First, to steer in the right direction, we’ll help you determine if it’s really low water pressure that you’re dealing with.
Occasionally, it can be a volume-flow problem or corroded water pipes.
Perhaps the valves are not opened all the way, which is restricting the flow through the house. When you’re on the clock with shampoo that doesn’t seem to rinse off, a trickling shower doesn’t do any favor.
That’s exactly why we’ve put together this thorough guide to make your wimpy water pressure a thing of the past!
Table of Contents
- 1 How Low is the Water Pressure in Your House?
- 2 So How do You Increase Water Flow in the Shower?
- 2.1 1. Clean the Shower Head
- 2.2 2. Remove the Flow Restrictor
- 2.3 3. Open the Shower Faucet
- 2.4 4. Open the Pressure Reducing Shower Valve
- 2.5 5. Open the Water Heater’s Shut-off Valve
- 2.6 6. Flush the Hot Water Heater
- 2.7 7. Looking for Kinks or Leaks in the Water Hose
- 2.8 8. Check the Main Shut-off Valve
- 2.9 9. Check the Curb-Side Shut-off at the Water Meter
- 2.10 10. Adjust the Pressure Regulator Valve
- 2.11 11. Upgrade to a Pressure-Soaring Showerhead
- 2.12 12. Check for Leaks
- 2.13 13. Call a Professional for Further Investigation
- 2.14 14. Install a Pressure Booster Pump
- 2.15 15. Isolate Showering at Off-peak Hours
- 3 Final Word
How Low is the Water Pressure in Your House?
Before you head to the shower, test the water pressure in your house. You’ll need a water pressure gauge, which can be bought online or at the nearest hardware center.
First, determine how much PSI you should be getting by looking online specifically for your area.
- To successfully perform this test, shut off any fixtures in the house and deactivate appliances that run on water.
- Attach the gauge to your house valve outlet where the main water line enters your home, typically in the basement or an outside spigot.
- Then screw the gauge onto the outlet and ensure the nearby shut-off valves are fully opened before turning on the water.
Generally, if you’re getting a reading between 40 and 60 PSI, then more than likely, the problem isn’t inside your home.
With a relatively new, cleaned shower head and decent pressure at the water spigot, there might be something wrong with either the shower cartridge or the pressure balance valve that’s inside the shower faucet.
To provide better water pressure, you might need to check with the local water department or seek alternative solutions. You might also want to check with your neighbors. If they’re experiencing the same issue, it’s the city to be blamed.
Unfortunately, if the municipal provider doesn’t address the problem, it leaves you installing a pressure booster pump as a last resort.
So How do You Increase Water Flow in the Shower?
There’s a list of troubleshooting steps you can try to address the issue and take advantage of what’s within your control.
Keep in mind that low water pressure from all the taps signifies a plumbing issue rather than a shower issue.
If that’s not the case, you can fix your dribbly shower without the expense of a plumber, so follow through as we work through a list of methods.
1. Clean the Shower Head
Without regular maintenance over time, your showerhead will start to clog from mineral deposits and scale buildup, resulting in a shower with low water pressure.
While this is the easiest, it’s often the most overlooked method that can solve your problem.
If you’ve had your showerhead for a while, you’ll want to start by cleaning it properly.
- To detach the showerhead from the waterline, first, you’ll need to unscrew it. Most showerheads easily detach by hand, so try to pop it off by twisting it counterclockwise.
- If you’re having a hard time extracting the showerhead by hand, protect it by wrapping a towel around the shower arm that protrudes from the wall.
- Then, secure the shower arm in place with slip-joint pliers by gripping over the towel. Work the showerhead’s base in a counterclockwise motion using a wrench until it comes off the shower arm.
- Next, submerge the showerhead in a bowl filled with vinegar. Alternatively, fill a plastic bag with vinegar and use a rubber band to secure it to the showerhead. Then immerse the showerhead in vinegar to help remove limescale.
- The vinegar helps dissolve any mineral buildup around the nozzles and inside the showerhead. You’ll want the showerhead to soak overnight, which helps soften the buildup, enabling the removal of remaining debris once you rinse the showerhead.
