How to Choose the Perfect Shower Head
In the midst of a bathroom renovation, a shower head may seem a small detail, but it’s a well-used one, so get it right
What are the shower head options, and how do you begin to narrow them down to the one choice that will work best for you and your space? Here, as part of our Bathroom Planning guide, three bathroom professionals break it down.
Professional advice from: Inga Kopala of Amberth; Lauren Beharrell of Bathrooms Direct Yorkshire; James Lentaigne of Drummonds
More in this series: How to Choose a… Shower l Shower Tray l Shower Enclosure l Bath Material l Basin Tap l Vanity Unit
Starting your bathroom project? Read How to Plan for a Bathroom Renovation
Your shower is one of the most hardworking parts of your home. And the shower head, whose design will dictate how water is delivered onto you daily, is not only a key aesthetic detail, but also one that must function well and suit your particular bathroom scheme.
Just some of the things you’ll find yourself considering when choosing a new one include:
- Who will use the shower.
- Whether it’s for over the bath, for a wet room or for a walk-in shower.
- The size.
- The finish.
- Whether or not the head is fixed.
- Whether the look should be contemporary or traditional.
- Square or round.
- Ceiling- or wall-mounted.
- If you live in a hard-water area, what impact it will have on your choice.
Phew. Quite a lot to begin with then.
“Choose well and the shower can give a real wow factor,” he continues. “Working on the ‘if you can’t disguise, emphasise’ principle, devote as much space as you can to the shower and make it a real feature. If it’s a striking design, it can become the centrepiece of a bathroom.”
Size is something a lot of homeowners think of first, according to Inga Kopala, but water pressure is just as important. “Often clients won’t consider this and they must,” she says. “If you have low water pressure, you can’t go for a large shower head. Water will dribble; it just won’t perform.”
James agrees, “Our shower rose heads require good water pressure to work properly, as they’re quite large and deliver a good quantity of water. So before installing this style, it’s really important to check your water pressure and also the water softness. This will make a dramatic difference to the shower longer term.
“London houses often only have a 15mm pipe connecting the house to the mains,” he continues. “This alone will reduce the pressure for most houses and is worth changing if you’re doing a large-enough refurbishment.
“We would always suggest getting a professional plumber to check your water system – ie, how large your tank is, or how instant the hot water can be,” he adds.
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“Ask yourself: ‘Is it a combi/pumped system or low pressure?’” Lauren Beharrell says. “High-pressure shower heads usually require a minimum pressure of 1 bar.”
Inga advises that in homes with low water pressure, owners should stick to a shower head of no more than 200mm to 220mm. “If you have good pressure,” she adds, “a 300mm to 400mm rainwater style is an option.”
Lauren adds, “If you’re on a low-pressure water system [0.1 to 0.5 bar], you can fit a shower pump, which will take pressure to between 1.5 and 4 bar to create a high-pressure system.”
Concerned that a large shower head will use excessive amounts of water? “Some have eco options to reduce flow rate – usually a filter that sits in the head to halve the flow rate,” Lauren says. “Most eco showers are designed to run on high-pressure systems.”
“Most of our clients will choose shower heads that are wall- or ceiling-mounted, fixed style,” Inga says. “This is because we generally advise that, for the flexibility side of things, they also include a hand-held shower, which makes rinsing the space easier, or allows you just to wash your hair over the bath if you want.”
James agrees. “We always recommend a hand shower in addition to an overhead shower,” he says. “as it gives the option to shower without wetting your hair, is great for showering children, and also makes cleaning simpler.”
“This is generally down to personal preference,” James says. “For a more minimal approach, concealed is ideal and has the added benefit of being easy to maintain, as these generally sit flush with the tiles.
“The other benefit is that you can usually position your control unit where you like – ie, have the on/off in the entrance to the shower and the head elsewhere.”
“A slide rail [pictured] or small fixed head, coming from the wall on a short arm at a 45 degree angle,” Lauren advises.
“The fixed shower heads give you a little bit of a different experience than the smaller heads that you can tilt,” Inga adds. “The smallest shower enclosure we’d recommend would probably be 750mm x 750mm, and then you can use any shower head within that.”
In terms of the hardness of the water, Inga says that certain finishes will become visibly marked quicker than others.
“Water softness has a critical effect, especially with brass, copper or black fittings,” she says. “In these cases, we highly recommend water softeners or water treatments, because the limescale will be prominent quite quickly and ruin the look.”
“Trends vary in different areas of the UK. Chrome still accounts for 85% to 90% of sales, but gold, brass, nickel and black chrome in polished and brushed finishes are becoming more regular sales,” Lauren says.
Inga adds that she’s seeing more colour-coated finishes of late, not only black but also yellow, pink and white, as well as various metals. “I also think people are moving away from smaller heads that you can tilt,” she says. “Size matters when it comes to the experience, and there’s a trend for rainwater heads.”
What kind of shower head do you have – and why? Let us know in the Comments.