So, you’re faced with one of the most irritating bathroom jobs going – your shower has failed, leaving a queue out the bathroom door every morning of people needing to use it urgently. What should you do?
Your very first move is to check the guarantee. Most showers have a manufacturers’ guarantee of two years, since this is the time they reckon this heavily-used household item will hold out for. If it’s broken within that time, follow the instructions for claiming. If not, there are a few simple steps you can take to try sort it out before calling the plumber.
If you live in a hard-water area you will already know that limescale and showers are sworn enemies. Check the head to see if it is blocked by this pestilential stuff – it can cause a multitude of problems, including temperature fluctuations and poor flow that causes the shower to overheat and switch itself off. Special limescale-removing products or good old-fashioned white vinegar, preferably heated to near boiling point in a kettle, are your friends here. Or just replace the head entirely, using a basic hard plastic one rather than one with rubber and moving parts that will be scaled up again in no time.
If the head is clear check the hose has no twists or blockages. You might also want to have a look at your electrical consumer unit to make sure a switch hasn’t tripped – although, if it has, do not pursue business as usual as there will be a reason that needs investigation. However, once you’ve ruled out these common causes of problems, the difficulty is probably inside the case, such as a failed heating element, a failed pump or limescale damage serious enough to wreck the shower. And this is where things get tricky.
Inside the box
First you need to know the definitions of the different kind of showers on the market. In a box on the wall sits an electric shower. Fed from the same source as your bath taps, or otherwise relying on plumbing and water pressure, is a mixer shower. You will also need to have a fair idea what kind of water pressure you enjoy in your house when sourcing a shower replacement – consulting the documentation on the old one can be a good way to find out what the requirements are. DIY retailer B&Q has some advice on this topic here.
With an electric shower, do not try to fix it unless you are confident of your ability to tackle the job. There are now strict rules governing the extent to which householders can undertake electrical work in their homes and you should take notice of them or risk problems when you try to sell your house. Fitting a replacement shower where you are able to utilise existing pipes and wiring is probably on the right side of the regulations – but, if you are in any doubt, or if any work ‘behind the wall’ is required, call in a plumber with the correct electrical certifications to do it for you.
When mending a shower it is usually not cost-effective to try to fix individual components – rather you should look for a replacement with the same entry points for power and water as the one you already have and enjoy a renewed two-year guarantee period. Finding a replacement is not as hard as you may think since many modern showers are manufactured specifically with ease of replacement in mind. A good place to start is with the manufacturer of your existing shower. Do they offer a model with similar specifications that can easily be substituted for your existing one?
If fitting a new one is the answer, the unit will come with detailed instructions, including the relevant wiring and plumbing diagrams. If these don’t make immediate sense to you then that is an indication that you need to call in a plumber rather than tackling it yourself. The main tasks involved in the job will be fitting the new unit to the wall and attaching the water and power supplies after isolating both in advance, then testing everything to ensure it is functioning correctly and making good any cosmetic problems caused by the work. For an overview of the whole process we suggest consulting the shower section of DIYnot.com’s how-to plumbing guide – you can find it by scrolling down the page to the shower heading. Homebuilding and Renovating magazine also has a useful step-by-step guide on its website.
A helping hand
Another great source of advice is often on hand from the retailer. Many big DIY chains produce a range of information leaflets with detailed instructions for carrying out common household jobs. We recommend taking a look at the Wickes Good Ideas leaflet on fitting its range of electric showers, which you can find here. It will give you an idea of the scope of the job and whether or not it is within your capabilities to tackle it. We can’t say this often enough, if in any doubt at all, phone the plumber!
Screwfix maintains a YouTube TV channel where it has videos featuring many of its best-selling products, including several showers. This is a great way to get information on a particular unit and whether it is suitable to replace the one you currently have.
And finally, if it’s a shower cubicle you need to install, this guide from Homebase has the information you need.