Universal Approach Could Make Tub/Shower Valve Choices A Whole Lot Easier

By Scott Siddens, Senior Editor December 1, 2005

It may seem strange to someone who isn’t in the plumbing business, but it’s not uncommon for installers of tub/shower valves to put in the wrong valve—even when designers have gone to great lengths to specify the required valve type, according to Paul Patton, senior product development manager at Indianapolis-based Delta Faucet.

And there are a lot of products on the market today to be confused by. “There are many more types of shower systems on the market today—and users want to do many more things with their showers,” says Patton.

Just as an aside, Patton claims that on average, Americans spend eight minutes per day in the shower.

In addition to the all-too-common problem of the wrong valve being installed, when it’s time for a retrofit and a new type of valve is being installed, there is also the time-consuming work of going into the walls to make alterations to the concealed plumbing.

But Delta claims that it has developed the perfect solution. Patton stopped by our offices recently to spread the good word and brief us about a new universal valve: Delta’s MultiChoice product.

According to Patton, there are three basic types of tub/shower valves on the market today. All are designed with scald prevention in mind:

Single-function pressure-balanced valves use a single control for temperature. They achieve a consistent temperature by balancing the pressure of hot and cold water.

Dual-function pressure-balanced valves use two controls: One allows the user to control temperature while the other controls water volume. Generally, with this type of valve, the temperature can be set to remain consistent for each shower. Constant temperature (

Dual-function thermostatic valves maintain constant water temperature by actually measuring and monitoring the temperature of the water. It automatically adjusts the water mix to maintain a precise temperature. Moreover, it gives the user independent control of temperature and volume.

The challenge for the industry was to design a standardized universal valve that accommodates cartridges for all three types of valves. After much research and beta testing, Delta plans to offer such a product in all markets beginning in early 2006.

Patton estimates that 80% to 90% of installations using the multi-choice valve will be in the single-family residential market. But he foresees increasing popularity in the hospitality and health-care markets, given their rate of renovation.

“The hospitality industry is generally on a seven- to eight-year renovation cycle,” says Patton. “This will be good for them as well as for multifamily housing.”

He also points out that the health-care market is showing increasing interest in retrofitting to dual-function thermostatic valves. In fact, suggests Patton, it may well be that in the next few years, 15% or more of the total construction market will go to dual-function bath/shower valves. These developments should be a strong incentive for specifiers to check out these new universal valves.

Advantages of a universal valve

Lets tub/shower valves be retrofitted without changing behind-the-wall plumbing

Eliminates problems resulting from wrong valve having been installed

Reduces problem of wrong valves being shipped