A Tub Diverter is what we often think of when we picture a bathtub faucet. It is the most visible portion of plumbing where water exits the pipes and enters the bathtub. I would call it a “secondary” control, coming into play after the faucet valve, which controls volume and temperature. Homes in our area with both a bathtub and shower all in one typically have a lift lever at the end of the diverter valve.
There are many styles, some secondary controls are part of the valve control system instead of being part of the diverter. Some means of diverting water are in entirely separate locations. Some diverters in the past dumped water into the bath tub from the bathtub walls itself – which creates a cross connection in which dirty water could backflow into the pipes and contaminate drinking water. This is why a diverter is preferred with an air gap, where the outlet of fresh water is above the maximum fill level of the bathtub.
The diverter lift handle itself is a very simple mechanism that is simply a weighted “wall”. When you lift the diverter control and no water is running, gravity should cause it to fall to its default position. If lifted while water is running, the pressure of water against that wall will keep it in place and plug water from exiting the diverter. When this happens, water is building up in the pipes and wants to find an exit. That exit is through your shower head. The reason water goes through the diverter is simply that it flows in the path of least resistance – down with gravity. If that path is blocked, water goes up the pipe until it exits the shower head, the next path of least resistance. If your tub diverter is sticking or not functioning, this may be an easy fix. Of course, there are many unique installations, so check with a plumber if you have questions!
Too long, didn’t read version: tub diverters activate your shower head.
-Marshall Tramp, CPI, RMP
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