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I have a standard tub faucet and shower head in my main bathroom. Whenever I use the shower, something inside the wall starts to leak a little. (I don't have an access panel, so I can't see very well what's happening in the wall. Instead, there's an electrical outlet that I pop out and peer into the wall with a flashlight.) At first, I thought that the tub/shower diverter valve was leaking, but it could be a drip from higher up the shower supply pipe. I did a little "debugging" and found that:

  • When I just use the tub faucet, there's no leak. Only when I use the shower.
  • I then tried removing the shower head completely and diverting water to the shower. No leak.

I have one of those (admittedly cheap) shower heads that feeds water through a flexible hose and out of a handheld shower head that has a few jet patterns. There's an "adapter" piece that attaches to the pipe from the wall, and the hose attaches to the adapter. I also tried reattaching the adapter to the wall shower pipe (without the hose), and did not observe a leak. Only when I reattach the hose with the handheld shower head does the leak occur.

One thing I noticed while testing all this is that a lot of water comes out of the tub faucet and shower pipe. When the water flow is unhindered by the handheld shower head (i.e. when it's just the bare pipe), the volume of water seems quite high. With the handheld shower head attached, the water flow is drastically reduced.

As a layperson with no water plumbing knowledge, it seems like what's going on is that the water volume to the shower is too much and the shower head is restricting the flow so much that the back pressure is forcing water out of some loose fitting joint in the shower supply pipe in the wall.

So, now, finally, my questions:

  1. Is this an accurate assessment?
  2. What is (are) the problem(s) here and how would you recommend I fix this?
  3. Is it possible that my cheap shower head is partly to blame? Perhaps if I got a higher quality handheld shower head with a hose, then it would stop leaking? (I want to keep this style of shower head, but willing to get a better quality one if it will help.)
  4. Would it suffice to (somehow) reduce the water volume to the shower?
  5. Or should I also try to determine and "fix" whatever is failing to handle the back pressure caused by my shower head? (I would ideally like to avoid this because I don't want to cut open holes in my wall.)

Thanks in advance.

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  • Do you have tiles on the wall, if yes, go and buy some for replacement after the pipe leak is fixed
    – Traveler
    May 18, 2023 at 4:28
  • The tiny leak you have now will not fix itself, it will get worst in time. Unless you have very high(~100+ PSI) water pipes/joints should not leak. A new shower head might reduce the leak some, but it will still be there.
    – crip659
    May 18, 2023 at 10:38
  • What kind of pipe do you have? PEX, copper, CPVC?
    – Huesmann
    May 18, 2023 at 13:07
  • For whatever reason your shower head is restricting flow, you are lucky in a way that it has alerted you to a leak in the plumbing. Once you fix that, you can try to improve the shower. Some hand-held showers have a flow-restricting valve, that you operate by twisting a collar at the base of the shower head or at one end of the hose. Another possibility is some debris in the hose, like a broken rubber washer or a bit of PTFE tape. A third possibility is a highly calcified shower head .... you can SEE if that's it.
    – jay613
    May 18, 2023 at 14:37
  • Cut an aces panel then determine the source of the leak . You may need to clean out the results of the leakage. May 18, 2023 at 14:43

2 Answers 2

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Your leak is most likely at the shower arm connection to the shower riser. That is the drop elbow in the wall. You need to remove the shower arm and seal the threaded connection. Some use PFTE tape, I prefer thread sealer paste such as RectorSeal

Here is a video to help explain it: changing a shower arm

If done properly there will be no leak between the arm and the elbow at any normal pressure.

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  • My plumbing buddies (I'm a lousy plumber) tell me they use both paste and tape on the same joint. First is the paste then a couple wraps of PFTE, they say it always works like a charm. May 18, 2023 at 11:51
  • I gave this a try; I took the shower arm off and saw that the previous tape was torn and very sparsely applied. Bought some expensive tape from Home Depot and wrapped the shower arm threads nice and thick, gently screwed it back in, and it seems to have done the trick! Now taken 2 showers with no signs of dripping. Many thanks to the knowledgeable folks on this thread!
    – yoshi
    May 21, 2023 at 4:23
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It may be as simple as the overflow cover not being tight and/or sealed: enter image description here

The water during a shower can get behind it.

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  • Thanks Steve, I'm pretty sure it's not the overflow cover. I definitely see it dripping above that part of the tub.
    – yoshi
    May 19, 2023 at 15:39

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