Plumbing Frustrations: Water Pressure Dropping in Shower

Whether it’s a sudden drop or a consistent problem, the fact remains: Without adequate water pressure, a shower goes from enjoyable to annoying. Before you can fix the problem, you need to get to the bottom of what’s causing it in the first place. To do so, start by asking two key questions:

  • Does the problem affect the whole home?
  • Is the problem limited to the shower?

Does the problem affect the whole home?

Test the other faucets, showers, bathtubs, and other plumbing fixtures in your home. If their water pressure seems fine, the problem is likely limited to the shower. But, if they also have low water pressure, you’re looking at a whole home problem. Fortunately, that’s not as serious as it sounds. Here are some causes of low water pressure throughout the house.

Main shut-off valve opened

Sometimes, the main shut-off valve isn’t opened completely following a repair job. If you recently had a plumber come out and fix a leak, repair a burst pipe, or inspect a slow drain, check your main shut-off valve to make sure it isn’t still partially closed. The main shut-off valve may be located underground near the street, or in your garage, basement, or crawlspace. If you can’t locate it, you can ask a plumber to find it for you.

Pressure regulator failure

The problem may be due to your home’s pressure regulator. Not all homes have pressure regulators, but those that do can experience low water pressure when the regulator is broken. This tends to happen suddenly, rather than gradually. Replacing a pressure regulator on your own can be complicated, as you have to make sure you use the same brand and size as the old one. It’s generally a better option to call a plumber and have them handle the replacement.

Older home

Low water pressure commonly occurs in homes that are more than 20 years old. The steel and iron pipes used in home construction decades ago are prone to becoming clogged with lime deposits that limit the flow of water. Orangeburg pipes in particular can cause low water pressure as tree roots invade the pipes. The only true and permanent fix for this is to have a plumber re-pipe your home with modern copper or PVC pipes. This is a major repair job that requires a permit, and can be very expensive. Depending on how low your water pressure is, you’ll need to determine if it’s manageable or if a full re-piping makes financial sense.

Is the problem limited to the shower?

If your shower is the only fixture experiencing low water pressure, there are a few likely causes.

Blocked showerhead

It’s no secret that Arizona has extremely hard water. Over time, showerheads can accumulate hard water mineral deposits, which restrict the flow and volume of water. Fortunately, it’s easy to remove mineral deposits from your showerhead. First, unscrew the showerhead and put it in a bowl of vinegar, allowing it to soak overnight for at least eight hours. This should soften or remove the mineral deposits significantly. If there are any left behind, scrub them away using a small brush. Reattach the showerhead and see if the flow of water has improved. If not, you can rule this out as the cause of the problem.

Hot water heater problems

If the low water pressure only affects hot water, it’s time to take a look at your hot water heater. The first thing to check is the shut-off valve. This is a fail-safe included so that you can easily turn off your water in the case of an emergency, or for maintenance and repairs. If the valve is even slightly shut, your water pressure can decrease. Check to make sure the valve is completely open—you’ll find it attached to your hot water heater.

If that doesn’t restore normal water pressure, the next step is to call a plumber. Blockages can occur within the lines that connect to your water heater, and a plumber can check to see if anything’s causing a problem.

Mineral and sediment buildup within the tank can also cause low water pressure. This is especially true in Arizona, where hard water causes much faster rates of buildup. In this case, flushing the tank may be in order. Handy homeowners can flush their water heaters on their own by following a series of simple steps and using certain tools. However, caution should be exercised as there is a danger of coming in contact with excessively hot water and surfaces during the process. If you have any doubts about flushing your water heater on your own, it’s best to contact a plumber and have them do it for you.

Step 1: Turn off gas or electricity

The first step is to turn off the power. If your water heater is electric, you can do this through the circuit breaker box. If your heater is gas-powered, you can shut off the power by turning the valve on the tank’s gas supply line.

Step 2: Turn off water supply

At the top of your water heater, you’ll find a pipe and a water shutoff valve. Use this valve to stop the flow of water into the tank.

Step 3: Wait for the water to cool off

At this point, the water in your heater is likely extremely hot. To avoid dangerous burns or scalding, it’s best to give your heater time to cool down before draining it—anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight.

Step 4: Hook up the hose

Attach one end of a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of your water heater. Place the other end into a floor drain or directly outside so the water can drain safely.

Step 5: Turn on hot water

Turn on the hot water on the nearest sink to your water heater. This will help alleviate pressure and allow the water heater tank to drain more effectively.

Step 6: Open the drain valve

After all of the above steps are completed, it’s time to open the drain valve. Once you do so, water will begin to flow out of the tank and through the connected hose. It can take up to 30 minutes to fully drain the tank, depending on how full it is.

Step 7: Turn the water back on and flush the tank

Once the water heater is fully drained, turn the water back on while leaving the drain valve open. This final flow of water will eliminate any remaining sediment buildup in the tank. Once the water appears to be running clear, turn the water back off.

Step 8: Refill the tank

Once you remove the hose and close the drain valve, you can begin refilling the tank with water. First, turn the water supply back on to refill the tank. Once the tank is full, turn the power to the water heater back on and enjoy the clean, hot water.

Leaks or obstructions in pipes

A leak in the pipes that serve your shower can cause low water pressure, along with bigger and more expensive problems. A leak hidden in the walls of your home can cause serious water damage without you even noticing it. Sometimes, you may notice water stains or puddles where they shouldn’t be, or musty odors, bubbling paint, and warping around the walls and floors. If so, call an emergency plumber before the problem gets worse.

Water pressure problems? Call Chas Roberts

When your water pressure leaves a lot to be desired, or you experience other plumbing frustrations, turn to the experts and contact Chas Roberts. You’ll experience superior service as our plumbers leave no stone unturned to make sure plumbing problems both big and small won’t wreak havoc on your home.