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Troubleshooting Handheld Shower Heads

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A handheld showerhead is a great convenience in the shower, but it can become a nuisance if a leak forms.

Leak Locations

A shower sprayer will leak in one of three locations -- at the spray head, at the attachment point to the water supply, or along the line. Spray head leaks are usually the most noticeable because water will trickle out or even spray out crazily from everywhere but the spray nozzle. This usually results in poor or uneven water flow from the spray head itself. Leaks along the line can also be easily spotted since you will see the water either bubbling out of the line or spraying out, depending on the pressure and size of the leak.

Leaks at the attachment point can be harder to spot, depending on the spray nozzle design. If the line attaches to the water supply outside of the wall, then you may notice water bubbling or spraying out where the line connects. On the other hand, if the line attaches to the water supply inside the wall, reduced pressure from the handheld nozzle may be the only sign of a leak — that is, until water damage in the wall begins to become apparent.

Common Causes

Often a leak is caused by little more than a bad line connection, either at the spray nozzle or where the flexible line connects to the water supply. Failed gaskets or washers at these connections can also lead to leaks.

Another cause for a leak can be hard water scale buildup. Mineral scale can block water flow, especially when it comes to the small emitters on the shower nozzle itself. When water can't flow out properly, it begins to look for any outlet, which can be around the flexible line attachments at the nozzle or the water supply. Over time, scale buildup can also cause corrosion inside the flexible metal sprayer hose, which in turn causes leaks to form in the line. High water pressure from mineral scale-narrowed hoses can also lead to line leaks.

Repair Options

When the leak is caused by connection issues, the fix is simple. All that is needed is a tightening of the connection and possibly the replacement of any worn gaskets or washers.

Leaks from hard water scale can sometimes be repaired if damage like corrosion hasn't yet occurred. Limescale removers can clean up the residue, although you may need to soak the shower nozzle to remove all of the scale. If the nozzle is badly clogged, it may make more sense to replace it. Damaged flexible shower lines will also require replacement.

Contact a residential plumbing service for more help with your shower leaks.