- Use an old toothbrush to scrub any remaining buildup from the shower nozzles. The buildup will be soft enough after being immersed in vinegar. So you’ll want to take advantage and remove any remaining mineral deposits by poking a toothpick or needle into each nozzle.
- Finally, to keep sufficient water flow, you’ll want to clean the showerhead monthly, especially if you’re dealing with water containing a high amount of minerals(hard water).
2. Remove the Flow Restrictor
If you’ve ever had low pressure, low flow, this method will really make a difference. Inside every showerhead made since 1992 is a ‘Flow Restrictor,’ which reduces the water flow and pressure, resulting in a bad experience in water conservation. This is incredibly frustrating in areas with low water pressure, making the water flow a trickle.
To restore the flow to your shower the way it was designed, you’ll need to remove the restrictor. It is relatively easy and worth the effort, and you’ll only need a pair of channel nose pliers.
- First, you’ll want to remove the showerhead from the waterline.
- Once removed, if you look inside its parts that connect to the plumbing, you’ll notice a black rubber ring. You’ll want to pull it out with a pair of needle-nose pliers. That’s a sealing washer, and you’ll want to keep it as you’ll reuse it.
- Underneath the washer is a colored plastic disk with a hole in it, the flow restrictor. Use needle-nose pliers or tweezers to grip onto it and pull it straight out.
- You’ll immediately notice how larger the opening of your showerhead is. If you want to expand it, even more, drill into the regulator to widen its gap.
- Before you reinstall the showerhead, take the rubber sealant ring and reinsert it back into the head, which will help prevent any sediment from getting to the nozzles. You can push it straight in, so it sits flat. Then you’re ready to reinstall the showerhead.
If you want to reinstall the restrictor down the road, it’s best to store it securely. But, once you remove the flow restrictor, you’ll never want to go back to a restricted shower.
Your showering experience will be amazing and totally different, but the best part is that the modification doesn’t cost you anything.
Keep in mind:
You will use more water once you modify your showerhead. But, how much water will you actually use? The answer is that it depends because you might find out with the extra water volume and pressure that you’ll take shorter showers. You’ll be able to get clean quickly and get the job done sooner. On your water bills, you might find that your water use is hardly changing at all.
3. Open the Shower Faucet
Going through a process of elimination if you’ve concluded that it’s not the showerhead after removing the flow restrictor and you’re getting enough water pressure at the water spigot.
There might be something faulty with the shower cartridge or the pressure balance valve that’s inside the shower faucet.
You’ll need to remove the faucet handle and the cover known as the escutcheon to get to that.
- To get access to the faucet’s retaining screw, pry off the covering on the handle with a thin blade if applicable. Depending on your model, you might need a hex key to get it undone.
- With the screw removed, you can pull out the faucet handle. If you’re having trouble, you’ll want to use a handle puller for this purpose. Alternatively, loosen it up by applying heat with a hairdryer.
- Then you’ll need to remove the screws from the cover, if any, or twist it off.
- After removing the cover, you’ll see the water valve, a cartridge, and set-screws on the left and right side that control the hot and cold water.
- If your water pressure is low, specifically on the hot or cold line, you’ll want to go back on the set screw in a counterclockwise motion a few times to see if that helps increase the water pressure. Look out for any water leaks.
- Inspect and look for any worn-out parts. If you need to replace them, be sure to take the parts with you to the hardware store to ensure you get a compatible size for your setup.
- Next, put the lever back in place before screwing the cover so that you can test the flow and see where you’re at.
- Hopefully successful, you’ll need to put everything back together in reverse motion, starting from the cartridge cap, then the cover, and finally the faucet’s handle.
4. Open the Pressure Reducing Shower Valve
Some homes have shut-off valves installed on the shower water line. These valves are very convenient.
With their pipelines, you can shut off the water in the shower if you don’t wish to shut off the water in the entire home.
They’re also used as emergency stops and help with water conservation. If a contractor has been recently doing work in your shower, the solution for your woes may lie in the shower shut-off valve that might not be fully open.
- First, locate the valve. They’re generally near the supply point or in an access panel behind the shower with a triangular cap and a screw-on it.
- Once located, simply turn the valve counterclockwise all the way for full pressure.
- Test the flow and see how much the water pressure has increased in your shower.
