Essential Features for all Shower Valve Types

Whether you’re designing, remodeling, or dealing with an unexpected shower valve replacement, we want you to know the ins and outs of the most important features for all shower valve types. These are the features that will take your shower to the next level while saving you time, money and headaches – both now and in the future!

We’ll cover everything from material quality to ease of maintenance, but first let’s start with a brief overview of the two main shower valve types (plus one supplemental valve to keep in mind if you prefer your showers on the adventurous side):

Types of Shower Valves

All Metal Shower Valve and Trim Set from HammerHead Showers

You can think of shower valves as the heart of the shower – they control the volume and the temperature of the water coming out of the tub spout and various sprays (including the shower head). This hardware can make a major difference in the quality of your shower experience, but only if you know which valve you need and what to look for.

Pressure Balancing Shower Valve 

A pressure balancing shower valve keeps the ratio of hot to cold water the same, regardless of what other water-using appliances you are running in the home. You might recall a time when you braced yourself for super hot water if you heard the toilet flush while you were showering – that sudden temperature change was due to cold water being pulled away from the shower for the toilet, but the amount of hot water stayed the same…ouch. 

Pressure balancing shower valves can sense that drop in cold water and immediately adjust the hot water to keep the temperature from fluctuating. Plumbing codes now require pressure balancing shower valves, also called anti-scalding valves, but you can still find mixer shower valves that are not anti-scalding in some older homes.

Thermostatic Shower Valve

Thermostatic Shower Valves will also keep a consistent water temperature, but instead of a cartridge with a spool, they use a thermostat. These valves are precise down to one degree of variance from your desired temperature. They are usually necessary for showers with more than two shower heads or sprays because their water inlets are ¾” (pressure balancing shower valves are typically ½”) and allow more water to pass through to all the sprays. 

Thermostatic shower valves have super convenient features like volume control and temperature memory, but are very pricey. The good news is that you can now enjoy these same features with the right pressure balancing shower valve for a fraction of the cost! 

Diverter Shower Valve

The two previous valves are considered “main” or “rough-in” valves – they are necessary for the shower to function and installed inside of the wall as part of the main pipes and components of the plumbing system. Diverter shower valves are optional and installed just above the main valve, or externally on the shower arm, if you are wanting to divert the water to multiple shower heads or body sprays.

All metal 3 way diverter shower valve from HammerHead Showers
All Metal 3 way diverter shower valve from HammerHead Showers

Pro Tip: Always opt for a 3-way diverter rather than a 2-way. This allows you to run both shower heads at one time in addition to using them separately. Tip #2, this setup requires shower heads that will continue delivering enough water even when they are used together, or you will notice a serious drop in water pressure. With a powerful 2.5 GPM flow rate and pressurizing nozzles, this collection has been specially designed to do just that:


If you're wanting an in-depth look at navigating the specific differences between these 3 shower valve types, and common pitfalls to avoid when shopping for one, check out our article here.

Must-have features for all shower valve types

You might not be interested in touch pads or car-wash style body sprays, but the list we’ve compiled has every feature you shouldn’t have to do without:

Material Quality 

All shower valves types use brass for the valve body, but where you will notice a difference is with the ‘guts’ of the valve. The cartridge and all of its components that are housed inside of the valve are strained every time you use the shower handle. On old models, especially from the national brands, you're likely to find complicated seats and springs that can easily lock up over time. 

For a durable and hassle-free solution to common cartridge issues, there's no option that is more efficient than a state of the art ceramic disk cartridge. These cartridges are one piece, and the ceramic disks self clean each time the handle is turned – ensuring smooth and leak-free operation for the long term. 

Volume Control and temperature lock on the handle

Since water volume control capability has typically only been available on very high-end thermostatic shower valves, many people are not aware of the benefits. Being able to enjoy your ideal temperature at any level of water flow can result in huge savings on your water bill and more comfortable showers for every member of the household: turn water volume down for kids, pets, or older people in the home – or finally shave your legs without the soap washing away too soon! 

Volume control and temperature memory on shower valve and trim set from HammerHead Showers

Temperature memory is another feature you weren't likely to see unless you planned to pay a couple hundred dollars. This feature makes the difference between turning the shower on at full blast and freezing, followed by the familiar “hand in, hand out” until the water reaches your desired temperature, vs lifting the handle and getting in immediately because your preferences have been saved from the previous shower.

Built-in service stops

Service stops, also known as check stops, allow you to make repairs or change the cartridge without needing to turn off water to the entire home. They are positioned perpendicularly to the pipe, and with a simple turn of a screwdriver they can completely stop water flow to the shower valve.

This is a crucial feature if you live in a condo or an apartment so that shower valve replacement or repair won’t affect anyone else in the building. And if you live in a single family home, shower valve repair day is much less of a hassle when you can still run that load of laundry or dishes.

A shower cartridge that is easy to maintain and repair 

Shower cartridge replacement is a fact of owning a shower valve, so it’s best to look for a shower valve with an easily accessible cartridge that doesn’t require a special tool to remove it (yes, that’s a thing). You can maximize time between replacements by opting for a ceramic disk cartridge, which replaces the plastic or rubber you typically find with two durable ceramic disks that operate more smoothly and reduce wear on the cartridge.

Reputable brand for replacement parts and warranty

Whether you’re planning out shower valve installation for multiple showers at the same time or a shower valve replacement for only one valve in your home, it’s tempting to settle for an option that saves you money up front. But what you’re really settling for is a shower valve and trim set that: 

A) Is going to wear out faster and easier because it hasn’t been produced with high-quality materials or held to plumbing standards


B) Offers no protections or guarantees when it comes to replacement parts, both finding them and knowing you won’t be responsible for faulty or short-lived parts

A reputable brand with live customer support and a product warranty is going to save you far more time and money in the long-run. Wear and tear on shower valves is inevitable, but frustrating repairs or hard to find replacement parts don’t have to be.

