Hooking up a shower or tub faucet isn't as difficult as you might think. So long as you're comfortable with accurately measuring, drilling, and working with copper pipe, this project is well within reach. We broke the installation process down into easy-to-follow steps for optimal ease. Expect to spend at least half a day installing a shower or bathtub faucet.
Before you begin, you'll want to install separate 3/4-inch lines to supply the shower. This extra step ensures good water pressure and protects the bather from temperature changes when another faucet is turned on or the toilet tank refills. You'll want to tap into the cold and hot water lines as close to the water heater as possible. If needed, move a stud to make room for the plumbing behind the tub.
You'll also want to choose the tub or shower faucet you're going to install. Follow the manufacturer's directions for plumbing the faucet. And, if your faucet does not have integrated shutoff valves, install shutoff valves in the lines to the valve. For optimal comfort, position the faucet about 28 inches above the floor for a tub, and about 48 inches for a shower.
Most faucets come with a plastic cover that protects the faucet and serves as a guide for the depth at which it must be set. To determine where to place the braces, consider the total thickness of the finished wall—often 1/2-inch-thick backerboard plus 1/4-inch-thick tiles.
If you have other faucet setups, such as a three-handle faucet, it may require that supply pipes be spread farther apart than for a single-handle faucet. Threaded adapters screw in for the supplies, spout, or shower arm. A faucet with integral shutoffs comes with a large escutcheon (cover plate) so you can more easily reach the shutoff valves.
Determine how high you want to locate the spout (make sure it will clear the tub), faucet handles, and showerhead. Install a 2x6 brace for each. Anchor the braces with screws rather than nails so it's easier to move them if they need adjustment.
Assemble all the pipes in a dry run. Install 3/4-inch pipe up to the height of the faucet, add reducer couplings or elbows, and run short lengths of 1/2-inch pipe to the threaded adapters on the faucet. Add hammer arresters. Anchor the faucet according to manufacturer's directions.
Once you are sure of the connections, sweat all the fittings. Start at the faucet, then move on to the shower arm and spout connections. Run 1/2-inch pipe up to the shower arm and down to the spout; attach drop-ear elbows at both spots.
Finger-tighten a threaded nipple—either brass or galvanized—into both drop-ear elbows. Once the wallcovering is in place, remove them and install the shower arm and tub spout.
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