- Over time the valve can wear out or get stuck from corrosion. If any part of the valve is in poor condition to properly regulate your water pressure and use the shut-off/on the mechanism, you’ll need to call a plumber.
5. Open the Water Heater’s Shut-off Valve
When having water pressure issues, specifically with hot water, it’s always a good idea to check on the heater’s shut-off valve. That’s the valve that controls the inlet water to the water heater. Perhaps you never thought of opening the shut-off valve as a solution to your problem.
- First, locate the control valve, which looks similar to the one on the main water line.
- Then you’ll want to turn it counterclockwise and open it all the way for maximum pressure.
- Turn on the shower to test the water pressure.
- If the pressure hasn’t sufficiently improved, the next method would be to flush the water heater.
6. Flush the Hot Water Heater
Sediment can accumulate at the bottom of your water heater, causing corrosion rust on the inside liner. That’ll eventually clog it up as it turns into a solid concrete mass inside the bottom of your tank, making it a potential hazard.
Periodically flushing the water heater will make it last longer, increasing its efficiency, which will essentially improve the water pressure.
Depending on your unit’s model, the instructions may vary. To help you identify all the relevant parts, always consult the user’s manual outside the unit. It’s a relatively straightforward process, so let’s get to it!
- To prevent the burner from turning on, turn off your heat source. If it’s electric, locate the breaker where your hot water heater is plugged in and flip that breaker or simply unplug the water heater from the wall. For gas models, find the dial and change the temperature setting to vacation or pilot mode.
- Next, locate the cold water supply valve and turn it off. It’s usually located at the top of the tank, and it’s just a simple ball valve that you rotate.
- Fasten a garden hose to the drain spigot at the bottom of your water heater. Put it nice and snug, but don’t over tighten it as you can damage the threads.
- Before you start to drain the hot water, allow air to get into the system by opening your shower faucet and turning it all the way to hot. This will enable air to travel in from the faucet side so that the water can drain out of your tank.
- Grab a screwdriver to open the drain spigot valve. You should hear water flowing or air being sucked into the system.
- If you don’t hear any water flowing or air being sucked, alternatively, you’ll want to open your pressure relief valve. That’ll prevent a vacuum and allow for a strong flow of water out of the system.
- Take the hose’s end outside or into a drain and let the water drain out of the tank. Caution, be sure none is near the drain hose. The water will be red-hot, and it can damage things or hurt someone.
- Once the tank is pretty much empty, open up the cold water inlet valve for about 15ish seconds. That’ll help stir any sediment left in the tank and let it drain with any remaining gunk.
- You’ll want to repeat the process a couple of times by opening and closing the cold water inlet valve until the water runs clear from tiny particles. Clean it entirely by filling it up thoroughly and drain it one more time. That’ll help scrub and stir even more of that water left at the bottom of the tank.
- To fill it all the way up, open the cold water inlet valve and close the drain spigot valve and pressure relief valve.
- As soon as you don’t hear anything flowing into the tank and you can tell it’s complete, open the drain spigot valve at the bottom and close the cold water inlet valve. Also, open a faucet or your pressure relief valve again. Allow 15-20 minutes and let the water flow out.
- Once the water from the tank completely drains out, close the drain valve and remove the hose. Then open the cold water inlet valve one more time, and that’ll start to fill the tank.
- You don’t want air to go into your plumbing, so let air escape safely. Take precaution and stand by the tank to listen as it fills up with water. Once you can tell that the tank is relatively full, close the pressure relief valve.
- With the pressure relief valve closed again, your unit is ready for regular use. Set your thermostat back to your designed temperature or plug in your unit if it’s electric.
- Finally, open up a hot water line on the shower faucet to make sure all of the air gets sucked out of the system. When you have a steady stream of water from the faucet, turn it off, and you’re finished.
7. Looking for Kinks or Leaks in the Water Hose
If you have a handheld showerhead, you also have a flexible hose protruding from the wall to the showerhead.
A decrease in water pressure can come from worn-out threads or that flexible line that may be twisted and leaking. They can often go undetected while the shower is running.
- Run your shower and take a closer look at all the connecting parts.
- Perhaps your home has a flexible hose rather than pipes that can only be seen by removing the showerhead or faucet. You’ll want to pull it out and inspect it for any bends that could prevent a sufficient flow of water and adequately straighten it out.
