How to Switch out Wall and Hand-Held Shower Heads
I was never quite sure whether I liked handheld shower heads or not. It always annoyed me that they moved 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 were. 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.
This is how to replace a fixed shower head with a hand held one. First purchase a drop-in shower arm mount (see product below), a handheld shower head or kit, and some plumber's tape. Then:
- Gather materials: Crescent wrench, soft cloth, old toothbrush, baking soda.
- 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.
- Clean the threads - Using the toothbrush and some baking soda, scrub any rust and dirt off the shower arm threads.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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:
- Gather supplies: Crescent wrench, soft cloth, old toothbrush, baking soda.
- Take off the hand-held shower head - Unscrew the hand-held hose and take the shower head out of the bracket. Set aside.
- Take off the shower arm mount - Unscrew the mount by turning to the left (counterclockwise) until it comes off.
- 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.
- Install the new, low-flow showerhead - Screw on the shower head, turning to the right. Tighten with the wrench and soft cloth.
What kind of shower head do you have right now?
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
- Gather your tools and supplies: Wrench, soft cloth, plumber's tape, old toothbrush, baking soda, new shower head, diverter valve, and/or wall mount.
- Take off the old shower head - Use the wrench to twist the nut behind the showerhead counterclockwise.
- Clean the threads - Using the old toothbrush and baking soda, scrub the threads clean on the shower arm.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Attach your hand-held shower head - 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!
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.
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.
The way you switch from a double shower head setup to a single one is the reverse of the process above. Basically:
- Screw off the regular shower head. Clean the threads.
- Screw off the hand-held hose. Clean the threads.
- Screw off the diverter valve. Clean the shower arm threads.
- Wrap plumber's tape around the shower arm threads.
- Screw the regular shower head directly onto the shower arm.
- Store the diverter valve and hand-held shower head for future use or donate them to a secondhand store.
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.
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:
- Attach the wall mount at the height you want it.
- Unscrew the old hand-held shower head from its hose. Clean the threads.
- Unscrew the old hand-held hose from the bath faucet. Clean the threads. If you need a longer one, you can buy hoses of different lengths at your local hardware store (or on Amazon).
- Install the new hose onto the faucet. Wrap the threads with plumber's tape first.
- Screw the old shower head onto the new hose. Wrap the threads first.
- Test to make sure there are no leaks.
- 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!