The Different Types Of Shower Heads | Everything You Need To Know
You’ve decided that there was no need for a complete bathroom renovation, but doing a few small upgrades would make a big difference in your morning routine. Changing out your shower head is one of the most cost-friendly upgrades available and is capable of delivering a dramatic improvement to your daily shower.
But with so many different types of shower heads out there it can get a bit confusing knowing which is the right choice?
In this post, I’ll explain the different types of shower heads on the market as well as going over their pros, cons and everything you need to know to make the best decision for your bathroom.
Shower Head Installation Types
The first thing to consider when hunting down a new shower head is what type of shower installation exists in your bathroom. They fall into two main categories.
Fixed Shower Head
This showerhead is directly attached to the water supply pipe on the wall or the ceiling. You can mount the pipe on the surface or build it into the wall. In order to change the head, you will just need to screw on the new unit.
Handheld Shower Head
If you have a handheld shower, it will either clip to the fixed pipe on the wall or to a surface-mount slider rail. The slider rail lets you adjust the height of the showerhead clip so that it can be reached by the kids and adults.
When upgrading to a slider rail, you may need a builder to help with the installation as you may be drilling through tile or enclosure walls to anchor the bar.
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Different Types Of Shower Heads
Use the links below to jump to the relevant shower head section:
- Fixed Wall Shower Heads
- Rain Shower Heads
- Multi/Adjustable Handheld Shower Heads
- Dual Shower Heads
- Shower Body Jets
- High-Pressure Shower Heads
- Low-Pressure/Water Saving Shower Heads
- Filtered Shower Heads
Fixed Wall Shower Heads
This is the most common type of shower head and is often in mid-20th-century homes. The head is directly attached to the supply pipe, whether that is hidden behind the wall or an exterior installation for your standalone bath. The head may have some adjustability to direct the stream a little higher, lower, or to the sides. The only way to turn the stream on and off is to use the regular taps or mixer valve.
If you are renovating on a budget, they remain the most affordable option starting at around £15. You can find fixed heads in traditional designs that will match your mid-century home or modern versions that mimic the high-end adjustable showers without all the flexibility or added function. It relies entirely on the water pressure coming out of the pipe and requires no electrical connection.
- Quick replacement for current shower
- Available in traditional and contemporary designs
- Minimal adjustability for height
- No ability to change the intensity of the stream
- Relies entirely on current water pressure
Rain Shower Heads
The rain shower head has become hugely popular over the past twenty years. It features a larger head that can be positioned directly over your head. Sometimes it is mounted to the ceiling or uses an extended pipe from the wall to provide a more rain-like stream in the middle of the shower.
Some rain showers include adjustments to increase the pressure by blocking off some of the holes in the head. Most can be tilted to change the angle of the water stream as preferred by the user. They are preferred by taller people, as the ceiling installation allows you to move freely without ducking under a low shower head.
Some rain showers may include multiple showerheads or an extended bar delivering a wider stream of water to the bather. The larger head will demand a higher water pressure so that you are not left with a weak trickle from each of the holes in the head.
The head itself is not a major expense, starting at around £40. But you may need to add extra piping if you are retrofitting a more traditional shower. You can find rain showers with lights, in a vintage design, or as an ultra-modern thin square.
- A pleasant rainlike shower experience
- Can be retrofitted with extra piping
- Good for taller individuals
- An affordable contemporary upgrade
- Minimal adjustability for the angle of the stream
- Requires better water pressure for effective use
- May need a water pump for best results
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Multi/Adjustable Handheld Shower Heads
Many showers are used by multiple people in the same household. Some are short, others tall, and some want a more powerful pulse for their shower experience. An adjustable handheld shower head is a single head unit that is clipped into the traditional position of a fixed head. It has a long flexible hose that lets the user unclip it and aim the water stream exactly where you need it.
Most of the handheld heads also come with some basic adjustments that can turn it into a pulsing shower, gentle stream, or stronger shower. It can also be turned off at the head without shutting off the water, which makes it convenient for lathering up without the soap disappearing down the drain.
You can add a handheld head to most standard shower pipes by simply screwing on the new head. They give you the best return on your bath upgrade pound. Pricing starts at around £15 and tops out at around £50. A little comparison shopping will find the finish that matches your current bath fixtures or allow for a modern upgrade when you are renovating the entire room.
- Easy to use for everyone in the family
- Adjustable stream for a pleasing pulse or gentle rain
- Affordable replacement or upgrade
- Available in a wide range of finishes
- Lowest priced units can be undependable
- Poor position for the clip can prevent you from standing under the shower without holding the head
Dual Shower Heads
So, you want to enjoy the feel of warm water pouring down on your head while you direct another stream to wash behind your knees. The dual shower head delivers on your dream with a fixed head or fixed rain head on the ceiling and a second handheld unit clipped to the wall.
The installation requires additional taps to divert water to the spout in use or divide it when you want the complete experience. They are sometimes listed as a dual outlet shower. The entry-level units begin at about £125 and can run well over £500 for one with a thermostatic valve, light show, and digital controls. You will likely need a plumber to complete the installation.
