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How to Switch Out Wall and Hand-Held Shower Heads

The most frustrating kind of hand-held shower head - unmounted, fed by the bath faucet, rather than a pipe high in the wall.
The most frustrating kind of hand-held shower head - unmounted, fed by the bath faucet, rather than a pipe high in the wall. | Source

I was never quite sure whether I liked handheld shower heads or not. It always annoyed me that they move around in their holder, or that you had to pick them up and unwind the hose in order to use them. But it wasn't until I got really frustrated with the one in my current granny-house that I began to wonder seriously what good they are. This article is about the benefits of handheld and fixed showerheads, and how to switch one out for the other.

From Wall Mount to Hand-Held Shower Head

Normally I would never consider switching from a wall mount "fixed" shower head to a hand held one, but for new parents or pet owners the switch can be helpful. Hand held shower heads can be used for a variety of tasks, including:

  • Washing your dog (or cat) in the tub.
  • Showing your child how to take a shower for the first time.
  • Playing "spray the kid" if your child is whining about having to take a bath.
  • Rinsing your face and hair when you're still in the tub, if you don't want to flush warm bubblebath water out yet.
  • Rinsing cleanser off the inside walls and sides of the tub after you've scrubbed them.

Jaclo 8023-PCH Drop-In Showerarm Mount, Polished Chrome
Jaclo 8023-PCH Drop-In Showerarm Mount, Polished Chrome

You can use this bracket with your wall shower arm to both mount and supply your hand-held shower head with water. Make sure the outlet points down.

 

This is how to replace a fixed shower head with a hand held one. First purchase a drop-in shower arm mount (see product on right), a handheld shower head or kit, and some plumber's tape. Then:

  1. Gather materials: Crescent wrench, soft cloth, old toothbrush, baking soda.
  2. Remove the current shower head - Using the wrench and soft cloth to protect the chrome, turn the shower head to the left (counterclockwise) until it comes off.
  3. Clean the threads - Using the toothbrush and some baking soda, scrub any rust and dirt off the shower arm threads.
  4. Install the mount - Wrap plumber's tape around the threads a few times, then screw on the mount, turning to the right. Tighten with the wrench and soft cloth, making sure the outlet ends up facing down.
  5. Insert the hand-held shower head - Wrap plumber's tape around the threads on the mount, itself. Screw on the hand-held shower head hose. Turn the water on and test for leaks. Hang the shower head in its new bracket.

From Hand-Held to Wall Mount Shower Head

In the reverse case, you might have had kids but they've grown now, or might have had pets who've gone on to puppy heaven. Here are the benefits to switching back to a fixed, wall mounted shower head:

What kind of shower head do you have right now?

  • Fixed wall mount shower head
  • Wall fed hand-held shower head
  • Faucet fed hand-held shower head
  • Both (fixed and hand-held shower heads)
  • Don't have one. I don't shower.
See results without voting
Niagara Earth Massage 1.25GPM Low flow showerhead
Niagara Earth Massage 1.25GPM Low flow showerhead

Niagara is one of the best brands of shower head you can buy. They have a wide variety that are nearly always rated highly. This is one of their most basic.

 
  • You can shower without a hose getting in the way.
  • You can actually raise or lower the shower head without having to spend ten minutes tapping it into just the right position and hoping it stays.
  • Your shower head will be in the same place next time you use it. You can't bump it out of place.
  • You can upgrade to a low-flow shower head with colored lights, or even add a chlorine filter to it.

Here are the steps for switching from a wall mounted hand-held showerhead (as above) to a fixed low-flow shower head. First purchase your brand new shower head and some plumbers tape. Then:

  1. Gather supplies: Crescent wrench, soft cloth, old toothbrush, baking soda.
  2. Take off the hand-held shower head - Unscrew the hand-held hose and take the shower head out of the bracket. Set aside.
  3. Take off the shower arm mount - Unscrew the mount by turning to the left (counterclockwise) until it comes off.
  4. Clean and prepare the threads - Using the toothbrush and baking soda, scrub off any dirt or old tape from the shower arm threads. Wrap plumber's tape around the threads a few times.
  5. Install the new, low-flow showerhead - Screw on the shower head, turning to the right. Tighten with the wrench and soft cloth.

