Best handheld shower?
August 2, 2009 11:16 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to install a good handheld shower in my bathroom in my rented apartment.

I have great water pressure with my current shower head and am looking for tips for best brands (I hear Grohe and Moen are the best, but are they overpriced or overrated?), installation tips (it sounds easy, like I just need pliers and plumbers' tape). I also want to make sure I don't get a head that restricts water flow. Basically, I want the same pressure I have now with a good, reliable handheld shower head.

PS My bathtub is about 2/3 the size of a normal tub, in case that matters.
posted by annabellee to Home & Garden (7 answers total)
It's a pretty simple DIY project you'll most likely be successful. I can't recommend a shower head, but sometimes the old shower head in rental units gets all calcified and rusted on because its been there for years. Use two pairs of pliers to hold the pipe that comes out of the wall steady to keep from cracking the tile. Liquid wrench does wonders if it's really sticky. If the old pipe has rust on it, hit it with some CLR to get it nice and clean so you can take your fancy shower head off and put the old one back on. Other than that, just be sure not to cross thread and strip the old pipe and you'll have a new shower in no time.
posted by JimmyJames at 11:23 AM on August 2, 2009

At least some of the heads that restrict water flow do so with a small plastic insert just inside where you connect the hose.

I didn't know mine had one (it's Italian and apparently this is required there) until about a week after it was installed when the hose burst because the water pressure was too high. Luckily, the manufacturer sent another one right away, but they advised me to remove the flow restrictor with needlenose pliers. I did so and it's been fine ever since.
posted by tomwheeler at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2009

WaterPiks are good. Most any shower head you choose will have the flow restricter inside, just take it out.

Look for a shower head with the number of settings you'll use. When you go to the store, see how heavy it is. If you can, see how it feels in your hand. If you like to change between settings, see how easy it is to change with one hand or if your hand were soapy. Finally, if you can, see how it fits in the holder. Is it a sturdy, secure fit, or is it something that will become a problem over time?

I've changed the shower head a couple of times and gone with the mid-range offering and everything has been fine.
posted by elle.jeezy at 11:57 AM on August 2, 2009

There are two older model Hansgrohe, which are different from Grohe, hand showers in my house in France. Hansgrohe is a worldwide concern and you can buy them in the US as well, but hand shower heads will be fairly hard to find there. There are Hansgrohe (fixed) shower heads in my US house. (I have no pecuniary interest in Hansgrohe.)

Nthing the presence of restrictors and the goodness of removing same.
posted by jet_silver at 12:09 PM on August 2, 2009

I have done this multiple times in my house and others. It is about as easy as a DIY plumbing project can be. All currently available shower heads around here have some sort of flow restrictor in them but it is usually a plastic insert that can be easily removed; instructions come with the shower head. I would suggest not removing it until you use the shower a few times; I left mine in and they are just fine for me. Also local codes sometimes require them and using them is environmentally responsible.

I have seen a lot of nice looking Grohe faucets, but they seem kind of pricey to me. I have replaced many of the plumbing fixtures in my 3.5BA house (including an entire sink/vanity and a tub valve, which involved sweating copper pipes and some sheetrock work) so I have had a chance to look at a lot of different brands. The last shower head I put in was a Price Phister and it is fine. Otherwise I have stuck with Delta and Moen because they have a wide range of options and repair parts are easily available. Probably more important than the brand is the price line within the brand you choose. You cite Moen as an example of quality and I agree, but they also have some fairly inexpensive stuff that they sell to contractors ; around here and in many other places their Chateau line is the default fixture in new construction. Actually pretty durable but also pretty plain in terms of styling and features. If you want a handheld shower that will last you, the most important thing (from experience) is to make sure it is solid brass and is as simple as possible; almost all the ones sold at big box stores are made of plastic and will eventually split open along the mold/seam lines if you have high enough water pressure; I think I have replaced 4 or 5 for this reason. Also look at the hose; once again the high end models are made of metal rather than plastic, which means they last longer, are easier to clean, and tend to hang straighter. The latter is important not so much for looks as it avoids hosing you and the rest of the bathroom down when you go to turn on a shower that has been torqued so that it is aimed into the middle of the room rather than the tub.

So this is my plate of beans treatment of handheld showers. You mention you are in an apartment; it may be reasonable to disregard all of my advice and just buy something cheap, since you are improving someone else's property. I you expect to be there for several years or are planning to take it with you to your next home, then invest in something nice; otherwise whatever you want will work fine for at least a couple of years. I do agree with getting a handheld shower, though. I love mine and use it all the time. If you have dogs or kids they can be a real lifesaver.
posted by TedW at 12:21 PM on August 2, 2009

I have an Oxygenics 'Body Spa' handheld one that I bought almost 4 years ago. I love it. It connects easily and even though it's a water-saver head, it is like a power washer. It's a bit pricey but it works perfectly after 4 years of continuous use with no internal leaks or cleanings. I would definitely recommend it.
posted by jtoth at 12:42 PM on August 2, 2009

As a data point, I couldn't be happier with my $14.99 Target brand shower head that I've had installed for 3 years now. It doesn't have any settings other than on and off which is fine with me. Mostly I wanted to point out that you might not need to spend lots of money to get what you want. I had intended this to be a temporary fix while I looked for something better because the head that came with the apartment was HORRID but I haven't felt the need to search for a replacement.

Also seconding the hold it in your hand and test the switching settings thing. My roomie installed one in her bathroom that has different settings but she never uses them because it takes so much effort to change them. Oh and hers I believe was in the neighborhood of $60.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:43 AM on August 3, 2009

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