You stand under the shower and the pressure feels weak. Is there a way to fix low shower water pressure? Corroded water pipes may be the ultimate culprit. But there might be any number of other causes that are easier to address than ripping out all of the pipes in your house.
Do You Have Low Water Pressure?
Before you take any drastic measures, first determine if you really do have low shower water pressure. Conduct this simple test to measure water pressure gallons per minute (GPM). It is simple... and cheap. Besides a clock, all you need is a five-gallon bucket.
- Unscrew the shower head by hand. This will allow a steady stream of water to enter the bucket, avoiding waste and giving you a more accurate reading. If the shower head does not yield by hand, place a towel over the sleeve section and loosen with a wrench.
- Turn on the water to full capacity. Let it run for about a minute.
- Place the bucket under the water flow.
- Time how long it takes to fill the bucket. Start the clock as soon as water hits the bottom of the bucket and stop the clock the instant water begins to overflow the bucket.
- Convert minutes to seconds. Example: 10 minutes to fill the bucket would equal 600 seconds.
- Divide that number by five. Example: 600 divided by five equals 120 seconds (or two minutes). Two minutes to fill one gallon means that your shower has a rate of 0.5 GPM.
The range of water volume flows you may experience:
- 1.5 GPM: A shower head with flow restriction device has been installed and is working properly.
- 2 GPM: This is the current U.S. Federal WaterSense standard.
- 2.5 GPM: This is the previous U.S. standard, developed in 1992.
- 5 GPM: This is the regular shower head water flow rate prior to 1980.
01 of 06
Replace Your Water-Restricting Showerhead
Before you change this out, make sure that it is legal in your area. In California, for instance, shower head flows have been narrowing for decades, due to that state's on-going drought problems. Shower heads first went from 2.5 GPM to 2.0 GPM, and then to 1.5 GPM.
02 of 06
Clean Out Sediment
Over time, mineral deposits and scale clog up your shower head. This is not a matter of "if" but "when," since all water (unless distilled water in containers you purchase at the store) carries minerals.
Unscrew the shower head and let it soak in a bowl of vinegar for at least eight hours. Press out remaining particles with a toothpick.
If the deposits will not remove easily, then it is time to buy a new shower head.
03 of 06
Increase Volume at Curb-side Main
In some cases, you may have been living with low water pressure in your entire house because the curb-side main is not fully turned on. It may have been turned off due to major construction on the home and then not fully turned back on.
Where your water main enters your property at curbside is a water meter and shut-off valve. Check to make sure that the valve is turned all the way on (counter clock-wise).
Usually, you are not allowed to tamper with curb-site meters, so call your water provider... if you need to deal with the meter itself. They will send out a worker to check on this for you.
04 of 06
Increase Volume on Water Main Where It Enters House
A more likely way that a previous homeowner or worker has reduced your water pressure is by turning down the water main value as it enters your house.
There are two shut-off values along the main water supply line. This is one that you can turn on and off by yourself.
There may be any number of reasons for this. If the previous owners were renting out the house, they may have turned down the volume in an attempt to force the residents to use less water. Or, as with the curb-side main, it may have... been turned off due to a water leak or construction, but accidentally not turned all the way back on.
Carefully turn counter-clockwise. This valve may be corroded and rusty. In the event of a ball value (the kind with a knife-blade style handle), make sure that it is turned as far counter-clockwise as possible.
If any part of the pipe near the valve looks so corroded that it might break, call a plumber. You risk snapping the pipe and flooding the house until you or someone else can shut off the curb-side main.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05 of 06
Another item that influences your shower's water pressure is the volume valve system for single control showers.
This is a rather pricey and complicated part that, over time, may compromise your water flow. Difficult to repair, replacement is usually your best option.
06 of 06
Open Up In-Line Shut-Off Valves
You have already checked and fully opened up both main water supply valves. But did you know that you may have other shut off valves?
Some homes have an in-line shut-off valve. These valves are on individual branch pipe lines and they act as emergency stops. They are convenient if you are doing work on a local area (shower, toilet, sink, etc.) and do not wish to shut off water in the entire home.
These shut-off valves would be located near the supply point. For a shower that has supply pipes in... the basement, this shut-off would be located on the pipes leading up to the shower.
Turn the valve counter-clockwise for full pressure.