Loose drop ears. Why and what's the fix [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


View Full Version : Loose drop ears. Why and what's the fix

Shady at Best
06-28-2019, 12:20 PM
Hey all.
I posted this over at My buddy Terry's site but wanted to give you guys a crack at this. I have had my drop ears come loose on multiple showers. I never have had this problem prior to 3 years ago. What changed then you ask? I started using pex.
When installing I make sure to to level and square up the pipe coming out of the wall. Then a week later the fitting is wobbling. I mostly use kiln dried lumber. I am assuming the wood is shrinking.

So what's the fix? I want to continue running pex from valve to head. Thinking about getting a bunch of 6" square brass or bronze plates. Then brazing the drop ear to that, then screwing this plate to the blocking.

What are your thoughts?

Let's resist the urge to of saying not to use pex on the tub supply. ;)

Vid showing issue

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06-28-2019, 03:30 PM
The plumber I use won't use Pex between the valve and shower head, he says that valve manufacturers don't recommend it because it restricts water flow.

That said, the Pex line is a lot less ridged than copper so it doesn't take much movement of the shower head/pipe to loosen the screws. Have you tried using 2- 2x4 blocks with longer screws?

How long are the screws you're using?

Just In Tile LLC
06-29-2019, 11:39 AM
I'd ask the same, what is your blocking and how is it being fastened. Then what screws are you using to fasten the drop ear?

I use 2x material and use 4 - 3-1/2" screws toe nailed in. For the actual drop-ear I use the 3 holes and also screw it down. No nails for my backing or attaching the drop-ear.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
06-29-2019, 11:42 AM
I saw these cleats on a recent project. They seemed pretty sturdy to me.


Just In Tile LLC
06-29-2019, 11:43 AM
I'm liking those!

06-30-2019, 10:39 AM
With the weight of shower heads today, most plumbers in my area use either a 3 hole drop ell or mount the two hole ell vertical instead of horizontal.

07-02-2019, 09:16 AM
fill the wall cavity with a few cans of expanding foam. that will make the pipe solid ;)

07-02-2019, 09:10 PM
I too wonder how you are fastening the drop ears. I honestly don't see how they can come loose if properly fastened. I've never had a call back, not that that means anything necessarily. All of the Pex drop ears I've used have three holes, and I usually use 1 5/8" cement board screws to fasten that to solidly fastened 2x material.

07-03-2019, 07:22 AM
I have seen plumbers use nothing but a pex talon to secure a drop ear, or a single nail.

Some plumbers use these for a shower drop too. They are really flimsy...

Just In Tile LLC
07-17-2019, 07:42 PM
Speaking of drop ears don't ever think you're smart and use one for a tub spout... don't ask me how I know. :D

07-17-2019, 09:13 PM
Same here, trying to reinvent the wheel, what a disaster that could have been

Tool Guy - Kg
07-18-2019, 09:22 PM
I've accessed the mounting screws by just removing the nipple and using a 6" driver. Can you do that on this?


07-19-2019, 07:40 AM
So what's wrong with using a (non-PEX) drop ear 90 on a tub spout?


Just In Tile LLC
07-19-2019, 02:27 PM
Not sure Wayne, I've never seen a non-PEX drop ear. I would think it would be fine.

I used a 1/2" PEX drop ear one time with galvanized nipple to thread my tub spout on. 3 screws solid as a rock! Then...at the END of my job I put all the plumbing on and ran the tub. Had water dribbling out the shower head (shower rise)and lower than normal pressure. After calling my plumber, wondering why this was happening, he asked about a drop ear.... I said yes. He went on to inform me he had also tried it one time thinking he was awesome, and how much smaller the ID of PEX restricted flow.

After tearing out the wall behind my shower and fixing it... I don't do that anymore. :D

07-19-2019, 02:44 PM
While you can use pex to the showerhead, the outlet of the valve to the tub spout must be all full-diameter pipe. All of the instructions I've seen specifically call that out, but not everyone reads them!

IMHO, I'd never use galvanized there, either. It WILL start to rust eventually, leading to a rust stain. Either run copper and put a fitting on it if you want to thread on a spout, or use a brass nipple. The easier thing is probably to use one of the Delta spouts that can either screw onto a nipple, or an adapter soldered onto a copper pipe, then, the spout screws onto that adapter. It's much less fussy about getting things the exact length needed to get the spout tight against the wall and oriented properly than most other methods (except, probably a slip-on spout). A slip-on one is fine as long as you ensure you've cleaned up the end so you don't slice the O-ring slipping the spout on, creating a leak.