- Two shower heads delivering water precisely where you want it
- The ultimate in flexibility and adjustability
- Available in finishes to match your decor
- More expensive update for your shower
- Requires a plumber for proper installation
- Demands good water pressure
Shower Body Jets
Standing under a fixed rain shower and using a handheld unit is just not what you want. You really want to turn on the shower and be assaulted by warm jets of water in all directions. That is when replacing your shower head just won’t do the job. You need a full-on shower upgrade with a collection of body jets.
These luxurious showers feature jets at multiple heights and angles so you only have to do a dance to enjoy the full experience. Your hands are free to grab your soap and scrubby.
You may need to plan on renovating the entire shower enclosure and hire a builder capable of plumbing, electrical, and construction work. The units alone will cost between £300 and £600.
- A full-on whole body shower experience
- Your hands are free for sudsing up
- Upgrade available for integration with digital controllers
- Requires full bath renovation
High-Pressure Shower Heads
Do you always wish that your shower delivered a more intense experience? If you have a gravity-fed water supply with an electric shower and no extra pump, you need a high-pressure shower head. Able to maximise your flow rate and water pressure, it pumps through more water for that invigorating wash that you have been missing.
It can replace your handheld or fixed shower head by just screwing it on. Some high-pressure heads include a filter for hard water. Others can be adjusted to switch between that hard pulse and a softer stream. Expect to spend between £15 and £20 for a replacement head.
- Invigorating shower guaranteed
- Easy to install
- Will not work with very low water pressure
Low-Pressure/Water Saving Shower Heads
Is your water bill shooting through the roof but you don’t want to sacrifice your long morning shower? Think about switching to a water-saving shower head. The outlets are conically shaped to increase the water pressure while limiting the amount of water actually used.
You can see a reduction of as much as 40% over a standard shower head. Add one to your home for as low as £10 and you don’t need a professional to install it.
- Lower water usage by up to 40%
- Inexpensive upgrade
- Do-it-Yourself Install
- Not compatible with most electric showers
- Not as many options available
- May not have all the adjustments that you want
Filtered Shower Heads
When your skin always feels dry and tight after a shower, you may have hard water. If you don’t have a whole home water softener system, you can still improve the water quality in your shower with a filtered shower head.
They can be switched out with your standard hand-held or fixed head in just one minute. You can easily replace the filters every few months. You end up with a shower that produces plenty of lather and leaves your skin and hair feeling clean and soft.
If you are planning a full renovation, ask your plumber about installing a larger filter that can serve the entire house or all your bathroom fixtures. Hard water can also damage your plumbing and appliances, so the filtration system is a worthy investment.
- Improve the look and feel of your skin and hair
- Get more suds
- Inexpensive and easy fix for a chronic problem
- Only softens the water for the shower
- Requires replacement of the filter periodically
Things To Consider When Choosing A Shower Head
Did you see a shower head that spoke to your need to shop today? Before you put that fixture in your shopping cart, take a few minutes to determine if it is really the answer to all your showering needs.
- Style: Look for a shower head that complements your current bathroom design, whether that is contemporary or vintage.
- Water Pressure: If the real problem is low pressure, do you need to add a pump or have a plumber service your water supply?
- Water Hardness: If your skin and hair always feel dry, a filter could dramatically change the way your shower experience feels. Many heads are available that include a filter.
- Adjustability: Are you happy to just hop in and out of the shower without fiddling with settings? Maybe you are constantly tweaking the position. Look for a head that matches your habits.
- Intensity of Water Stream: Some people want their shower to pound into their muscles and others enjoy a gentle rain. Select a head capable of producing a shower that will refresh you every time.
- Who will Use the Shower?: Is this for your private master spa suite or is it intended for the bath that the kids share? Consider accessibility for those that are mobility challenged.
- Cost: Set your budget! You can do this job for just £10 or go a little mad and splurge on a £200 upgrade.
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Are Shower Heads And Hoses Universal Sizes?
Yes. In the UK, the standard thread size of pipes that are used in showers to connect shower heads and hoses is called 1/2 Inch BSP (British Standard Pipes). This means that manufacturers of shower fittings like shower heads or hoses are not specific to particular brands and can be used to fit all showers.
Although ‘BSP’ has British in its name, this thread size is actually universal and used by many countries throughout the world. With the main exception being the USA, where it is referred to as NPT (National Pipe Thread). However, they also use a standard 1/2-inch thread fitting. So shower head and hose fittings are pretty much universal.
The only time they may not be is if the shower system/pipework is very old or particularly unique for some reason and uses a different size. Although, this is very uncommon these days.
There you have it. Everything you need to know about the different types of shower heads.
I hope this post has helped to identify what type of shower head you currently have and what type you would like in your new bathroom or shower upgrade.
Happy shower shopping!
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Michael is a KBB designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom installations for over eight years now, and before that, he was an electrician and part of a KBB fitting team. He created The Bathroom Blueprint in early 2020.