Shower Valve Vs. Cartridge | What is the Difference?

If you are one of the people who has been searching for the differences between a shower valve and cartridge over the internet and you still have no clue after an hour, you are not alone. 

We did thorough research to present you with an easy-to-understand and compact article about this.


What is a Shower Valve and What Does it Do?

A shower valve is universal in all shower heads. It’s a particularly fitted design that the plumbers install right behind your shower. The shower valve allows you to take control of the water temperature and water pressure.

On a side note: If you are interested to know more about shower valves, you can read our article on different types of shower valves here

What is a Cartridge and What Does it Do?

On the other hand, a cartridge is a part of some modern shower valves, which takes the toll away from a valve. Cartridges are responsible for controlling the water flow.

Side-by-Side Comparison: Shower Valve vs Shower Cartridge

How Does a Shower Valve Work?


Hot water and cold water come from different sources, and they mix inside the valve. From there, the valve will decide what direction the water will flow. 

You should remember that every shower faucet comes with a unique shower valve design. 

If you want to change your faucet, you might also have to change the valve. Without a valve, you can’t regulate the water flow or the temperature.

Recommended reading: Standard Shower Valve Height- Expert Guides.

How Does a Cartridge Work?


Shower cartridges are usually attached to the handle to turn the water flow on and off and set the temperature. A traditional cartridge has three openings: two inputs and one output. 

When you slide the handle to adjust the water temperature, the cartridge pours water depending on your expectations through the inputs. Then the mixed water passes through the output to one of the shower heads based on your choice.

Does the Shower Valve Include a Cartridge?

We hear that a lot. No, not necessarily. 

But you can opt for one with a cartridge for better performance. Top brands like MOEN, and DELTA usually have cartridges pre-installed in their shower valves.

Is Shower Cartridge Necessary?

Again, no, it is not compulsory. You get added benefits for having a cartridge. For example, if your shower faucet is leaking or the water flow is not up to your expectations, you can just change the bad cartridge instead of the shower valve. 

Initially, buying a valve with a cartridge will cost you a bit more. But, in the long-term maintenance, it’s more cost-friendly.

Why Would You Need a Valve or a Cartridge?


You will need a shower valve to regulate the water flow, control the temperature, etc. Buying a cartridge should only come to your mind when you want precise performance. 

If you are not a fan of running to plumbers just like me, a shower valve with a cartridge will help you in that department too.

Recommended reading: Signs of a Bad Shower Valve

To sum it up, both the valve and the cartridge look relatively similar. You can’t have your shower set up without a valve. But, a shower valve with a cartridge will provide you with better performance.

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