An escutcheon (pronounced ‘ess-kutch-on’) is the (typically) metal bit that hides the ugly hole in the wall that the pipes come through. Some people call them flanges or cover plates. You can find escutcheons on the wall (or ceiling) around your shower arm, under your sink where the faucet supplies emerge, and by the toilet right next to the shutoff for your toilet’s water supply. A slightly different kind of escutcheon can also be found around the base of some faucets, but those aren’t the ones we’re talking about today.
Why would you want to replace an escutcheon? It’s just a decorative piece: it doesn’t really do anything but make things look a bit nicer, right?
Well, exactly. It doesn’t do anything but look pretty. And if it’s not looking pretty, it’s not doing its job. Escutcheons come in quite a variety of shapes, sizes, and fancy finishes, so you can find exactly the right one to match your project. They’re also very easy to replace, so there’s really no reason to hang on to that ugly, rusty old escutcheon. Get it out of there and replace it with something… well, pretty! After all, if you wanted something ugly, you could have left the hole in the wall.
Most escutcheons can be easily removed. For example, the shower arm escutcheon just slips over the shower arm and snugs against the wall. To remove that escutcheon, you would simply remove the shower head and slide old escutcheon off, replace with new escutcheon and reattach the shower head. Super easy!
But what about those harder-to-reach escutcheons? Like the one kept in place by a shut off valve under your sink or behind the toilet? Don’t worry, it’s the same idea, just with a few more steps.
Most often, if there’s a shut off valve in the way, you’ll need to remove the valve to get the escutcheon off. This is pretty easy, but takes a few minutes of planning.
First, shut off water to your house and drain the water out of the lines (in other words, turn on a few faucets until they run dry). Second, double check and make sure you have towels, a dish pan, or something else to catch any water that may come out of the line, just in case. Third, remove the valve in front of the decorative escutcheon. This is where it gets a little trickier.
A threaded-on shutoff valve can usually be removed fairly easily with a pair of pliers and a good twist or two. Just make sure to use a soft cloth to keep the pliers from tearing up the valve and making it ugly too!
A soldered-on shutoff valve might cause more of a problem, depending on your level of plumbing experience. If you’re familiar with this type of fitting, you might be comfortable enough to just go ahead and remove it. If you’re not, it’s probably time to break out some sturdy shears, tin snips, or something else that can handle cutting stamped metal, and simply cut away that old escutcheon.
If you removed your shutoff valve, simply slide on the shiny new escutcheon and replace the valve the same way you removed it.
If you cut off your escutcheon, you have a couple of options. You can carefully cut a new escutcheon, angling the cut so it’s not easily visible once you replace it. Or, even easier, you can use a hinged type of escutcheon. This is mostly a matter of personal preference, so run with whichever you like better.
Once your new escutcheon is in place, turn the water back on, check your work, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Need help measuring an escutcheon? Watch this quick video