Bottom line, using pex anywhere to the tub spout in a tub/shower, is asking for problems...it will back up into the shower head unless you have a positive diverter in there...and, the smaller ID of pex means the tub will fill slower, too.

07-19-2019, 02:56 PM
I'm with Jim, you should never combine copper or brass, and galvanized pipe, it will corrode very fast due to electrolysis.

I'm also with Jim on the Delta tub spout fittings. Recently had a customer ask if I could repair a tub spout in another bathroom. I was building a shower for her, and she purposefully bought a tub/shower faucet set in the hopes that the tub spout could be used to repair her tub spout in the other bathroom. I reluctantly said I would try, but warned her that twisting on an old tub spout could easily result in "plumber's nightmare syndrome". I put it off, and put it off, and finally on the last day I was there, I figured I'd tackle it. Twisted off the old spout, good copper with a long stub out, cut the pipe, soldered on the Delta fitting, screwed on the new tub spout. Easy peezy, about a 15 minute job. Dodged the bullet, for once. :D

07-19-2019, 03:16 PM
Most galvanized is plated prior to cutting the threads, so you have exposed iron there. Plus, the ends often are not plated. In potable water, it will start to rust fairly quickly. In a tub spout, because it doesn't hold water, what little it rusts while drying out often will flush out fairly quickly, but it's not uncommon to eventually end up with a rust stain beneath it in the tub...not nice, and totally avoidable! Those pipe and fittings are good for rough-ins, but replace with brass or copper for the final.

Just In Tile LLC
07-19-2019, 04:57 PM
Good to know, I considered buying a manual pipe threader for nipples of in-between sizes but copper and male thread sweat fittings were quicker and easier.

07-19-2019, 05:35 PM
Not sure Wayne, I've never seen a non-PEX drop ear.
Oh, OK. Drop ears come in PEX x FIP, copper x FIP, and copper x copper, maybe other combinations. "Drop ear" just refers to the location of the mounting holes. You can also get a "high ear" elbow in at least PEX x FIP or copper x FIP; the ears are on the face of the FIP side.

Cheers, Wayne

Just In Tile LLC
07-19-2019, 08:28 PM
Come to think of it Wayne, I've seen the copper ones a lot on tearouts, maybe I should of said I've never used any other ones. I love PEX and use it almost exclusively.

07-25-2019, 08:18 AM
I prefer brass to copper

Shady at Best
08-02-2019, 12:38 PM
Wow. I forgot all about this thread. Here's my current fix.
Used dry 2x4 for the cross piece. Would prefer to use a 2x6 or wider but I didn't have any that were dry. I used a sweat drop ear , with a 6 inch piece of copper soldered, with a pex connector. I also soldered a strap to the piece of copper. This thing shouldn't move.
Oh, and that piece of galvanized pipe is only there to level the angle and for a pressure test.

Just In Tile LLC
08-02-2019, 04:00 PM
Looking good, I like your screw choice...mix and match. I have a loose screw bin in my trailer that I actively use, I like thinking about a guy down the road having to switch bits 3 times to remove my stuff :oyeah::rofl:

Tool Guy - Kg
08-02-2019, 09:56 PM


08-03-2019, 09:29 PM
. I like thinking about a guy down the road having to switch bits 3 times to remove my stuff now what did that guy ever do to you? I have run into that shit where I don't happen to have said dumb shit bit. In the Marine corps we would call you a blue falcon

Just In Tile LLC
08-04-2019, 12:21 PM
HAHA! I use torx screws alot, but when it comes to removing old work and finding the mix and match combo I can't help but pass the same frustration down 30-50 years. Sorta of like passing the torch :D

08-04-2019, 12:36 PM
Like I mentioned in post 2, my plumber says not to use Pex between the valve and shower head, he says the fittings reduce the flow too much. Are any of you finding this to be true? I'm wondering if my plumber is just being cautious or maybe blowing smoke.

08-04-2019, 01:02 PM
I have three showers. All have the same Kohler valve and Speakman shower head. One shower has pex between the valve and head. I don't find any perceptible difference in the water volume or pressure.

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
08-04-2019, 02:02 PM
Is it just a thing when the tub part of it is in play? :shrug:

Just In Tile LLC
08-04-2019, 03:09 PM
I guess it could restrict flow, but most shower heads already do that. After switching out the tub spout drop ear it wasn't a night and day difference, in fact I couldn't tell it was more, but not having shower rise I knew something had changed even if ever so slightly.

