The Homeowner’s Guide to Shower Heads

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Learn about each style of shower head, and how to know when it's time to replace yours.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are 220,000,000 shower heads installed in homes across the United States. They also estimate that about 10 percent of those shower heads are replaced each year due to wear and tear, bathroom remodeling and other reasons.

Here’s what to know about buying and replacing a shower head if you’re in the market for a new one.

What to Know About Shower Heads

Your shower head, along with your shower faucets, are part of your overall shower system. And the shower head, of course, is where the water comes out.

Most shower heads manufactured in the U.S. follow the National Pipe Thread standard of 1/2-inch. This helps ensure that any shower head you choose will fit into a standard shower elbow. Still, it’s worth noting the outside diameter of your shower elbow and desired shower head before buying, especially if you’re considering one manufactured outside the U.S.

Shower Head Styles

There are three main types of shower heads:

  • Fixed shower heads are mounted on the wall of your shower. You can usually angle them and even adjust their height, but you can’t remove them from the wall. Most people prefer multi-function shower heads like the Tibbers Shower Head that lets you change the spray pattern and pressure.

    A popular option within the fixed shower head category is the rain shower head. These extra-large shower heads can be mounted on a wall or a ceiling to create the experience of standing under rainfall. They’re great for anyone looking for a luxurious, spa-like shower experience. One well-rated option to consider is this Voolan Rain Shower Head.

  • Handheld shower heads let you hold and direct the water wherever you want. They usually have a flexible hose and are mounted on the shower wall with a bracket. This can be a good option if you regularly wash pets or children in your shower, are recovering from an injury, have mobility issues or just want an easy way to clean your shower. You can buy just the shower head or a set, like the AquaDance High Pressure Chrome Face Handheld Shower that also includes the hose and holder.

  • Dual shower heads have a handheld unit attached to a fixed shower head. They offer the best of both worlds if you can’t decide between a fixed shower head or a handheld. One well-rated option is AquaDance Premium High Pressure Three-Way Rainfall Combo.

If your shower space and budget allow, consider installing a fixed shower head and a traditional handheld shower head.

One final consideration is the shower head finish. Most people match their shower head to their bathroom faucets and other bathroom hardware. A few of today’s most popular shower head finishes are copper, nickel, chrome, brass and bronze.

When to Buy a New Shower Head

It’s a good idea to replace your shower head if it:

You might also decide to replace your shower head if you’re doing a bathroom remodel or if you want a water-saving shower head. When shopping for an eco-friendly, low-flow shower head, look for the WaterSense label.

Note: Most shower head manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty, so check on that before you buy a new one.

How to Replace a Shower Head

Replacing a fixed shower head is usually as simple as unscrewing the old shower head, then screwing in and tightening the new one. A special situation arises when you need to install toggle bolts for an adjustable shower head within a fiberglass or plastic shower.

With handheld shower heads, you’ll also need to screw the bracket into the wall if it’s not already installed. Things get a little trickier with dual shower heads. You’ll typically need to install a diverter that routes water to both the handheld and the fixed shower heads, but that is a fairly easy DIY endeavor.

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.