My parents have a old home and their bathtub faucets started leaking a while back. Unfortunately my dad had someone change the handles and it just made things worse. I'm pretty sure the handles aren't the proper ones. The stem seems wrong.

The water will turn on with the handles but the water pressure is low and the shower won't work. No one can seem to find the old handles and valves.

How could I go about finding out what is the right handle/valve combo when I have nothing to work with? I would have to remove the tile wall to replace the whole thing.

  • 2
    Handles don't affect water flow. That's all in the valve cartridges or other mechanism. That said, I'm not sure what you want from us. You haven't provided brand, model, or photos. The only answer I can give is "take it apart and see". Please update to provide more detail. You don't have "nothing" to work with. You have some hardware. That's all anyone ever has.
    – isherwood
    Jan 19, 2023 at 22:12
  • 2
    There almost has to be some kind of access panel or such on the back side of the plumbing wall. Especially in an old home. If not, consider making one on the opposite side to save the tiles.
    – gnicko
    Jan 20, 2023 at 0:07
  • When you say, "No one can seem to find the old handles and valves" are you referring to the actual parts that were removed or are you referring to attempting to find replacement parts at the store. If the latter, try an actual plumbing supply store, not a big-box or generic hardware store. The plumbing supply place will have much more stock and knowledge.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 20, 2023 at 13:46
  • "I would have to remove the tile wall to replace the whole thing." That's perfectly normal. Usually the other side of the wall (not the one in the shower itself) is the better side to open up for access, if not retiling the shower. Even if both sides are tiled... When you put it back together, use an access panel rather than repeating the mistakes of the past.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jan 20, 2023 at 16:07
  • @isherwood I'm not sure I agree with telling people that "handles don't affect water flow". Especially when, like Ruskes states in their answer below, the handle that manipulates the valve cartridge is stripped out, or does not fit correctly, then turning the handle will not operate the valve cartridge and will most certainly affect the flow, literally. In this case it is not the valve cartridge that is faulty or that needs to be replaced it is the handles but correct ones. User161800 can not find those original handles so is trying to find out how to know the correct ones to buy.
    – SOHR
    Jan 20, 2023 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


If there is not enough water pressure to force the water up and out the shower head it will not work.

Check and see if you have pressure at other water outlets such as the bathroom sink. If you do you might have a leak going on behind the wall that you can not see when you turn on the faucet. If the house is elevated you could look underneath it and see if you can see water collecting under the bathtub area.

You most likely cannot get replacement handles due to the age of the fixture hence why the person doing the repair used different ones than what was originally on there.

Before removing the tile wall make sure there is no possible way to access the plumbing from the backside of the wall in another room or from the outside if it is against an exterior wall.

Hope this helps! Good luck!


Remove the valve handles and operate the valves using a pair of pliers.

If it works now, then you are right with the wrong handles.

Depending on the design, they slip over the rectangular piece of the valve shaft. Measure the size of both squares and compare. However, if there is a plastic insert in the handle, then maybe the plastic is worn out.

  • I agree! It is also possible that the valves might be able to be changed out with newer ones and then new handles would fit. It sounds like they went bad and causing leaks.
    – SOHR
    Jan 20, 2023 at 18:58

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