What is a Shower Diverter and How Does It Work?

Last Updated On June 11, 2024

Updated on April 17, 2023



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what is a shower diverter

Are you a homeowner who has heard of a shower diverter but aren’t sure what it is or how it works? You’re in the right place!

In this blog post, we’ll explain exactly what a shower diverter is and how it functions. You’ll gain the knowledge to make informed decisions about maintaining your home’s tub and shower function. 

We will also discuss some common problems with shower diverters. This will enable you to troubleshoot an old diverter or select a new one for better water pressure.

What's In This Guide?

      What is a Shower Diverter?

      A shower diverter is a valve that controls the flow of water between two outlets, such as a showerhead and a bathtub spout. It’s usually located in the shower wall near the main shower valve, or at the top of an existing tub faucet. 

      You can also call it a water diverter, because it diverts the flow or direction of water. In short, by manipulating the diverter, you can switch between directing water to your showerhead, hand shower, or bathtub spout. 

      At its most basic, when the diverter is in an elevated position, it dispenses water to the showerhead; when switched down, water flows through the tub spout. 

      Types of Shower Valve Systems

      The shower diverter valve can either be one unit with three internal valves, or two separate shower diverter valves. 

      Let’s take a closer look at the mechanics of these two main types of indispensable plumbing components.

      Three-Valve Diverters:

      The most widespread diverter valve is the three-valve design, featuring two distinct valves. One valve regulates the water temperature meaning the hot water and cold water.  

      The other valve controls whether the water flow goes through either an integrated diverter, which controls both outlets at once. It may also use separate diverters, which allow you to direct water to your desired outlet—the showerhead or bathtub spout.  

      Two-Valve Diverters:

      Two-valve diverters have separate handles for controlling both outlets independently. There is a rotating knob for controlling hot and cold water. 

      There is a second control to divert the water between the tub spout and shower head.

      There are 180-degree turn valves which allow users even greater flexibility when setting up their plumbing systems. They can easily switch between multiple outlets simply by turning the handle 180 degrees. This is easier than having separate handles for each outlet – and great for those looking for convenience without too much complexity.

      No matter which type of shower diverter you have, they all work by blocking off one outlet while opening another when activated by turning the handle or knob in different directions.

      Of course, the most basic type of single-valve diverter for controlling water flow to fixtures is the good ‘ol fashioned tub spout with the diverter. Most are familiar with simply pulling and pushing the tub’s faucet to send water up or down. 

      Key Takeaway: A shower diverter is a valve that controls the flow of water between two outlets, such as a showerhead and bathtub spout. 

       Have a broken shower diverter, and need to replace it?

      Something to consider: For those with an existing two-tap setup, a three-valve diverter system is the way to go. This allows you to have more control over your water pressure and water temperature in different areas of your bathroom, as well as directing water to multiple showerheads.

      Considering a New Shower Diverter

      If you’re installing a new shower system, it’s important to consider how many fixtures you will need. Don’t forget to include multiple shower heads and a hand shower.

      Multiple-head systems may require larger capacity than single-head designs do, and also need pressure balancing valves.  A simple standalone diverter may not cut it.

      You’ll also need to make sure that your current plumbing setup is compatible with whichever valve model you select; some require additional piping if there isn’t enough pressure from your existing supply line for proper operation. We reviewed the best options here.

      Make sure that whatever style of diverter you choose matches up with your existing plumbing fixtures and shower faucet. You want the trim to match so everything fits together properly once installed. For this reason, stick with similar brands when possible.

      Designing a new shower system is easy but takes some thought. If you’re replacing these in commercial plumbing, you may need to include the advice of a professional plumbing service to ensure adequate water pressure for your facility.

      Professional installation is also recommended when dealing with complex projects with new connections to point of use water heaters – don’t try tackling this job yourself unless you have the necessary knowledge and experience.

      There are more complex shower diverter systems that allow for water to be directed to more than one showerhead or hand held shower heads at the same time. 

      With a main shower valve acting as the master controller and several smaller valves connected to it that can be individually controlled via their own handles or knobs located nearby on the wall panel, users can direct varying amounts of pressure and hot water temperature towards different areas according to their individual preferences.

      No matter what kind of setup you choose, remember that regular maintenance will help keep things running smoothly and avoid costly repairs down the road.

      Key Takeaway: A new shower system requires thoughtful setup and possibly the help of a professional plumber. Integrated systems need to be professionally designed and installed due to their complexity. For more convenience and flexibility, consider investing in a three-valve system or 180-degree turn valve – they’re well worth the investment. 

      What Are Common Issues with Shower Diverters?

      Shower diverters are an essential part of any bathroom. Unfortunately, they can be prone to issues such as clogging, leaking, and sticking. 

      Clogs occur when mineral deposits or debris build up in the diverter valve; this is especially common if your home has hard water. 

      Leaks happen when seals or gaskets wear out over time. If you notice reduced water pressure at the shower head, you might have a leak at the valve.

      Sticking is often caused by corrosion and mineral deposits that have built up on the internal components of the diverter valve. Hard water is a challenge for many plumbing fixtures, including diverters.

      Other common problems with shower diverters are often caused by worn or damaged parts, which may require a shower diverter replacement in order to restore proper function.

      To avoid these problems, it’s important to maintain your shower diverter regularly by cleaning it with vinegar or another mild cleaner every few months. Also, check for signs of damage like cracked seals or worn-out parts.

      If any of the issues arise, many DIY homeowners feel comfortable tackling simple diverter replacements. Here is a video of the most basic single shower diverter below. 

       It might be best to have a professional plumber take a look at 3 way diverters that are more complex.

      Key Takeaway: Maintaining a shower diverter regularly is key to avoiding costly repairs, so it’s important to clean and check for signs of damage such as cracked seals or worn-out parts. 

      Shower Diverter FAQs

       How long does a shower diverter last?

      A shower diverter should last you at least 5 years. With some basic maintenance, it will last many more years.

      Can a water diverter get stuck?

      Yes, a water diverter can get stuck. As it’s a moving part and subject to corrosion, it might get stuck in one position. See this guide to fix a stuck shower diverter.

      Can a shower diverter cause a leak?

      Yes, a shower diverter can leak over time. If it’s leaking, you will need to replace it. 

      Summary of Shower Diverters

      A shower diverter is an important component of a bathroom plumbing system. Knowing how it works and understanding common issues can help homeowners maintain their showers in good condition for years to come. 

      For more information about your 2 or 3 way shower diverter, it’s wise to get in touch with an experienced plumbing expert who can offer personalized guidance if you’re not comfortable attempting replacement. 

      That said, many homeowners have successfully taken this DIY project on and won. See this article on how to fix a stuck shower diverter.

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      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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