How to Choose the Right Shower Head

Water falling from an outdoor rain shower head

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Like most design features for the bathroom, there is a dizzying array of shower head options. Whether you're looking for a basic fix or a blissful hydrotherapy experience, the first step in selecting your perfect fixture is finding out what's available. While there are numerous ways to customize a shower, shower heads typically fall into four main categories.

1. Standard Wall-Mount Shower Heads

If you're on a budget or just want a simple update to an existing bath, a wall-mounted shower head is an ideal choice. You can change a wall-mounted head simply by unscrewing the existing part and screwing on a new one. However, be careful not to break the shower arm as you're unscrewing the old head. To prevent a possible leak, use a pair of pliers or a lubricant, such as WD-40, to help loosen things.

Good to Know

  • Standard wall-mounted heads typically work with existing plumbing.
  • Extra features include nozzles that adjust from a pulsing massage to a gentle mist.
  • Prices begin at around $2 for a plastic single-spray model.

2. Hand-Held Shower Heads

Thanks to the additional reach and control its 3- to 6-foot hose offers, a hand-held shower head can help you perform multiple tasks, including bathing kids and pets, washing your hair, and rinsing the shower enclosure. Handheld showers are mounted to the wall and can be loaded with extras. For example, Waterpik offers a model with massage jets and six spray patterns.

Good to Know

  • This shower head should work with existing plumbing.
  • It's great for a family bathroom.
  • It can be used instead of or in combination with a standard shower head.
  • Some hand showers can be mounted to sliding bars that adjust to various heights.
  • Prices begin at around $35 for a chrome model with multiple spray settings.

3. Top-Mount Shower Heads

Also known as rain showers, top-mounted shower heads are positioned directly over the bather's head for an enjoyably drenching experience. These styles can be suspended from a pendant or mounted flush to the ceiling. Unlike the easy replacement of a standard head, installing a top-mounted shower head requires extensive plumbing upgrades. Choices range from traditional rain shower heads that offer a single spray pattern to truly over-the-top models that have multiple adjustable nozzles and colored lighting.

Good to Know

  • Top-mount installation is easiest in a new home or major bath renovation.
  • It can be a great solution for ceilings that are too low for a wall-mounted head.
  • Affordable rain-style heads are available in standard wall-mounted models beginning at around $10. Top-mounted models begin at around $500.

4. Body Sprays and Panels

Create the experience of a hydrotherapy spa treatment by adding body sprays or multi-spray panels to your shower. These are typically installed in vertical rows on opposite or adjacent walls, providing a crisscrossing water pattern that massages you from head to toe. Body sprays and panels are often combined with other shower heads as part of a semi-custom or custom installation.

Good to Know

  • Because body sprays require extensive plumbing work, they are best reserved for a complete renovation.
  • Body sprays are usually set at the shoulder, hip, and knee, so you must consider the height of each user for the best installation points.
  • They begin at around $85 per unit.