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How to Pick the Perfect Shower Head

In the midst of a bathroom renovation, the shower head may seem a small detail, but it’s a well-used one. Get it right

Houzz UK deputy editor. I’m an interiors journalist and editor, previously for the… More

If you’re in the middle of a renovation project – or can remember your last one – you’ll know the daily decisions about small details can be one of the most challenging elements of the process. When it comes to your bathroom, “Which shower head?” will be one such consideration.

What are the options, and how do you begin to narrow them down to the one choice that will work best for you and your space? A bit of professional guidance can be a huge boon in the decision-making maze, so, here, a crack team of bathroom professionals break it down.

Professional advice from: Inga Kopala, director at Amberth; Lauren Beharrell, marketing manager at Bathrooms Direct Yorkshire; James Lentaigne, creative director at Drummonds.

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Where to start?
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…

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James Lentaigne of Drummonds breaks down this dizzying decision list. “The best starting point is the design of the whole bathroom – what is the overall look and feel and what kind of room are you trying to create?” he says.

“Decide what kind of an impact you want to make. Choose well and the shower can give a real wow factor. 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.”

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How important is water pressure when choosing a shower head?
Size is something a lot of homeowners think of first, according to Inga Kopala of Amberth, but water pressure is just as important. “Often clients won’t consider this,” she says, “and they must. 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.

Read reviews of plumbers in your area in the Houzz Directory

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How do I work out my options?
“Ask yourself: ‘Is it a combi/pumped system or low pressure?’” says Lauren Beharrell of Bathrooms Direct Yorkshire. “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 200-220mm. “If you have good pressure,” she adds, “a 300-400mm rainwater style is an option.”

Lauren adds, “If you’re on a low-pressure water system [0.1-0.5 bar], you can fit a shower pump, which will take pressure to between 1.5 and 4 bar to create a high-pressure system.”

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Any other common details people tend to overlook?
“With a standard overhead shower, make sure you can remove the rose for easy cleaning, as in hard-water areas, the limescale build-up can block the holes,” Lauren says.

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Are some shower heads more eco-friendly than others?
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.”

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Should I go for wall- or ceiling-mounted; fixed or flexible?
“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, as it gives the option to shower without wetting your hair, is great for showering children, and also makes cleaning simpler.”

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What about concealed or surface-mounted?
“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.”

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For a very contemporary effect, as well as for use in steam rooms, Inga agrees that fittings flush with the ceiling are popular. “However, if clients have a very high ceiling, we’d suggest wall-mounted.”

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Which kind of shower heads work best in small spaces?
“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 750 x 750mm, and then you can use any shower head within that.”

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Does living in a hard-water area affect choice?
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.”

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Which materials are popular right now?
“Trends vary in different areas of the UK. Chrome still accounts for 85-90% 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 big trend for rainwater heads.”

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“In terms of trends,” James adds, “we’ve seen a move away from more minimalist styling towards classic designs and luxury materials, and brass is definitely a part of that; it suits British homes very well.”

Tell us…
What kind of shower head do you have – and why? Let us know in the Comments section.
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