Plumber/UPC Certified 

cUPC Uniform plumbing code certified bathroom plumbing fixture

While the world of certifications for bathroom plumbing fixtures deserves its own article (don’t worry, we already wrote it), the important takeaway is that proper certification is especially critical for a highly technical fixture like a shower valve. UPC stands for the Uniform Plumbing Code – the only nationally recognized standard of specifications and guidelines for the installation and inspection of plumbing systems in the US and Canada (where it’s known as the Canadian Universal Plumbing Code, or cUPC).

Products that don’t meet these criteria have the potential to cause serious harm and plumbing issues, so you will definitely want to look for a shower valve that carries this certification.

Versatile and durable trim for all design tastes

The shower trim is literally the face of your valve, and while people are quick to acknowledge its aesthetic importance, they underestimate the need for a durable trim. We’re talking decades of endurance when it comes to a shower valve (the right one, at least), and that is going to require some seriously sturdy trim materials – lightweight plastic might stick around for that long, but it will look and feel its age. A robustly heavy escutcheon plate made of brass with stainless steel screws and mounting hardware, however, is equal to the task.

Speaking of decades, here are several ways to ensure your shower valve and trim kit is an elegant focal point that maintains its value – and your home’s! – for years to come:

  • A simple, clean design that easily pairs with other fixtures 
  • Corrosion-resistant, commercial-grade finishes that will never flake or rust
  • Easy to identify and find the right replacement parts (many companies have dozens of models, so knowing the brand alone won’t be enough)

Our best-selling shower valve recommendation

Finally, there is a shower valve for people who don’t want all the bells and whistles, just the ones that matter:

All Metal Shower Valve and Trim Set from HammerHead Showers
Shop Now for All Metal Shower Valve and Trim Set from HammerHead Showers

Complete with all the features from the list above, HammerHead Showers' All Metal Shower Valve and Trim Set is the plumber's choice: easy to install and maintain, durably constructed, volume and temperature control all on the same handle, sleek trim, cUPC certified and backed by our Limited Lifetime Warranty. It's the ultimate package that's designed for every shower. 

No more scrambling to identify your valve or track down the exact series or model number. We've perfected one kit, with one design, and our easy-access cartridge guarantees that when it's time to replace the cartridge in your shower valve, you won't need any plumbing experience to get the job done:

How to replace the cartridge in your shower

Remove the trim

Using an Allen wrench, remove the set screw and pull the handle off of the stem (1). Remove the two screws (2) to remove the escutcheon plate (3).

How to replace cartridge in shower all metal shower valve and trim set

Close the shut off valves

Use a screwdriver to fully close the shut off valves by turning clockwise (4).

Remove any hardware holding the cartridge in place

Use your hand to remove the decorative nut (5), and an adjustable wrench to remove the brass nut (6). Pull the old cartridge out (7).


How to replace cartridge in shower all metal shower valve and trim set 

Flush the system

Gradually open the water supplies to flush the system for 30 seconds.

Install the new cartridge

After flushing, install the new cartridge with the alignment pins on the cartridge lined up with the holes on the valve, and ensure the cartridge is securely seated inside the valve. Thread the brass nut back on and tighten with an adjustable wrench. Hand tighten the decorative nut. 

how to replace the cartridge in your shower all metal shower valve and trim set

Open the shut off valves and reinstall the trim

With a screwdriver, slowly open the shut off valves. Reinstall the escutcheon plate and handle. 

That's it! Signs indicating it might be time to replace the cartridge in your shower valve include: leaks or drips when the water is off, the handle is difficult to turn (and getting worse), or water doesn't come on even if the handle is turned to the correct position. 

The HammerHead Showers® Difference

What started with one shower head is now our full line of shower heads and accessories – always all metal, always built to last. Our durable products are designed to make your bathroom upgrades or repairs as seamless as possible, and our live customer support team is ready to help you with any questions you have along the way.

Get your All Metal Shower Valve and Trim Set today and experience the HammerHead difference for yourself – it's the valve you've always deserved at a price that makes sense.



Can I replace a shower valve myself?

While there are plenty of resources available to guide you through the process, you will need a decent amount of plumbing knowledge and pretty extensive DIY experience to replace a shower valve yourself. 

Are shower valves universal? 

Shower valves are not universal. You will need to know the brand as well as the specific series or model number in order to find the right cartridge, trim, or other replacement parts.

How can I tell what shower valve I have?

This will be brand specific. Some potential locations to look for information include the handle, the cartridge and the escutcheon plate. Many companies provide information on their website for identifying valves based on physical characteristics, and there are numerous plumbing forums with useful information from other consumers wondering the same thing! 

Can I replace a shower cartridge myself? 

In many cases, identifying the correct cartridge to use can be the hardest part of shower cartridge replacement. Once you’ve found the right one, you should be able to access the old cartridge and install the new one without professional help (although, how difficult or easy this process will be depends on the shower valve itself). Some cartridges require a special removal tool, be sure to check for your specific cartridge.

How do I replace cartridge in shower? 

You should consult the installation instructions for your specific cartridge as the process varies greatly depending on the manufacturer. At HammerHead Showers, we keep shower cartridge replacement simple: remove the trim, close the shut off valves, pull out the old cartridge, flush the system, and install the new cartridge.

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