- Your water heater is also a place in your home that may have a braided line, so you’ll want to check there as well.
- These flexible water hoses or internal threads are easily replaceable with a few minutes of labor and a quick trip to the hardware store.
If there’s a high indication that something is wrong with the line behind the wall, don’t hesitate to call a plumber. Unless you know about the project, don’t put pressure on yourself to DIY.
While it might be costly, leaving it to the pros will minimize future leaks’ chances and make it a better long-term experience.
8. Check the Main Shut-off Valve
Perhaps a previous homeowner or contractor has reduced your water pressure. It happens accidentally, by forgetting to turn the valve all the way on after a contractor has worked on the property or trying to conserve water while renting the house.
- The main valve is usually located where the mains system enters your property or in the basement.
- Open it fully by turning the lever or wheel-like valve in the appropriate direction.
- Then see if that has made a difference and check your water pressure.
- If the valve is rusted, don’t force it as you can break the valve’s pipe leading to a flooded house.
9. Check the Curb-Side Shut-off at the Water Meter
Do you know where to shut your water off? When it comes to restricted flow and reduced pressure, that’s a fundamental question because your valve may be partially open due to recent construction work or human error.
People will generally turn off the water at the street at the water meter somewhere near the street. To be able to shut it off at a moment’s notice, you’ll need a water meter key or a curb key. It can be found underneath one of your sinks, in the closet, maybe in a crawlspace, or even the pantry.
If you’re on city water, there’s definitely going to be a water meter outside of your house, and it’s going to have a shut-off valve because the city is going to want to shut your water off if you don’t pay the bill.
- The water meter usually has a heavy metal cover to the water meter and shut-off valve. Carefully remove the heavy cover and set it to the side.
- You’ll need a water meter key, which is a long and convenient tool as you don’t have to put your hands down at the meter box, especially if you’re grossed out of having to get in there if it’s at an angle that’s likely the cause of your low water pressure.
- If the valve is vertical to the street pointing towards the house, it’s switched on. If it’s horizontal, then it’s shut off.
- Take the key and grip onto the shut-off valve. Go slow as you turn it. You’ll be able to hear it as it opens.
- Open up some faucets inside, let the water run. You don’t want the water to burst into your plumbing, crack it and let the water start streaming before you open it all the way.
- If it’s barely visible, make sure to clean around the valve. It can be hard to turn time. In such an instance, spray it with some WD40 if it’s stuck. That’ll help loosen it up.
10. Adjust the Pressure Regulator Valve
Many homes that rely on city water where the static pressure is greater than 80 PSI have a shut-off pressure regulator built along with the water mains. The valve is usually located in your basement.
It has a triangular cap with a screw-on top sticking out of a cone that prevents water from rushing through the pipes. That’s where the pressure regulator valve takes place to keep the water pressure at the selected setting, which is usually between 50 and 60 PSI.
Pressure over 80 PSI can cause dripping faucets, damage to pipes, heaters, and seals, essentially reducing the lifespan of your fixtures. It is possible to get a better stream of water in your shower. You’ll need a pressure gauge to test the pressure after slightly adjusting the regulator.
- First, locate the pressure regulator valve. You’ll likely find it where the water supply enters your home or mounted on your water main or nearby the water meter.
- Then turn the water heater to vacation mode or disconnect the plug. If an expansion tank system fails to do so, it will cause thermal expansion and a possible inaccurate adjustment. Make sure there’s no water running by closing all the taps in your home.
- Check the plate on the regulator to determine its current adjustment range. Then attach the gauge to a faucet, your hot water heater’s drain spigot, or washing machine shut-off valve.
- Most of the pressure gauges come from the factory with 50 PSI. You’ll want to run the water and monitor the gauge to help you find out the current pressure. Once you have a reading, turn the water off, and you’re ready to make adjustments.
- Using a wrench, loosen the screw on top of your water pressure regulator in a clockwise motion a couple of times.
- They’re easily adjustable with an up and down motion by turning the screw on top. To increase the pressure, turn the screw on top in a clockwise motion. If you need to reduce the pressure, turn it counterclockwise and let pressure escape by opening a tap.
