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.
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.