Buying a showerhead may seem like a very straightforward task, but it can be more difficult that many people think. To the untrained eye, the hardware section of your local department store may seem to be filled with a mishmash of interchangeable showerheads ready to be slapped onto any old shower spout. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly true.

Though a basic showerhead replacement is something we are rather confident you can manage on your own, we wanted to walk you through a few basic things everyone should consider before purchasing a new showerhead. Take a moment to read (or at least skim through) this article to be sure you make the right decision. Don’t do what my husband did the first time he changed our showerhead – know what you are getting and only get it once.

Choosing a Style

The first step to selecting a style is knowing which styles are available to you. Here is a basic list of the different showerhead styles; we’ll get into more detail about each of them in a moment: handheld, adjustable handheld, basic, basic adjustable, rainfall, and shower towers.

Handheld showerheads are probably exactly what you think they are. They feature a hose which is attached to a showerhead so that you can move it about as you see fit. Some handheld showerheads feature only one setting. That single setting will differ depending upon the model you choose, but it is usually small, soft jets. Fixed showerheads are stuck permanently to a stem jutting out from the wall or ceiling. These also feature only one setting.

Either handheld or fixed showerheads are also available in models with adjustable settings. These settings usually include rain shower (small, soft jets), power shower, and pulsating massage. Sometimes, they even include combinations of those three options.

Rainfall showerheads are usually fixed, but it is possible to find them in handheld options as well. These showerheads rarely have multiple settings and are built to resemble the feeling of being caught outside in a warm rainstorm. They usually feature many more nozzles than any of the other types of showerheads and allow the water to fall gently instead of forcing it through the nozzles.

Tower showers are large vertical bars with multiple showerheads attached to them. They often require fancy plumbing work behind the wall, as well as high water pressure.

The Upsides of Handheld Showerheads

Handheld showerheads have their positives and their negatives. On the positive side of things, they allow you to clean yourself and your bathroom from all angles. Trust me when I say that this is especially helpful after any sort of an injury. As someone who seems to find injuries where they shouldn’t even be possible, I have returned home from a renovation site without being able to reach as far as my own knees on many occasions.

Handheld showerheads can also be great for kids. I remember when we first moved into a house with a fixed showerhead and it was set up for someone rather tall, which meant that it was pointing toward the back wall of the shower. Our one child, who was 6-years-old at the time, couldn’t reach the showerhead to move it and was standing in there completely dry because the water couldn’t reach her and she couldn’t reach the showerhead. Installing a handheld showerhead greatly increased her independence. All we had to do was pull it down from its holder whenever we started the shower for her and she was good to go.

The Downsides of Handheld Showerheads

One downside to handheld showerheads, though, is that they greatly restrict the type of over-the-showerhead shower caddy you can purchase. That being said, you can choose to purchase a different type of shower caddy if the space in your shower stall or bath/shower combo allows for it. If you do want to purchase an over-the-showerhead caddy you will always want to be sure you find one with a gap in the middle to accommodate the hose.

Speaking of hoses, try to steer away from plastic hoses which will get tangled and break down over time (not to mention that they don’t really go well with most interior décor themes). Instead, consider purchasing one which is made from flexible stainless steel. It will last much longer, be less of a hassle, and is more likely to match whatever décor you decide upon.

Special Considerations for Fixed Showerheads

Pay very close attention when purchasing your fixed showerhead. First of all, you will want to check whether or not it is a wall mount showerhead or one made for ceiling mounting. If it is a wall mount, check to see if it comes with a stem or if you need to purchase one separately. Most showerheads are sold separately from their stems, so you will need to consider whether or not you can use the one you already have in your wall or if you will need a new one.

If your showerhead is made to be a ceiling mount you will need plumbing which reaches into your ceiling. If you do not already have plumbing which reaches that far you may want to consider contacting a plumber so run the pipes for you. Of course, this will mean that you will need to remove part of the ceiling – something rather costly, especially if tilework is involved.

Another option is to run your piping along the outside of the walls and ceiling. Though many people may find this option unsightly, it will nicely match any industrial design, since industrial designs are all about exposing architectural and plumbing elements as if they are art pieces.

Finally, you can choose to add an extension arm to the showerhead stem which is already attached to the wall, converting the ceiling mount showerhead into a wall mount showerhead. You will need to be certain, however, that your showerhead is capable of swivelling, otherwise it will pointing at a useless forward angle.

Do You Have Low Water Pressure?

It is very important to consider the water pressure in your home or building when selecting a showerhead. This is true whether you have low water pressure or high water pressure.

Using a showerhead constructed for people with high water pressure when you actually have low water pressure will result in an annoyingly weak trickle of water. While this is not only unsatisfying for creating the relaxing allure of a shower in the first place, it also fails to serve a showerhead’s basic function of cleaning dirt and soap from your body and hair.

Proper showerheads for systems with low water pressure harness the water into smaller holes to increase their pressure, infuse the water with tiny air bubbles to help it gain pressure, or simply allow that water to fall elegantly like rain from a cloud.

Do You Have High Water Pressure?

You have the option of selecting a showerhead built for high pressure system which allows more water to come out of larger holes to reduce the force behind that water as it escapes. You can also choose an oversized rainfall showerhead which reduces the pressure even further by dispersing it among many nozzles. Please note, however, that each of those options can be considered somewhat wasteful where water is concerned. They are not designed to reduce the water pressure, simply to disperse it.

If you are concerned about water conservation you may want to consider purchasing a special showerhead which is designed to reduce the amount of water the taps allow out. Some showerheads built for high pressure water systems will state explicitly on them that they reduce the GPM (Gallons Per Minute) to under 2.5. To be very ecologically-friendly, you will want something that is around 2.0GPM. These specialized showerheads reduce the pressure and the amount of water released because their interior systems have been specially designed.