single handle versus two handle faucets for your shower

Bathroom Repairs: Single Handle Versus Two Handle Faucets For Your Shower

It’s no secret that showers see a lot of action. Day in and day out, they provide us with a refreshing start in the morning, a soothing escape after a long day, or a revitalizing break after intense workouts.

However, with frequent use comes the inevitable wear and tear, leading to the need for periodic repairs to keep everything running smoothly. Because of this, shower repair jobs are one of the most common jobs Rescue Plumbing handles.

These intricate devices, hidden away behind the scenes, play a pivotal role in controlling water flow and temperature.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything about shower valves, including the difference between single-handle and two-handle faucet systems, how the important pieces inside the handles work, and what you can replace without the help of a plumber. This way, your shower keeps being your go-to spot for a great escape, every single time.

Key Takeaways

  • Single-handle shower faucets are known for their safety, ease of use, and sleek design, integrating both water flow and temperature control in one handle, while two-handle faucets provide separate controls for temperature adjustment but come with a higher risk of sudden temperature changes.
  • Shower valve systems, whether two-handle or modern single-handle, are designed for easy maintenance and repair with replaceable internal components, supporting cost-effective longevity and efficiency in home water systems.
  • We encourage DIY repairs for shower handles with internal shut-off valves but note the need for professional intervention when these valves malfunction, often requiring building-wide water shutdowns for repairs in older condos.

Historical Overview of Shower Systems

The evolution of shower designs from the 1980s to modern times reflects significant advancements in convenience and safety. Initially, shower systems were characterized by their two-handled approach—separate handles for hot and cold water. Users had to manually adjust these two handles to achieve their desired temperature.

two handles in bathroom shower

However, modern showers have been streamlined to incorporate both temperature and flow control into a single handle. This innovation simplifies the process of finding the perfect water temperature, making it significantly easier for users to adjust according to their preferences.

While they provide convenience for finding the perfect water temperature, these contemporary designs are equipped with improved safety features. These include mechanisms to prevent scalding temperatures and to avoid the shock of sudden coldness, enhancing the overall showering experience by making it safer and more enjoyable.

Understanding Shower Valve System Parts

Both valve systems, regardless of the type you choose, contain internal components that will require replacement over time. This is a common aspect of valve maintenance that users should be aware of.

With regular use, these parts can wear out or become damaged, meaning they need to be replaced to ensure the valve continues to function effectively and efficiently.

Luckily, both shower valve systems are made to come apart. This design choice makes for easier maintenance and repair, allowing worn or damaged parts to be easily replaced without the need for a complete system replacement.

It also enables plumbers and homeowners with a bit of DIY experience to perform repairs and maintenance, potentially saving on costs and extending the life of the shower system.

Detailed Look at Double Handle Faucet Systems

Two-handle systems, which you often see in houses, have a specific part called a stem.

This crucial piece is positioned directly behind the handle and is designed to be easily removed whenever repairs or replacements are needed.

stem piece used to adjust hot and cold water

While this traditional system is a popular choice, there are some drawbacks. Some common issues with having two handles include:

  • Fluctuating water temperature, which may require adjustments or replacements of specific parts like the stems, seats, and washers.
  • Faucet handles that are hard to turn or stuck, may result from mineral deposits or corrosion within the faucet. Soaking parts in a vinegar solution or PDQ Rust Remover can help resolve this.

Although modern single-handle systems remain a top choice for shower handles, two-handle systems remain widespread. Knowing how to repair and replace these systems is essential. Our team specializes in the intricacies of two-handle systems, ensuring we can efficiently address any issues and keep your system running smoothly.

two handles for shower system on countertop

Whether it’s routine maintenance or more complex repairs, our knowledge and experience make us your go-to experts for all two-handled faucet needs!

Pros and Cons of a Single Handle Faucet Design

Single-handle faucets, with their compact and modern design, offer several advantages. Some of those advantages include:

  • A pressure balancing valve that adjusts water volume and temperature simultaneously with one handle,
  • A sleek and streamlined appearance with bronze or gold knobs which contributes to a modern and minimalistic aesthetic in the bathroom,
  • Provides the same purpose of adjusting hot and cold water temperature and flow with just one hand, making these faucets particularly safe and user-friendly, and
  • Are environmentally friendly after the Obama Administration enforced water-efficient valve systems to have small openings that conserve water in 2013.
single handle shower system in bathroom

However, the convenience of a single lever does have one main disadvantage. This type of one-piece system is more susceptible to damage from debris due to its modern design and smaller openings. Having small openings leads to more frequent repairs compared to double-handle systems. Some of the common issues that may arise with single-handle faucets include:

  • Leaks develop due to worn-out seals or gaskets
  • Worn-out cartridges and valve stems that will need to be replaced
  • Debris getting stuck in the water openings and causing it to malfunction
single hole in small valve clogged from debris

These issues can be frustrating and may require professional assistance to fix. It’s important to consider these potential drawbacks before choosing a single-handle faucet for your bathroom or kitchen.

While regular maintenance can address these issues, it’s an aspect worth considering when deciding between a single-handle and double-handle faucet.