Ana Bath SS5450CBN 5 Inch 5 Function Handheld Shower and Showerhead Combo Shower System, Brushed Nickel Finish
Ana Bath SS5450CBN 5 Inch 5 Function Handheld Shower and Showerhead Combo Shower System, Brushed Nickel Finish

This is what a double showerhead setup looks like. With this kit you purchase everything you need. Note that the diverter valve has a built-in bracket for the hand-held showerhead.

 

Keeping Both Shower Heads

Instead of replacing one with the other, you can keep both and set them up side by side. Here are the benefits to keeping both shower heads:

  • Since you've got it, why not keep it? You might be able use it again someday.
  • Sometimes if kids are scared, hurt, or just want to be with you, it can be fun to shower with them. They can use the lower hand-held one and you can each have your own shower head next to each other, although you won't be able to run them at the same time.
  • You can use the regular shower head to shower with and the hand-held one to rinse off the walls and tub.

Delta Faucet U4922-PK Universal Showering Components Shower Arm Diverter for Hand Shower, Chrome
Delta Faucet U4922-PK Universal Showering Components Shower Arm Diverter for Hand Shower, Chrome

If you already have a hand-held showerhead mounted on the wall, this diverter valve will let you install a regular showerhead too. The front outlet is for the regular shower head. The back outlet is for the hand-held hose. The switch changes the water flow from one shower head to the other.

 

Mounting your hand-held showerhead on the wall allows you to place it lower for children to use or install it on a different wall from the regular showerhead.

uxcell® Bathroom Wall Mount 19mm Dia Handle Adjustable Aluminum Shower Head Holder
uxcell® Bathroom Wall Mount 19mm Dia Handle Adjustable Aluminum Shower Head Holder

This wall mount comes in different sizes, so be sure to measure the width of your shower head base and choose the right size. It's designed to fix onto a wall with screws. If you want to fix it onto tile, you'll need to drill holes through the tile or use strong, double-sided tape to attach it.

 

Here are the steps you take to set up a regular shower head next to a hand held one. Note that if you want a low-flow shower head and don't have one, you can purchase one at your local hardware store, along with a diverter valve (see Amazon ad) and hand-held wall mount.

The diverter valve will allow you to mount your regular shower head and hand-held near each other. If your hand-held is fed from the faucet, you may have to attach a longer hose (see last section).

  1. Gather your tools and supplies: Wrench, soft cloth, plumber's tape, old toothbrush, baking soda, new shower head, diverter valve, and/or wall mount.
  2. Take off the old shower head - Use the wrench to twist the nut behind the showerhead counterclockwise.
  3. Clean the threads - Using the old toothbrush and baking soda, scrub the threads clean on the shower arm.
  4. Install the diverter valve - Wrap plumber's tape a few times around the clean threads of the shower arm. Screw the diverter valve onto the shower arm clockwise. Make sure one of the outlets ends up pointing down.
  5. Install the new shower head - Wrap plumber's tape around the threads of both of the diverter valve outlets. Screw the new shower head onto the front outlet. Use the wrench (and soft cloth) to tighten it on.
  6. Install a wall mount, if the diverter valve does not have a built-in bracket for the hand-held - Screw or tape the wall mount onto the same or a different wall at the height you prefer.
  7. Attach your hand-held showerhead - Wrap the threads of the rear diverter outlet with plumber's tape. Screw on your hand-held shower head hose and tighten. Hang the shower head in its new bracket.

Now your hand-held shower head is out of the way of the tub faucet and too high for a little kid to reach. Now you can also shower with a little one (or a pet) and spray them from a standing position. What fun!

From Both To Only One Shower Head

You may have inherited a shower setup with both types of heads and now are wanting to simplify. Here are the benefits to doing that:

  • You get rid of the hose that always seems to be in the way.
  • It's easier to clean just one regular shower head than it is to clean two shower heads and a hose, much less the wall behind it.
  • You can let go of the frustration of always knocking the hand-held askew or completely off its bracket.
  • You don't need it to rinse anything anymore, if you have a big sponge or a bucket you can keep handy.

