Renovating a bathroom is a lot of work and often requires the professional expertise of a plumber. Despite knowing a few basic plumbing tricks and despite having renovated many homes over the years, I still turn to the trusted knowledge of a plumbing professional for much of the work done in our project homes. Since I am hoping that you will do the same and I trust that any good plumber knows a good plumbing piece when he or she sees one, I have chosen to keep things as simple as possible on this page by focusing on shower handles instead of actual shower valves.

Again, if you aren’t familiar with plumbing, this may sound confusing already. Allow me to quickly explain the difference between a handle and a valve and why I’ve chosen to focus on handles here. Though it may go without saying, a handle is the part of the shower system which you turn in order to turn on the water. It may turn on both the hot and the cold water or you may choose to purchase separate handles for each temperature range.

A shower valve, on the other hand, is a piece of plumbing which is usually placed behind the wall. The valve is what allows the handle to actually turn the water on and off. Shower valves are critically important to the proper functioning of your shower space, but to review them would require a little more expertise than I am comfortable claiming I have. I suggest speaking to your plumber about shower valves. Shower handles, however, I have in plenty. Let’s take a closer look at how to find the best shower handle for your needs.

Buying Information

Do You Even Need a Shower Handle? – Let’s begin by answering the obvious question. If you have a bathtub/shower combination space, chances are that you do not need a handle for your shower. Your shower should be able to work from the same plumbing as your bathtub spout and should be able to be turned on using the bathtub handle(s). A simple diverter bath tap system will allow you to switch between using the bathtub spout and the showerhead. If, however, you are building or renovating a shower stall, you will likely need a shower handle.

One Handle or Two? – If you are renovating a space it is usually wisest to stay with the type of plumbing currently in the space. For example, if the shower stall already has two handles, stick with two handles; if it has one, stick with one. This is the wisest decision because it is the easiest way of doing things. To change from one handle to two handles, or vice versa, would require plumbing work to be completed behind the shower wall. Of course, this isn’t that big of a deal if you have plumbing experience or are working with an experienced plumber. In such cases, you simply have to decide which you would prefer.

Handle Trim – Many shower handles are built specifically for use with trim. Trim, also referred to as a faceplate, is designed to help keep the handle in place and to stop water from making its way in around the edges of the handle. Personally, I think a lot of it has to do with appearances as well. Something about a shower handle with trim just looks more elegant than one without trim. Much of the time, however, you can choose not to add trim to your handle, and caulk its edges instead. Mostly, it comes down to personal choice. Still, if you purchase an ensemble which comes with its own faceplate, I suggest using the faceplate.

For your convenience, we have included not only shower handles on this list, but also faceplates and entire kits complete with shower valves.

Most Elegant Lever Handle
Moen 100657

Elegance is all about smooth curves and simplicity. It is beauty, understated. If you are hoping to infuse some understated beauty into your shower space, this Moen lever handle may be exactly what you are looking for.

It is probably interesting to many people that I have chosen to name this handle the “best elegant handle”. They likely look at the piece and think, “There’s nothing special or ornate about this.” That’s just the thing. If you are looking to create an elegant spa space in your bathroom, you don’t want to go overboard in terms of ornate designs. Instead, you want to create a space filled with simple, flowing lines and allow the finishes you use to make the statement for you. For example, the shine of this polished chrome handle or the sleek, crisp color of a real marble countertop will add the little bit of glam any elegant space will require.

The lever style of this handle means that you will be adjusting both the temperature and the flow of the water at once. Pulling upward on the lever adjusts the flow of the water; turning it adjusts the temperature. This simple-to-use handle offers you all the control you would receive from two handles, with half of the plumbing work required.

Best Easy to Use Handle
Moen TL181 Chateau Balanced Valve

This turn-style shower handle allows you to adjust water temperature and water pressure, much like the lever style described above, though in a slightly different manner. Instead of lifting the handle to adjust the water pressure, it will automatically go from a small stream to a strong stream as you turn the handle from right to left.

For some people, this makes the process a lot easier. I know that this style of shower handle is the favorite of my children – they love how straightforward it is. They also love ones like this that feature colors to indicate approximate temperature levels, depending on where the handle is pointing. I imagine that this type of handle would be the simplest for people who have a difficult time pulling or twisting. They can simply push the handle in one direction or another to achieve the results they desire.

