, and materials generally cost $65. It only takes 10 minutes to replace a shower cartridge, and you can do it on your own for under $80.
What Is a Plumbing Cartridge?
Cartridge valves are one of four kinds of valves found in plumbing fixtures. They’re most common in showerheads. Cartridges control water flow and pressure, as well as moderate water temperature.
Before the invention of cartridges, as we know them today, older valves were made of metal. The shower stem valve had a metal body that applied or released pressure on a rubber O-ring when turned. This would open or close the faucet.
The metal version was often hard to turn, so its contemporary plastic cartridge was invented. The lightweight plastic body turns more easily, making it more user friendly and still fairly durable.
What Types of Cartridges Are There?
A shower that features cartridge valves can have one or two handles. If it just has one, you regulate the temperature by turning the knob from left-right. Water flow is regulated by turning the knob up and down.
Dual handle cartridge valves can look just like the old-school metal ones from the outside, but they are easier to operate. This means they’re a great choice to match the style of an older home. Another plus is that they’re more resistant to rust, so they’ll last longer than their older counterparts.
A diverter cartridge has a three-handle or one-handle faucet assembly. Having a diverter simply means it opens or closes a supply line internally to regulate temperature and flow.
Why Do You Need to Replace Shower Cartridges?
If you’re having difficulty regulating your shower’s temperature or water flow, it’s time to replace the cartridge.
If your shower faucet is leaking, that’s probably not the cartridge’s fault. Leaky faucets often indicate the failure of O-rings and gaskets; these rubber parts dry up or stretch out over time. Replacing those parts is a cheap fix that should solve your leak problem.
What’s the Cost of Replacing a Shower Cartridge?
Several factors help determine the cost of a shower valve cartridge replacement, including materials, labor and the type of plumber.
Across the country, the average cost of a replacement valve is around $90. Some can be as much as $103; others are as low as $85. Some companies allow you to purchase the cartridge separate from other valve components, which can range from $30-50.
Some major brands, like Delta and Moen, have a lifetime guarantee, so save your receipts! That means that if any part of your faucet fails, they’ll send you replacement parts at no charge. This includes cartridges and valves.
The national average cost of labor and materials to replace a shower cartridge valve is around $250. Some plumbers may charge as little as $100 depending on the scope of work.
Labor costs will vary greatly depending on where you live. A job that may cost $100 in a rural community in middle America may cost twice as much in a big, coastal city.
Different Types of Plumbers
Some plumbers charge a trip fee. Basically, this is a minimum charge to guarantee that the trip is worthwhile. Even if the job takes 10 minutes, they will charge a minimum amount for their house call and expertise.
A good plumber should be able to give you a free estimate. It’s always a good idea to get three quotes from different companies to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of. Unfortunately, scammers are all too common in construction.
Your labor cost will also depend on who you hire. An independent plumber has less overhead than a big company. A larger contractor who sends you a plumber is likely upcharging you and taking a cut off the top.
No matter who you choose, just make sure they’re licensed. That will ensure they know what they’re doing, and you’ll be covered by their insurance in case anything goes wrong.
Scope of Work
Replacing a cartridge should be straightforward, but we all know how one project can lead to another. If the cartridge can’t be easily replaced or the whole valve is compromised, a more in-depth replacement may be needed.
This can include cutting away and repairing drywall or tile, which is both expensive and messy. Leaks are also a common hazard of plumbing work that you need to address promptly to prevent mold or further damage.
Does your home carry a warranty? If so, look at your policy before shelling out for a repair. Many home warranty policies cover standard plumbing items like valves, cartridges, and diverters.
Should You Replace or Repair Your Cartridge?
Water is full of minerals that accumulate on the plastic cartridge over time. Cartridges can become damaged by mineral buildup, scale, or corrosion. Once you open up the faucet, you can determine if you need to replace the cartridge or just clean it.
You may be able to clean the cartridge by removing it and soaking it in vinegar. Once the deposits have dissolved, use a soft toothbrush to buff them away gently.
However, if the cartridge is gouged or scraped, you will need to replace it. Sometimes this happens in the removal process or as a result of other plumbing repairs.
How Do You Find the Right Cartridge?
Not all cartridges are created equal! Unfortunately, a plumbing cartridge is not a universal part you can pick up at any home improvement store. You’ll need to look up the brand and serial number of your plumbing fixture to see which cartridge fits your unit.
Sometimes it’s hard to find the model number, or you weren’t the one to install the faucet. If you can identify the brand, look on their website, or call their store.
If all else fails, take a picture of the fixture and head to a plumbing supply store. They may be able to help you solve the mystery and order the right part.
What’s Involved in Replacing a Cartridge?
Just like with any plumbing work, your first order of business is to turn off the water. You don’t want to get soaked, or worse, burned by hot water before you even begin.
The cartridge is an internal element of the faucet, hidden behind the handle and trim. You’ll need to remove the trim by finding the hidden set screw and removing it with an Allen key. It’s usually concealed behind or underneath the fixture.
This is also how you can change out the finish of your plumbing fixtures. Trim kits are sold separately to change your bathroom’s look without (or after) changing the cartridge.
From this point, the cartridge should be easily visible. You’ll see a notched plastic disc: this is the temperature limiter. Next, pull the pin connected to the valve stem using needle-nose pliers. It should come out easily unless mineral deposits have calcified it in place.
If the cartridge is stuck, you’ll need a tool called a cartridge puller. It works like a corkscrew, but for plumbing parts. Take note (in your mind or with a photo) of the cartridge’s orientation in the plumbing fixture.
You’ll need to know how the next one fits in. (HInt: it’s the same direction!)
Can you replace a cartridge yourself, or do you need to call a professional?
That depends on your comfort level with DIY projects, the tools you have at hand, and the valve’s condition. If you have a moderate degree of comfort with home renovation projects, and have the proper tools, give it a shot. You can follow the manufacturer’s instructions from the box or (if you lose them) online.If you remove the trim and see that the cartridge is in poor condition, you might want to ask for help. If anything goes wrong, like the valve getting stuck or breaking during extraction, you might need to call a pro. Even if you follow instructions, you always run a small risk of damaging the valve’s body. Paying a plumber can give you peace of mind, which can be priceless. A non-emergency call now may avoid an emergency call later!
How long do replacement cartridges last?
A good-quality cartridge, when properly installed, should last about 20-30 years. You can prolong the life of your cartridge by cleaning it regularly to prevent mineral buildup.
Good, Clean Fun
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether to replace your shower cartridge yourself or hire a professional plumber. Either way, replacing this crucial part of your shower will help regulate the flow and temperature of your shower. A long shower can be one of the best simple pleasures in your home. Enjoy!
Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.
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