08-04-2019, 05:31 PM
I don't know how long pex has been around but seems like it's been 12-15 years ago when my old plumber used pex on two tubsurrounds that I had tiled. He had installed new valves in both tub surrounds. He talked about pex being a new product that he hadn't used very much. The homeowner complained to him about the water flow on those two tubs and I had to go back over there and bust out a groove from the valve to the shower head on both of them so he could replace the pex with copper. Of course the homeowner was pissed.

Like I mentioned before, the plumber I use now days says pex isn't recommended but maybe that's on certain valves, I don't know.

Shady at Best
08-04-2019, 09:32 PM
Davy. There is truth to what you heard. I think the main concern is using pex on a tub spout on a tub/ shower setup. I have read not to do do in the instructions of a moen valve body. The reason being is that the possible restricted flow caused by the pex down to the tub spout can cause the water to back flow out the shower spout. That's how most are designed to do anyways. You know how you pull up the stopper on a tub spout and that diverts the water to the head. The manufacturers want copper down to the tub and either copper or pex to the head. I used copper to the tub spout in the bathroom that this thread was originally started for.

I wouldn't worry about using pex to a single shower head shower like in my recent picture. I use uponor pex and fittings and these allow for better flow. But I am in California where the legal flow rate is something like 0.2 gallons per hour so I have no worries of flow restriction, the state takes care of that for me. ;)

Here is a tip and I am sure most of you know this. Install your valve upside down If you are installing a tub/shower valve is a shower only configuration. The tub side flow rate is much higher than your shower side. Especially if you are trying to do something with multi heads. I know moen valves greatly restrict flow to the shower.

Justin. Lol on the screws. Good catch on the screws. I am trying to make the switch to torx. These torx construction screws are better and not as brittle. These are what I used in the original post where the ear came loose. As for the 2 mismatched drywall screws. I had hung the lid earlier and this is what was on the ground and happen to match the bit I had in the drill. I don't know where that silver one came from but it got used. As got needing to switch between bits. Luckily the cordless took company that I use came out with an updated brushless drill that i had to have. So one's got the Phillips and the other has the torx. Surprisingly I still find myself switching bits.

08-05-2019, 05:21 AM
Thanks, makes sense. :tup1:

08-05-2019, 10:46 AM
The reduced outlet for a shower is sufficient for one typical (legal) showerhead, but it would be useful to rotate the valve and use the larger tub spout outlet if using multiple heads. But, note that most 1/2" valves top out at around 5.5-6.5gpm, so more than two heads with a 1/2" valve will tend to start to show limitations, even with the larger outlet. FWIW, federal regulations call for NGT 2.5gpm at 60psi, if I remember correctly, so the smaller outlet is more than enough for one head.

Shady at Best
08-30-2019, 10:11 PM
This might clear up the pex to the shower head question. Looks like delta sells pex a rough ins with a pex attachment for the shower side.

Houston Remodeler
08-31-2019, 08:27 PM
Last december we installed that very same shower valve with pex. We had problems with the shower head always dripping when the water was flowing out the tub spout. Seems my choice of fittings increased the backpressure making the shower head drip all the time. Once I replaced the fittings the shower drip went away.

Luckily I installed an access panel and shut off valves.

08-31-2019, 09:29 PM
This is how they do'em round these parts with a 1/2 a tube of silicone to hold the shower head in place. So I didn't get a picture of the silicone, I was in a bit of a hurry. It was a bundle. Travis I thought of you when I tore this one out and I shook my head and chuckled

Tiger Mountain Tile Inc
09-01-2019, 09:53 AM
We had problems with the shower head always dripping when the water was flowing out the tub spout.

I've heard this can also be a problem if the shower head isn't high enough above the tub spout. I like to drop the outlets down when installing an adjustable handheld but can't do it with the tub spouts that have the pull lever on the spout.

09-02-2019, 07:11 PM
I took one apart that was secured to a 2x with duct tape. :shake:

10-12-2019, 08:35 PM
We've been doing it all wrong. Apparently it takes about a nickel's worth of hardware to secure these things.


Tool Guy - Kg
10-12-2019, 08:43 PM
Wait, those are drywall screws...not pipe screws! :mad:

10-12-2019, 09:10 PM
The pipe screws are ten cents. Ya gotta draw the line somewhere.