Converting to Modern Single-Handle Faucet Systems

Recently, there’s been a noticeable trend where many homes or apartment buildings are shifting from double-handle faucets to one-handle systems for water flow and temperature control. This transition, however, doesn’t involve replacing the old metal pipes that are integral to the system, which connect the water to the valve.

The traditional two-handle systems feature significantly larger openings in their valves, allowing for a more substantial water flow and small debris to pass through compared to the modern one-handle design, which has smaller single holes for water flow.

In our experience servicing various old condominium buildings in Chicago, there’s a growing requirement for showers to be upgraded to the one-handle system. This mandate is primarily for safety reasons, aiming to prevent scalding.

Switching to a one-handle system is all about making our water systems at home safer and more efficient.

Easy Repairs for Single-Handle Faucets

Modern single-handled shower valve systems feature a component known as a cartridge, similar to double-handle faucet systems. These systems in the single-hole faucet are designed with shut-off valves located adjacent to the shower valve, enabling you to cut the water supply to just the shower instead of the entire property when making repairs.

shower cartridge installed in bathroom

Faucet manufacturers are aware that cartridges may require maintenance, hence why the design allows for easy access and servicing, facilitating shower repairs.

These parts can become worn out over time and require a quick and easy replacement to keep your shower functioning effectively.

DIY Repairs For Each Faucet Type

At Rescue Plumbing, we firmly believe that with the right knowledge, anyone can repair their shower handle faucets, especially if it includes an internal shut-off valve. This ability allows homeowner to manage minor repairs on their own, without the need for professional help.

However, complications arise when the shut-off valves themselves are malfunctioning. In such cases, it becomes necessary for a plumber to turn off the water supply to the entire system before we can proceed with servicing the shower handle. This step ensures safety and prevents any potential water damage during the repair process.

shower repair in condo bathroom

A common issue we encounter at Rescue Plumbing involves faulty shower valves within older condominium buildings. Often, when called upon to address these problems, we find the existing shut-off valves are broken, preventing us from isolating the water supply to just the shower unit in need of repair.

As a result, we must coordinate with the building’s management to schedule a temporary water shutdown for the entire building.

This allows us to not only repair the immediate problem but also to install new shut-off valves. That way, we can fix things spot-by-spot, so we don’t have to turn off the water for the whole building and cause a hassle.

Visit The Faucet Shoppe in Chicago for Shower Parts

If you’re interested in repairing your shower and have working shut-off valves, visiting the Faucet Shoppe might be your next step. This store is your go-to for all the necessary parts for your shower handle, ensuring you have everything you need for a seamless repair.

chicago repair shop

For those in Chicago looking to find an extensive stock of shower parts, Adam at the Faucet Shoppe has you covered. He’s known for his comprehensive inventory and is the person to seek out for any specific part you might need.

The Faucet Shoppe stands out as one of the few remaining hardware stores in the city that not only knows their trade but is also eager to assist customers in their DIY repair endeavours. Whether you’re in search of a quality faucet or the right parts to fix your shower, the Faucet Shoppe is highly recommended for its expert advice and wide range of products.

Should you decide to visit, tell them Ben from Rescue Plumbing sent you!

Shower Repairs Near You!

At Rescue Plumbing, shower valve repairs are our most frequent service calls, showcasing our expertise in handling common plumbing issues. However, our services extend beyond valve repairs; we successfully repair a variety of shower malfunctions. From repairing leaks in the shower base to unclogging shower drains, and addressing leaks in both shower heads and shower arms, our team is equipped to tackle any shower repair issue, including drain leaks.

We understand that shower issues can range widely, and we’re prepared to address each one with the same level of professionalism and skill. If you’re facing any shower repair needs, Rescue Plumbing is your go-to solution.

If you’re interested in purifying your shower water, we highly recommend checking out our shower filter installation video showing a step-by-step tutorial on how to install a filter.

Before you install, check out our blog post on the significance of filtering your shower water. It’s full of helpful insights and reasons to consider adding a shower filter to your setup.

By contacting us, you’ll be connected with a licensed plumber who will provide you with a detailed quote for the necessary repairs, ensuring your shower is back to optimal functioning in no time.


Whether it’s tackling a simple cartridge replacement in a single-handle shower system or handling more complex repairs in older condominium buildings, Rescue Plumbing is equipped to address a wide range of shower repair needs.

With our commitment to providing accessible DIY advice, partnerships with local suppliers like the Faucet Shoppe, and the expertise to handle any plumbing challenge, we strive to ensure every shower operates safely and efficiently.

Remember, keeping your shower in top condition not only enhances your daily routine but also prevents future problems, making it a worthwhile investment in your home’s overall comfort and functionality.


Single-handle faucets offer safety features, and a modern aesthetic, while also providing the convenience of adjusting water temperature and flow with just one hand. They are known for their versatility and ease of use.

Double-handle faucets offer precise temperature control by providing separate adjustments for hot and cold handles. This allows for more accurate and comfortable water temperature settings.

Professional help is important when converting from two-handle faucets to a single-handle system because plumbers can handle the complex process effectively, reducing the risk of leaks and floods.

Single-handle faucets are more prone to damage from debris, requiring more frequent repairs, while double-handle faucets have more parts, making issue identification and repair more complicated.

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