Personally, however, I do not like that I cannot have a soft stream of lukewarm water or a soft stream of hot water when using a handle such as this one. Of course, I do not have any sort of wrist problem which would prevent me from using another type of handle. Your own preferences and needs will be what are most important.

Another bonus to this handle is that it comes as an entire ensemble kit. You will receive the handle, a faceplate, and a high quality valve. This is wonderful for those who are building an entirely new shower stall and for those whose old valves are no longer working properly.

Best Squared Lever
KES Bathroom Shower Faucet Set Solid Brass

Do you like the lever style of shower handle but are tired of the curvy lines designed for feminine bathrooms? Looking for something slightly more urban and masculine? The square faceplate and rectangular lever of this handle have been designed just for you. It will fit well into any urban, industrial or modern/modular bathroom space. It even has its place in many contemporary designs.

In case you hadn’t guessed from its name, this is actually a set. It consists of the handle, faceplate, and a valve. It is entirely constructed of metal – a solid brass design covered with polished chrome for a beautiful appearance. “Of course it’s made of metal,” you may think. However, not all shower handles and plumbing parts are constructed of metal. Some are simply metal plated for a finished appearance and added durability, but their inner parts are plastic. Those options are, obviously, not as durable as this one.

Best for Shower and Bathtub
Delta T17464-I Ashlyn Monitor 17 Series Tub and Shower Trim

As someone who has worked on many shower/tub combinations I understand the frustration which comes along with trying to match bathtub spouts, showerheads, and handles when purchasing them all separately. Fortunately, this large set gives you everything you need. It comes with a shower handle, a bathtub spout, a stationary showerhead, and a handheld showerhead. What more could you ask for? Well, if I am honest, you could ask for a valve. You will have to purchase your valve separate, because it does not come as part of this set. That being said, you can always re-use your old valve if it is still in working condition. Otherwise, this gives you the opportunity to purchase whichever valve you prefer.

The shower/tub handle features two different turn-style handles assembled into one. It takes up no more space than a typical turn-style or lever-style handle, but actually allows you to control the temperature of the water independently of the water pressure by stacking two separate handles one on top of the other. Turning one handle will change the temperature from cold to warm or hot. Turning the other handle will turn on the water and increase or decrease its pressure.

In what is quite an interesting design, the handheld showerhead fits into a cut out inside of the stationary showerhead, meaning that it takes up the same amount of spaces as it would if you were to purchase only one of these two options. The handheld showerhead features five different settings: slow massage, fast massage, full body spray, full body spray with massage, and pause. Additionally, you can choose to use the stationary showerhead on its own, the handheld showerhead on its own, or both at the same time.

The overall style of this entire ensemble is one which is rather universal in its appeal. Though it may not be the best choice for a rustic space, it will definitely fit well into most contemporary, industrial, or modern spaces. The interesting details in its bathtub spout and showerhead would also make it an acceptable addition to a country cottage, French country, or shabby chic design.

Best with Subtle Markings
Delta Foundations BT13010 Monitor 13 Series

As a parent, I understand the importance of hot/cold indicators on turn-style shower handles. As someone who is, to an extent, nearly obsessed with interior décor, I am also very well aware that red and blue hot/cold indicator graphics painted onto a handle’s faceplate clashes with most color schemes. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but it does. I walk into the bathroom and my eyes naturally (and quickly) track to these bright red and blue arrows – they stand out like a sore thumb.

I only wish I had come across a handle and faceplate combination like this one before I went ahead and purchased my sore thumb red and blue one. This Delta Foundations turn-style handle and faceplate combination features embossed hot and cold indicator markings. Using a large “H” to indicate hot and a large “C” to indicate cold, they assist any child that has a basic comprehension of the alphabet to turn the water to his or her desired temperature. Since the letters and the flow indicators have been embossed on the faceplate, there is absolutely no need to include ugly red or blue paint in the overall design.

Constructed completely of brass, this ensemble is rather durable. To say the least, it is much more durable than any of the cheaply constructed options which feature plastic centers encased in chrome. Despite being constructed of brass, you can purchase this set with one of two finishes – polished chrome or brushed stainless steel.