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Thread: How to make sure shower arm is not leaking inside of wall

  1. #16
    ACO Shower Drain Sales johnfrwhipple's Avatar
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    Default Keeping water from leaking inside the wall

    I like checking myself and this is a common question asked by clients. A small hole is the drywall is an easy repair and the piece of mind it offers many is priceless. Plumbers are tougher and trust their skills. We do not have their years of cofiendence to draw on so an inspection is not over the top.

    With a large diamond coring drill bit you can pre drill a scrap of tile or plastic. Then place this around the small hole. Use the pre0-dilled piece to hold the drill bit in location and drill a larger hole. You can then give yourself a little room to look. Make sure the trim of the shower arm covers the hole.

    These drill bits are a good $40-$60.00. Using a larger hole when cutting the tile in the first place can avoid this tough check. We have been waterproofing these shower arm wing backs to leak outside the shower tile's assembly. Pretty slick what you can do with off cuts of membrane and some random PVC fittings.
    Last edited by johnfrwhipple; 06-20-2013 at 10:31 AM.


    jfrwhipple@gmail.com - www-no-curb.com - 604 506 6792

    Always get construction advice double checked by your local city hall. Flood Test Every Shower - Every Time.

  2. #17
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If there's a leak from the el holding the shower arm, and you've taken the trim off the valve...if you leave it for awhile with the water on, you'll see if things got wet. If the plaster guard is still there, it serves no purpose anymore, and you can break it out of there. It's only used if you have a thin-wall installation once things are done.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #18
    ACO Shower Drain Sales johnfrwhipple's Avatar
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    Default How to fix a leaking shower arm inside a wall.

    My buddy renovated his home and last year he called me over this very same concern. Turns out the plumber (apprentice) installed the shower arm with only 1 full turn. The very first shower flooded out the laundry room and damaged the ceiling of his new place. I went down and used my inspection camera which I snuck up inside the wall via the cover plate on the control valves.

    I think enough people have heard this horror story once before to understand that checking is not such a bad thing.


    jfrwhipple@gmail.com - www-no-curb.com - 604 506 6792

    Always get construction advice double checked by your local city hall. Flood Test Every Shower - Every Time.

  4. #19
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    If you understand how a tapered pipe fitting works, and you crank it down, assuming the parts are not defective (and you can generally see that before you install it), a leak there isn't very common. The problem comes if you do not apply the sealant properly, or you decide you can't get all the way around again, and back up, that you can create problems. Unless the threads or the fitting are defective, you can almost always go far enough to get it in the position you want (I suppose if you had absolutely no feel for these things, you could mess up, but the average person won't). It takes either a really long wrench/pliers or some really strong arms to over tighten the average threaded pipe fitting.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  5. #20
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default leak

    You LOOK for a visible signs of a leak and then check to see where it is coming from. Do you know how many holes we would have to make in the walls if we wanted to "look" at every spot which could leak. We install the shower are PROPERLY, and then only become concerned if water appears on the floor, which SELDOM, if ever, happens.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  6. #21
    DIY Member Hardt's Avatar
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    I can appreciate the op's concern about leakage at the shower arm/elbow. Just a few days ago, my wife discovered a wet floor opposite the wall where this junction is located. I changed that shower arm and head three years ago and it could have been leaking since that time. I started by inspecting below the shower drain, pan and around the shower arm/elbow and a leak (looking for discoloration) was not apparent. My troubleshooting took about 3 days but to make a long story short: I finally took off the shower arm and counted the turns before it came off: 4 complete revolutions. I put new teflon tape and pipe dope and reinstalled with 4 turns. I capped the arm (this is key, as jadnashua suggested and something I did not do 3 yrs ago) and it leaked pretty bad! I think the pros have a good feel for how tight you should screw in the shower arm from years of trial and error but for us DIY types who only work on a plumbing project once every 2 or 3 years, it is a guessing game as to how tight to make a connection like this and with compression fittings for supply line/faucet fittings, etc. So anyway, I turned the arm 2 more complete turns (it took all the strength I could muster) and that fixed it. Of course, the question when screwing in the arm, is can I go 1 more complete revolution or will I go half way and can't go any more and then have to back up and then possibly ruin the seal. Like I always say, plumbing is always the most difficult DIY projects in the home and for me anyway, it is close to rocket science!

  7. #22
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The offset to most shower arms gives you a reasonable lever, but there's nothing wrong with say putting a screwdriver in the end to extend that lever...if the thread isn't defective, you will be able to complete that next turn or so. Most strap wrenches don't work that well on the smooth chromed surface, but you could try one of those, too, if you have one.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  8. #23
    ACO Shower Drain Sales johnfrwhipple's Avatar
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    Default Preventing leaks inside shower walls

    Quote Originally Posted by Hardt View Post
    .... Like I always say, plumbing is always the most difficult DIY projects in the home and for me anyway, it is close to rocket science!
    It is science. Plumbers go to school for this and then study in the field logging hours and hours of time on the tools.

    There is too much to learn and so much can not be learned online or by books.

    Careful you don't tighten up a plastic shower arm to much - they can split or crack so easy.

    In Canada you are required to pressure test these bathroom set ups before the walls get covered with board and tile. Leaks show themselves quickly under 200 pounds of pressure. I would never skip this step and require any plumber to do this test - required by local code or not. I understand parts of the US follow this same procedure.

    A plumber might comeback and fix a leaking fitting but if you have a leak and the leak is the result of a failed connection or fitting. Who pays for all the damage? The plumber? The wholesaler who sold the part? The manufacturer of the part? Who....

    Why go there. Crank up the pressure and isolate the new work. I see all to often plumbers changing out shut offs and redoing connections because the work crapped out under a 200psi pressure test. Happens all the time - it's why these tests are required in Canada and parts of the US. JW


    jfrwhipple@gmail.com - www-no-curb.com - 604 506 6792

    Always get construction advice double checked by your local city hall. Flood Test Every Shower - Every Time.

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