Shower Heads and Faucets (Bathroom) Buying Guide

Shower Heads and Faucets (Bathroom)
  • Getting Started

  • Showers can be simple hygiene occurrences, or spa-like experiences produced by the design of the showerheads and faucets.  A complex system can produce a simple shower when needed, and then an enhanced “event” when desired. Designing the shower system will take some forethought and planning.

  • What to Consider

  • Lifestyle: In a shower area used by children or even older adults, a simple showerhead installed 78-inches high at a 45-degree angle with an “easy-to-use” faucet may be appropriate. When a Spa-Like Shower System is desired, several issues must be reviewed:

    Are water pipes large enough to deliver the amount of water required to operate the system? Older homes have ½-inch valve that may provide up to 10- gallons of water per minute (gpm). Faucets will need 2.5 gpm and can handle a typical showerhead with a handheld; spa systems with body sprays, showerhead, and a handheld may require up to 15 gpm and ¾-inch valves. A ½-inch pipe with a ¾-inch valve will only produce the amount of water the pipe delivers.

        •  Is the water delivery system — well or municipal — able to produce the amount of water needed for the system?

        •  How large is the water heater? Can it supply enough hot water?

    Shower Size: A single stall or two-person unit or an open room — the size will determine what can and what cannot be used safely.

    New construction or Renovation: If fitting the new faucet and shower to an existing tiled wall, the number of holes will determine what should be purchased. If a total renovation or a new room is under construction, the options offered will be wider.

    Building Codes: Check with the municipality to determine if a licensed plumber must be hired to perform the installation. Also, if new pipes are included, a municipal inspection may be required.

    Budget: The cost of the showerheads and the faucets are one factor; in a custom shower, the amount of water and operation of the hot water heater will increase the cost of using the Spa unit. The inclusion of a plumber will add into the budget.

  • Shower Faucets

  • Available in a variety of architectural styles and materials from polished chrome and brushed nickel to antique brass, the shower set should complement or match the tub and sink sets. For showers in tubs, manufacturers produce complete sets to match the tub filler faucet, handles, shower head and diverters.

    Single Handle — The most popular design because it allows the user to balance the volume of water and temperature easily and quickly.

    Two Handle— While traditional in design, they require additional effort in adjusting the water temperature. When replacing a two-handle set, a two-handle design will accommodate the original layout.

    Handles should match the showerhead and the faucets used throughout the bathroom.

  • Shower Valves

  • Valves are the hidden part of the faucet and they control the water emanating from the faucet or the showerhead. Today, by law, all valves must be anti-scald, meaning they will not permit water to flow above a safe temperature. Hot water of 160-degrees will burn someone within a half second!

    Pressure-sensitive valves maintain the water temperature by slowing the flow of cold or hot water, such as when someone flushes a toilet or turn on the hot water in the room or another part of the house. The fluctuation in hot or cold water is sensed and the ‘other’ water flow is slowed to an output of +-3 degrees, meaning the pressure or volume of water coming out of the faucet or showerhead is lower and cannot be controlled.  Provides up to 10 gpm.

    Thermostatic valves control the water temperature to +-1 degree by mixing the hot and cold water and pushing it by piston to the faucet/showerhead.  Provides up to 17 gpm and is most often used on systems with several delivery units such as a static with a handheld showerhead; or a body spray.

    Digital thermostatic valves manufactured by several companies work with spa-like units with music and lighting, and several delivery units.

    Transfer valves operate in a spa-designed set-up to direct the water to one or up to two of the delivery units.  Used in conjunction with pressure-sensitive or thermostatic valves.

    Diverter valves control the flow of water to only one of the water delivery units, such as out the handheld showerhead and not the static head or faucet.

    Volume control valves permit volume and pressure of the water output to be controlled on the delivery units, such as the showerheads, handhelds or body sprays.

  • Showerheads / Components

  • Single-function showerheads supply water at a consistent output mode.

    Multi-function showerheads supply water at a variety of output modes, such as an invigorating spray, or relaxing rain. Controls for directing the water output are in the head.

    Ceiling-mounted showerheads will deliver water from overhead — from the ceiling — in a variety of intensities, most frequently as a gentle rain.

    Handheld showerheads deliver water from the output faucet through a hose to the head that is mounted on a railing in conjunction with a static head or on a hook integral to the unit. Handheld heads are convenient for cleaning the shower, for short or taller individuals. Single function or multi-function units are available.

    Body Sprays are mounted on the wall and deliver water to various sections of the body. Water output may be at different intensities.

    Drains, usually 2-inches, may need to be larger depending on the number and output of the shower experience. Larger drains are available for directing the used water to the drainpipe.

  • Cost Considerations

  • Complexity and functionality forms the major portion of the cost. A showerhead with a pressure-sensitive valve is the least expensive option. Add body sprays, a handheld showerhead, and ¾-inch pipe may have to be installed to the hot water heater.

    Professional installation, if needed, is another large expense.

    Valves - pressure-sensitive valves are much less expensive than thermostatic valves and the less expensive option may be appropriate in simple shower set-ups. If multi-delivery units are used, a thermostatic valve will be needed to supply the amount of water desired for the experience.