How to Move a Shower Head Up or Out

Updated on August 15, 2017
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With a Masters in Sustainable Development, Susette helps Southern California water agencies carry out their water conservation projects.

In at least 50% of the apartments I've lived in, there's been something less than desirable about the shower head. Because I'm tallish, usually the problem was a shower head that was too low. But I've also had one that was too close to the wall, so I couldn't use my hanging wire shelf for shampoo, etc. And now I have a hand held shower head with no holder. Very frustrating.

If you are in that situation too, here are some ways you can perfect the location of your shower heads, no matter how many there are or how picky the person you're living with.

Aah for a good, standup shower!
Aah for a good, standup shower! | Source

A shower head has three main pieces: the head itself, a shower arm, and a round flange that hides the hole in the wall.

Shower Arm Riser or Extension

Is it possible to raise the shower head higher? Yes it is, and it's easy. It's also easy to extend the shower head out further, if it's too close to the wall. The procedure is the same in both cases. Here are reasons someone might want to raise a shower head higher:

  • You have to duck down to wash or rinse your hair every time.
  • You want to install a chlorine filter above the shower head, but that will lower it too much.
  • You have a new boyfriend (or girlfriend) basketball star.

Here are reasons to extend your shower head:

  • You have a shampoo/soap shelf unit that hangs from the shower arm, but there's no room.
  • You keep bumping into the wall or tripping over the faucet when you shower.
  • Your bathtub is really long, but when you shower you're scrunched up against one end of it.

The first step to raising or extending your shower head is to identify the pieces, then buy what you need. At your nearest plumbing or hardware store look for the shower section or ask someone for help. Some new shower heads come with an arm and flange as well, but as long as your shower head and flange are OK, you'll want to buy the shower arm only.

Shower Arm S Style Chrome
Shower Arm S Style Chrome

When I realized I could go to the local plumbing store to buy any shape of shower arm I needed, I was in ecstasy. All it takes to install is to screw it in.

"Every one who has taken a shower has had an idea. It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it that makes a difference."

-Nolan Bushnell

How to Replace a Shower Arm

Once you have your shower arm and are ready to replace it, do the following:

  1. Gather the materials you need: Shower arm, utility knife, crescent wrench, soft cloth, plumber's tape, joint compound.
  2. Loosen the shower arm flange - The flange is that round, shiny part right up against the wall that the shower arm goes through. It blocks the hole in the wall and is held on by an adhesive foam and/or caulk around the edge. Using the utility knife, cut around the edge of the flange to loosen it. Pull it away from the wall.
  3. Unscrew the existing shower arm - If you can't do it by hand, then use the wrench to turn the shower arm to the left (counterclockwise). It should unscrew just inside the wall.
  4. Insert the new shower arm - Wrap a couple rounds of plumber's tape on the threads of the pipe on both ends. Take the flange off the old shower arm and slip it over the new one. Now screw the new shower arm into the same pipe the old one came out of.
  5. Move the shower head to the new arm - Use the wrench to twist the shower head off the old arm. (Be sure to protect the chrome with the soft cloth.) Turn counterclockwise. To insert the shower head onto the new shower arm, turn to the right (clockwise). Tighten up with the wrench.
  6. Test for leaks - With the flange still loose, turn the water on to make sure nothing leaks. Check the joint inside the wall and also the shower head.
  7. Fasten the flange to the wall - Apply caulk to the edge of the wall around the hole. Push the flange up against it and hold it in place. With a wet cloth, clean anything that squishes out from behind it. After a moment you can let go.
  8. Clean and polish everything - Using a soft, wet cloth clean all the chrome. Be careful with the flange to make sure you don't dislodge it until it's dry. Let it dry for 24 hours before using the shower.

Now you can shower in comfort, having plenty of room to move. Note that if you live with someone short, who resists your raising the shower head, you can install a diverter valve to give you two showerheads at different heights (see below).

Extension Arm for Rain Shower Heads

If you want to install a rain shower head, there is an adjustable extension arm that lets you place the shower head directly over you facing down. (Most shower heads face out.) It's adjustable in two places - near the wall and next to the shower head. You install it in the same way as described above.

Because the rain shower head is positioned differently from regular shower heads, when you buy a new one it usually comes with the extension arm and flange included in the package. If you are replacing an old rain shower head, be sure to pick a package without the other two items inside.

You can also add a chlorine filter to reduce the toxic gases that you breathe in during a shower. The filter would go between the adjustment knob and the shower head (bottom photo). Because a filter lowers the shower head, you will then want to adjust the right knob to raise all of it up higher (top photo).

Note the two adjustable turnkey knobs. The one on the right lets you adjust the height.
Note the two adjustable turnkey knobs. The one on the right lets you adjust the height. | Source
The one on the left lets you adjust the position of the shower head, itself. Just loosen the knob, move the shower head to where you want it, and tighten the knob again to hold it in place.
The one on the left lets you adjust the position of the shower head, itself. Just loosen the knob, move the shower head to where you want it, and tighten the knob again to hold it in place. | Source

Additional Shower Attachments You Can Try Out

What It Does
Where Does It Go
Flow adapter
Reduces water flow.
Fits above or in the showerhead, itself.
Diverter valve
Allows for two showerheads on the same arm.
Screws onto the shower arm above the showerhead.
Head mount
Mounts a hand held showerhead.
Fastens onto the wall.
Showerhead bracket
Allows hand held showerhead to replace a regular one.
Screws onto the end of the shower arm.
Shower filter
Removes chlorine from the water.
Replaces the showerhead or screws onto the shower arm above it.
With these accessories, singly or in combination, you can pretty much put your showerhead wherever you want it.

Installing a New Shower Arm & Shower Head

This excellent video shows the whole process of replacing a shower head, in case you need a visual how-to. If this were me, I would be installing a longer shower arm than what he is using. I just don't like being backed up against the wall when I shower.

Caution: Make sure you're barefoot when you test for leaks.

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