- When making significant adjustments, you don’t want the locking nut and bolt colliding. Pressuring the bolt head against the locking nut can strip out the threads. With that said, you may need to move the locking nut as you’re adjusting the bolt, or you can damage the valve.
- Restore the water supply and test the water in your shower. Monitor the gauge to see how much your pressure has increased. You may need to repeat the adjustment steps above until you get to the gauge’s target pressure.
- Re-check the gauge and make any final adjustments. Tighten the locknut, remove the gauge, and don’t forget to turn the hot water heater back to its original setting.
- A bad regulator can cause a gradual water pressure decrease that affects most if not all of the fixtures in your home. If yours has seen better days, you’ll be best off replacing it, so you’ll likely need to hire a plumber.
11. Upgrade to a Pressure-Soaring Showerhead
With innovation throughout the years, manufacturers have developed showerheads designed explicitly for low water pressure areas. If the problem isn’t related to your plumbing, an outdated showerhead model with minimal room for adjustment may be the reason for your low water pressure.
The solution is rather inexpensive in such instances, and buying a showerhead specifically for low water pressure may be all you need. While the water pressure in your home resembles the same, these models produce a powerful stream of water with options for spray customization.
12. Check for Leaks
Suppose you realize that the whole house has low water pressure. That can signify a cracked or damaged pipe, leaving you with a trickle of water.
You’ll need to do some detective work and look for leaks in your home. Plumbing is difficult to trace once it passes into the walls, so the easiest way to start is at the premises where the utility line enters your property.
Many homes have exposed pipes, especially in the basement. If that’s the case with yours, you’ll want to inspect them and look for signs of damage. Leaks can be dangerous, so you’ll need to call a plumber to repair them, significantly improving your water pressure.
- If you have a leak, you’ll need to take the first step by turning off the water supply at your home’s mains.
- Determine if you really have a leak. Locate the water meter, usually located at your hose’s premises in a box or where the utility line enters your home.
- You’ll want to turn off the water supply valve to your house and make a note of the water meter’s reading.
- Come back two hours later and double-check on the reading. If it keeps on rising almost certainly, there’s a leak somewhere in your house, meaning it’s time to call a professional.
13. Call a Professional for Further Investigation
If you’ve made it this far, unfortunately, you may be dealing with a severe problem such as blocked pipes or in-wall water leaks, which is best left to the pros.
The previous methods may have taught you a thing or two, but at this point, to get to the origin of the problem, you’re going to want to call a plumbing professional. They should be able to provide adequate diagnosis and solution for your situation to get you back into a vigorous shower.
Unfortunately, the ultimate culprit to your low water pressure might be the area where you live. Fortunately, as a last resort, there’s one more solution worth considering that’ll almost certainly put an end to your problem, and that’s the following method below.
14. Install a Pressure Booster Pump
If you live in an old home or envision living in your current home for a long while, a pressure booster pump will undoubtedly increase the water pressure in your shower.
A pressure pump isn’t as expensive as modifying your plumbing.
However, you’ll need to consult with a professional plumber before deciding to buy one of these. The plumber will run a diagnosis for your plumbing and clear your system for pressure enhancement.
If a pressure booster pump doesn’t suit your plumbing system, there may be other recommended solutions from your plumber, each at its own expense.
15. Isolate Showering at Off-peak Hours
If you’ve confirmed that your home is getting enough water pressure, gravity and distance are some of the factors to blame! The way your plumbing is routed can be a make or break factor as well.
With that said, peak hours in the neighborhood can likely decrease the water pressure you get, primarily if your household water supply travels uphill, which can hinder your water pressure.
To get more significant pressure, you’ll need to experiment by timing your shower through different periods of the day. The more people pursue the same activity, the more your water pressure decreases.
If your water pressure isn’t tremendous, running multiple appliances while showering can make the problem even worse.
You can’t expect rapid water pressure if you’re running a washing machine or a dishwasher, which requires higher water demand, essentially making less of it available.
Insufficient water pressure is the root of evil and can get in the way of your usual routine. DO NOT ALLOW THAT! These methods are absolute rippers considering they don’t require any extensive plumbing experience. Additionally, they can inspire you to start a bathroom makeover! Hopefully, they’ve helped you reclaim a soothing refuge after a long day AND saved you from calling the plumber.