From a Faucet-Based Hand-Held to a Fixed Shower Head

This process is nearly impossible for an amateur, hence is best left to a professional plumber. When water for a hand-held shower head is supplied from the bath faucet, it usually means there is no outlet in the wall above where a regular shower head would be. It could be that a pipe has been installed in the wall, but then capped off and covered over by wallboard. Or it could be that there is no pipe in the wall at all. In either case, a plumber would have to break open the wall and either install a new pipe, or uncap an existing pipe and insert a shower arm.

The way you switch from a double shower head setup to a single one is the reverse of the process above. Basically:

  1. Screw off the regular shower head. Clean the threads.
  2. Screw off the hand-held hose. Clean the threads.
  3. Screw off the diverter valve. Clean the shower arm threads.
  4. Wrap plumber's tape around the shower arm threads.
  5. Screw the regular shower head directly onto the shower arm.
  6. Store the diverter valve and hand-held shower head for future use or donate them to a secondhand store.

Note the bar wall mount. This allows shower head height to be adjusted.
Note the bar wall mount. This allows shower head height to be adjusted. | Source

Raising a Faucet-Fed Hand-Held to Hang on the Wall

If you have previously used a hand-held shower head primarily for washing pets or the tub, but now want to use it for an adult standing up, here is how to raise it higher.

First you'll need to purchase a longer hose. Measure the one you have, both length and width. Then measure from the faucet up to the height where you'll want the shower head. You can purchase a new hose on Amazon.com or in any standard hardware store.

You'll also need to purchase a wall mount. You can choose one that's fixed in one place, or choose a wall mounted bar that allows for raising or lowering the shower head to your preferred height. Be careful to purchase one that doesn't slip.

Next take these steps:

  1. Attach the wall mount at the height you want it.
  2. Unscrew the old hand-held shower head from its hose. Clean the threads.
  3. Unscrew the old hand-held hose from the bath faucet. Clean the threads.
  4. Install the new hose onto the faucet. Wrap the threads with plumber's tape first.
  5. Screw the old shower head onto the new hose. Wrap the threads first.
  6. Test to make sure there are no leaks.
  7. Hang the shower head up on the wall mount and adjust the height (if applicable).

Be sure to clean up the old hose and find a way to recycle it, or at least tuck it away in a cupboard somewhere, in case you need it again.

Enjoy your new stand-up shower!

Inox Extended Length Stainless Steel Shower Hose - 100 inches (2.54 meters)
Inox Extended Length Stainless Steel Shower Hose - 100 inches (2.54 meters)

You can get hoses of different lengths. This one is plenty long enough to reach a tall wall height.

 

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Comments 6 comments

Nadine May profile image

Nadine May 2 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

That is a handy post for people to read who ave the same setup. We have a separate shower, and in our bath we do not have a hand shower, but it would be nice to have one.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Excellent piece, I just switched mine out with water saving ones. They are just ok but we all need to save water out here in the desert.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 2 years ago Author

@Nadine - You can see in the first photograph how my hand-held was set up. It looks like they took off the faucet, extended the wall pipe out over the bathtub, then put a different faucet on that had an outlet for a hand-held. But the faucet was too short, so I've 4 inches of piping sticking out over the tub. I've wrapped the hand-held hose around it, so it's not obvious, but still . . .

@Eric - What brand did you use? I'm curious, because our water supplier was giving out Niagara's for awhile (which is how I first discovered them) and I quite liked it, but I haven't liked others I've used.


DebMartin 20 months ago

Redoing my shower fixtures by the end of this month. Thought I'd do a little research as my old fixtures are... well.... old. Wanted to know what's available these day. Thanks for the tips. I think I'd like to try a handheld but I'm going to see if I can get two, one fixed and one handheld. The frustrations of staying in place and twisting never occurred to me.


watergeek profile image

watergeek 20 months ago Author

@Deb - If you buy the shower head combo, the hand held part would be less likely to turn around in its holder, seeing as how they're made to go together. Good luck and have fun with your new shower heads!


DebMartin 20 months ago

Thanks! Combo it is.

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