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I have stayed in hotels on a few occasions where the shower is controlled by two knobs (hot/cold), and one of them turns backwards (clockwise for "on", counter-clockwise for "off").

Now I've moved into a new house, and the shower there also has one knob backwards.

My question is: How is this even possible?? The valves I've seen in the hardware store come in one direction, and I've seen no way to mess them up, even if you install them upside down, turn them around, etc...

Apparently it is a relatively easy and common mistake, but I don't understand how it happens.

When I go to install shower valves myself, what should I do to avoid this mistake?

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It's not "backwards" or a "mistake" at all - it's perfectly standard for dual (separate hot/cold control) faucets. In a sink deployment, you pull the outside (away from the faucet) of the handle forward to open, and push it back to close - that requires the hot and cold to close in "different directions" from a clock-wise perspective - which is perfectly natural from a "handedness" direction since the right hand works the cold faucet and the left works the hot one (in the standard arrangement.)

To avoid this standard arrangement, look for one of the minority of companies that thinks all valves should be righty-tighty and buy one of those (there are a few - they seem backward in this application to me.) Or skip the whole business and get a single-handle control.

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    Also, when the cold water handle is 'backwards', turning either handle counterclockwise will result in warmer water, and turning either handle clockwise will result in colder water. – Aric TenEyck Apr 17 '15 at 15:12
  • I suppose that is a good way to view it; however, the way my brain works, I prefer to think of each valve opening or closing more, and for clockwise to always be closing. – abelenky Apr 17 '15 at 15:19
  • I learned a while back that one is European, both turn opposite, and the other is American, both the same direction. It might be the other way around???? – Jack Apr 17 '15 at 19:53
  • If they all turn in the same direction on disc valve cartridge type faucets, usually you're buying a cheap knockoff fixture where the manufacturer couldn't be bothered to pay attention to detail. – Fiasco Labs Aug 11 '15 at 15:15
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On the shelf at the renovation store of your choice you should find a variety of replacement parts for faucets. Some valves open clockwise- some open counterclockwise . Some early plumbing was the style of the United Kingdom / Britain where water came in Cold and Hot - and some plumbing is simply Hot and Cold. Thus there was a need to have replacement valves that worked each way. The configuration is a matter of choice - and who taught the manufacturer which way is "backward". If you buy two parts with the same number chances are they are going to open the same way - which may not be the configuration you are looking for. Hint: if you grew up with and got used to one configuration - it may be a habit that needs attention. There are some single handle faucets that seem strange to me , in the way they are configured to handle the balance between hot an cold / or // cold and hot.

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