Shower Leaking Behind the Wall? (Here’s What to Do)

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Cleaning and maintaining a house is a crucial responsibility of a homeowner. However, if you have an old house, you may not have known how much effort is required to maintain it when you bought it. If the issues you clash with include a shower leaking behind a wall, you can have long-lasting damage to your wall and a high water bill, especially if you don’t know how to detect one. This post will help you understand why the shower is leaking behind a wall and how to fix this problem.

Why Shower Leaking Behind a Wall?

A leaking shower is easy to spot, but a shower that leaks behind the wall is difficult to detect. Shower leaking behind a wall is caused by pinhole leaks from a sloppy soldering or faulty valve from the water connection points to the valve. Water can wick up a wall, go along a stud or a beam, and somewhere completely else. Therefore, you should thoroughly check your work. Another sign of a shower leak behind the wall is the spongy drywall tile in front of the valve. This is typically caused by water shooting from a leak in the back of the border. Now that we know why a shower is leaking behind a wall let’s check out the causes.

Steps on How to Repair a Shower Leaking Behind a Wall?

Shower Leaking Behind the Wall

Step 1: Know the signs of a shower leaking behind a wall.

This issue with a shower leaking behind a wall is often discovered after it is too late when you receive a high water bill. Some of the signs indicating a shower leakage are the dripping water, particularly if your shower is over the basement. It might therefore be hard to locate since it has the potential to flow around, making it difficult to locate its origin.

When the shower valve leaks behind the wall, it’s generally due to a pinhole leak caused by an improper valve. Also, those leaks can be caused by sloppy soldering that connects the water to the valve. If these leaks happen in an upstairs bathroom, you will most likely notice dried traces of water on the ceiling or water dripping from the ceiling below your shower. These leaks often occur gradually.

The drywall of the valve may become spongy because of the continuous splashing of water from where the shower leaking area. Something like this might have happened due to the joint wearing out or an error during the casting process.

Step 2: Determine the area of your shower leak

If the leak is behind the shower wall, you should do one thing to find it.

  1. You’ll need to remove the shower plate to examine how much space you’ve left around the valve and its connections and check these connections. Or

  2. It would be ideal for removing a small part of the wall behind your valve to inspect it and its piping.

Some people who have had similar issues usually install a plumbing access panel to provide easy access to the water pipes connected to the shower and bathtub. You install these panels in the wall behind the shower. If you don’t have it, you will have to cut a tiny wall section to see the water connections. Again, it would be best to do this correctly to avoid causing serious damage.

Step 3: Make a window for inspection.

To determine where you need to cut the wall to make an inspection window, use a stud finder to identify the studs. Most of these studs are one on each, 16 inches center to center. Try pounding on the wall when you’ve located the stud; you’ll hear a different sound that drywall normally makes. 

Since most showers are too small to put them in the right place, most have two studs in the middle with the valve to secure it. A 108-inch square is great for seeing the shower pipes. Cut the square of these dimensions with a reciprocating saw and check with a flashlight for a clearer view.

Step 4: Look for signs of shower leaking

When looking for a sign of shower leaks, keep in mind the water stains beneath the tub drain. Allow a little amount of water to flow in the shower to ensure that the drain does not leak. Also, check the copper pipes for any signs of water or strange coloration caused by oxidation (white or green). This might be more difficult to detect if you have PEX.

Step 5: Turn on the shower.

Most homes usually have a shower valve mounted on the front side, making it difficult to access from the rear. So, when you turn on the water, you will notice the shower leaking behind a wall on the valve connections or piping. Also, when the water is on, look for any indications of a leak.

This might be difficult to detect since the leak could be in small drips around the pipe. However, when you sense dampness on the water pipe joints, you’ve found the source of the leak. So, bring a flashlight in case of a minor, difficult-to-spot leak. Besides, the leak might be coming from the shower arm (the pipe connecting to the showerhead) or valve. You can use a plumbing torch to access the access window easily.

Step 6: Repair the leaking shower arm

If the shower arms leak was the source of your behind-the-wall leak, it’s easy to repair. First, we recommend removing the escutcheon (a circular metal plate surrounding the shower arm). This is only decorative and can be either divided or solid. Divided/split escutcheons allow you to remove them without having to remove the shower head, while if it’s solid, you will need first to unscrew the showerhead to remove the cover.

Your shower arm may leak if it’s not tightly screwed or the treads are not properly sealed. It will need to be inspected again to determine the problem. Besides, clean and dry the treads as you clean off the joint compound. You will require a wire brush to ensure the threads are clean and a Teflon plumbing tape to wrap around the threads. After cleaning, put back the shower arm in the water pipe joint compound and tighten it.

Step 7: Repair a leaking shower valve

A leaking shower valve is more difficult to repair than a leaking arm. The shower valve has cold and hot water mixing to provide water of varying temperatures. Besides, most companies usually use a pull-type stop on the tub spout mechanism when installing the valve. Hot and cold water gets in the shower head, and the shower may have mixed water. This can vary if your shower valve is diverted to direct water in multiple directions.

If the shower leak occurs in the valve stem, it’s easy to repair because you need to replace the cartridge. You must first turn off the water. If the shower valve body leaks, you must remove the valve and replace it, ensuring you cut far enough. This is since a repair coupling is required to piece in the shower valve. However, if you’re using PEX, you don’t need to be that accurate.

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