If the knob to your shower breaks, you may find yourself scrambling to turn it off in a hurry. Leaving the water running in your shower poses a serious risk for flooding and drives up your water bill. Fortunately, with some basic plumbing know-how, you should be able to shut the water off at the main valve to the house or through an access panel to the shower and then proceed to fix the knob.
To shut your water off if the shower knob is broken, locate the closest available shutoff. Alternatively, you can turn water off at the main entry valve while you determine where the closest shutoff is.
Important Plumbing Considerations
Though performing your own plumbing work is arguably not always dangerous, it can pose risks to both your safety and that of your property. Cutting pipe or welding can be dangerous if you aren't trained, and the lack of personal protective equipment may put you at greater risk for injury. Furthermore, attempting your own plumbing repairs can lead to burst pipes, leaks and other issues that can damage your home.
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Before attempting a plumbing project, especially if you haven't been trained in this sort of work, you should contact a plumber for assistance. A professional can likely get the job done quicker and even at a lower cost since they won't make mistakes that a DIY-er might.
If you do decide to proceed, only take on tasks you fully understand. Be sure all source water is turned off before attempting to disconnect faucets or shower knobs, and check back in on your repairs frequently in the days that follow to verify that nothing is leaking.
Shutting Off Water to Showers
If your shower is leaking a great deal and you're not quite sure how to fix it or where the first shutoff down the line is, you can temporarily turn the water off at the main valve for your house. WSSC Water explains it's usually located near the front foundation wall. The valve will either be an older-style handle that turns clockwise to shut off or a newer-style long-handled shutoff that also turns to the right, perpendicular to the pipe.
Be sure the valve is fully tightened in the off position before you proceed. You shouldn't need any tools for this part — just turn the valve manually. This will allow you the time to gather any necessary tools and identify where the shower's specific shutoff is.
To address the issue with your shower knob, use either a flat-head or Phillips-head screwdriver (whichever matches the screw in the knob) to pull the knob assembly off the water valve. From there, you can use pliers to turn the valve stem counterclockwise. Once you feel resistance, continue turning until you can no longer move the valve stem. At this point, your shower's water supply has likely been turned off.
To be extra sure, look for the valve in the plumbing supply lines directly behind your shower. These may be located behind a panel accessible on the other side of the wall, but most homes do have access. There will be two pipes entering your shower: one for hot water and one for cold water. Both should have a valve that can be turned manually, much like the main shutoff to the house. Turning the water off here will also protect you while you deal with replacing the shower knob.
Replacing the Shower Knob
Your local home improvement or hardware store should have a replacement shower knob that works for your particular shower. Bring the old part with you when you shop and ask for help choosing a compatible piece if you're not quite sure. Knowing the brand and finish you want for your new shower knob is important too.
Once you get the new shower knob home, follow the manufacturer's instructions to install it. Then, turn the water back on at all the junctions where you previously turned it off.