My old three-handle compression faucet has been replaced with a one-handle ceramic disc faucet. No more fighting with obnoxious handles! Yay! :)
I started with hard-to-turn handles that I hated:
The plumber replaced the valve after cutting a large hole in the wall similar to this:
Then he installed the new handle. I thought I'd end up with the round faucet escutcheon layered over a remodel plate similar to this:
But the plumber was able to make adjustments to allow room for the oval escutcheon/cover plate which could be used on its own.
Having the faucet replaced was a nerve-wracking enterprise. I was afraid tiles would crack or fall off when the plumber cut into the wall, especially after he pointed out that some of the tiles were loose. It would be impossible to find exact replacements for 40-year-old tiles. Also, I had no idea what he might find when he opened the wall, though I was certain he would find at least one oddity. I just hoped it would not be too serious an impediment.
When he got to work, there were loud, scary rotary tool cutting sounds accompanied by the occasional sound of something falling. Then there was the even louder reciprocating saw which seemed to make the whole house vibrate. Then there was the sound of the torch igniting. When the plumber finally emerged from the bathroom about an hour later, I was almost afraid to go in and look. :P
Whew! Everything looked great! No cracked tiles and very neat work on the installation. :D
So what oddities did he find? There was a weirdly placed stud that he had to cut away (thus the reciprocating saw.) But even stranger -- the main water line and the water heater are in the basement, but the shower plumbing does not come up from the floor. It comes down from above. :/
Overall, converting an old three-handle faucet is not an inexpensive project. I paid $178 for the faucet kit, $58 for the cover plate, and $500 for the plumber to do the work. But I believe it will be worth the money. I use the shower every day, and I was very, VERY tired of fighting with the difficult old handles.