How To Buy the Best Showerhead

Photo © Kohler.

Like everything else for the bathroom, there are a dizzying array of showerhead choices. Depending on your budget, your taste and the size of your shower space, you can opt for anything from a no-frills, wall-mounted head, a convenient hand-held model or a lavish spa shower with multiple jets and sprays.

Whether you're looking for a basic bathroom fix or a blissful hydrotherapy experience, the first step in selecting your perfect water delivery system is finding out what's available. You'll find plenty of showerhead options that will fill the bill.

Basic Shower Head Types

Although there are numerous ways to customize your shower, showerheads fall into four basic categories:

1. Standard Wall-Mount Showerheads

If you're on a budget or just want a simple update to an existing bath, a wall-mounted showerhead is your best 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 if you're having trouble unscrewing the old head. To prevent a possible leak, use a pair of pliers or a lubricant like WD-40 to help loosen things up.

Good to Know:

  • Works with existing plumbing
  • Extra features include nozzles that adjust from pulsing massage to gentle mists.
  • Prices begin at around $2 for a plastic single-spray model.

2. Hand-held Showerheads

Thanks to the additional reach and control provided by a three- to six-foot hose, a hand-held shower can help you perform multiple tasks, from bathing kids or the dog to washing your hair to rinsing down your shower enclosure. Handheld showers are wall mounted and can be loaded with extras. For example, Waterpik offers a model with twin turbo massage jets and six spray patterns.

Good to Know:

  • Works with existing plumbing
  • Great for a family bathroom
  • Use instead of or in combination with a standard shower.
  • Some hand showers are mounted on sliding bars that adjust to various heights.
  • Prices begin at about $37 for a chrome model with six spray settings.

3. Top-Mount Showerheads

Sensual and stylish, top-mounted showerheads - also known as rain showers - are positioned directly over the bather's head for an enjoyably drenching experience. Top-mounted styles can be suspended from a pendant or flush-mounted to the ceiling.

Unlike the easy replacement of a standard head, installing a top-mounted showerhead requires extensive upgrades to existing plumbing. Choices range from traditional rain shower heads offering a single spray pattern to truly over-the-top models such as the $3,700 WaterTile Ambient Rain by Kohler, a state-of-the-art system with four 22-nozzle heads and a programmable colored light system.

Good to Know:

  • Best for a new home or major bath renovation
  • Can be a great solution for ceilings that are too low for a wall-mount head
  • More affordable rain-style showerheads are available in standard wall-mounted models beginning at around $10; top-mounted models begin at around $500.

4. Body Sprays and Spa Shower Panels

You can recreate the experience of a hydrotherapy spa treatment by adding body sprays or multi-spray shower panels to your bath. These are usually 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 showerheads as part of a semi-custom or custom installation.

Good to Know:

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