Many homeowners want to replace the shower head in their bathroom because the existing one is leaky or damaged, or to install one that better suits their needs. Either way, it can be a relatively easy DIY task that will add value to the home. A shower head replacement doesn't have to be difficult if you know what your options are ahead of time, and the steps involved. Here are some tips to help make the process go smoothly.
Types of Shower Heads
When replacing an old shower head, one of the first things you need to decide on is what kind of shower head to buy. Be realistic about your budget and room specifications when making the purchase. It should be comfortable and fit well with the rest of the plumbing fixtures. Here's a few different shower head variations:
Wall Mount Shower Head
These sound exactly like their name: they are mounted on the bathroom wall and are fixed in position. This standard shower head will adjust in a circular up and down motion at the neck, but the amount is minimal, so if the fixture wasn’t installed high enough or your ceilings are low, then taller folks may have to bend down. While there’s nothing flashy about them, these kinds are the most common installs and when head room is generous, they work just fine.
Hand-Held/ Adjustable Shower Head
These shower heads are usually purchased for their flexibility. They are good options for people with mobility issues and for bathing children or pets in the bathtub. An adjustable shower head may also have a handheld option, and sits on a wall track which allows the user to bring the head up or down to different heights. This is perfect for a family of different sized individuals—just make sure the unit is easy for everyone to adjust and fits to your existing plumbing.
Rain Shower Head
These can be wall-mounted, but work best when fixed to the ceiling, so it might not be a DIY option if you need a plumber to change the pipe location. They are larger than regular shower heads and give the feeling of standing in a soft rainfall. They are therapeutic and stress-relieving, but because they spread the same amount of water over a larger surface there isn’t a potent spray. This is a pro or a con depending on your home’s water pressure and your own personal preferences.
Removing the Old Shower Head
An old shower head may require some elbow grease to remove. First things first: shut off the water to the house! Then, use an adjustable wrench to loosen the collar on the old head. It's best to try to be at eye level when you do this so that you don’t bend or pull on the plumbing inside the shower wall. This can possibly damage any old pipes or create leaks that you can’t see, resulting in costly repairs. Work only on twisting the gooseneck-shaped pipe from its home as the replacement shower head will come with a new one. Tip: cover the wrench with a few strips of masking tape or a thin cloth as this will prevent you from marring any of the pipe surfaces.
Clean and Use Thread Tape
Take this time to clean the pipe free from old gunk and scrape any old caulking or residue from around the shower at this point as well. There is a good chance that older pipes extending out from the wall or ceiling will have worn threads. Installing a new head on a bad connection can cause it to spew water or create annoying drips. The simple solution to this is to use thread seal tape or Teflon tape. Grab this inexpensive item when you buy the shower head at the hardware store, just in case. Make sure to wrap it clockwise around the threads, otherwise it will be useless.
Check for Leaks
Attach the new shower head into place as tightly as possible with only your hand strength. Then, turn the shower head toward the wall (away from you) if possible and turn the water to the house back on. Turn the shower handle and look closely at where the shower head connects for any leaks. There may be a few at the start, but if it continues, then try to tighten a little more with your hand or take the adjustable wrench and turn the head ever so slightly to get a better fit. You don’t have to shut the house water off at this point—just turn the shower handle on and off to see if there are any drips coming from the connection after a final tighten.
Make sure you have a steady footing when changing the shower head. There will most likely be some water that drips out during the process and this can create a slippery scenario. Have some towels handy to wipe up excess water and possibly something laid down in the tub for grip and to protect the bathtub surface. If you must use a step stool, make sure it has non-slip grips on the feet.
With just a few tools and a couple of hours, you can change out that leaky or outdated fixture for something that makes showering a much more enjoyable experience for the whole household.