When trying to decide whether or not a rain shower head makes sense for your bathroom, it is important to approach the decision through a logical and unbiased lens.
While we have previously discussed the pros and cons of rain shower heads, along with all the common regrets that many homeowners have when they use one after a few weeks, we have not yet explicitly compared a rain and regular shower head side-by-side until now.
Here’s what you should know before making a major upgrade to your bathroom:
Here’s a table comparing rain and regular shower heads side-by-side:
|Feature||Rain Shower Head||Regular Shower Head|
|Minimum Flow Rate||2.0 GPM||1.5 GPM|
|Versatility||Adults only||Adults, kids, and folks with limited mobility|
|Spray Pattern||Single Downward Direction||Multiple patterns|
|Minimum Space Requirements||48″ x 48″||36″ x 36″|
|Bathing Comfort||Difficult to wash, rinse, and shave||Easy to rinse and shave, but colder|
|Cleaning/Maintenance||Difficult and time-consuming||Easy|
With a larger body, more nozzles, and often heavier design, the amount of materials that go into making a rain shower head is significantly more, resulting in a higher average price point.
When running the numbers, we found that rain shower heads, on average, typically cost 2-3 times more than a regular shower head. The average price for a quality unit will run between $75 and $300, while a regular shower head will cost between $20 and $100.
Recommend flow rate
For a rain shower head to provide a suitable throughput of water, a higher flow rate is required. As such, most rain shower heads will have a flow rate at a minimum of 2.0 GPM. The federal limit is 2.5 GPM. In contrast, standard shower heads can sufficiently perform at flow rates as low as 1.5 GPM.
Attempting to use a rain shower head with a flow rate of 1.8 GPM or lower often results in low water pressure and a aggravating showering experience, even if you try to do all the methods we outline here to boost the pressure.
Therefore, to get adequate performance, you’ll need to go with a 2.0 GPM or higher flow rate – which may result in a higher monthly water bill.
Who should use a rain shower head
With just a single spray setting and only in a fixed downward direction, it is nearly impossible to use a rain shower head with pets, children, or folks with mobility issues. Given the limited versatility, it’s best for adults only.
For comparison, handheld or dual shower heads often feature 60″ hoses that allow for a wide range of motion, making it easier for people of all ages and sizes to use comfortably.
Unlike virtually all traditional shower heads that feature multiple spray patterns that range anywhere from a misty spray to a powerful jet, rain shower heads are often limited to a single spray pattern. This makes it quite difficult to rinse off shampoo or soap.
While some rain shower heads may feature a few spray patterns, this is often the exception rather than the norm.
Installation requirements and cost
While rain and standard shower heads both rely on a standard 1/2″ NPT threaded connection, a proper rain shower head should be mounted from the ceiling, whereas a standard shower head can be installed on any shower arm. Running a line to the ceiling requires costly labor and materials, which quickly adds up.
To be fair, some rain shower heads can be mounted from the wall, but this does require additional work as the shower arm will need to be completely replaced – which some homeowners aren’t comfortable doing themselves.
Minimum space requirements
While a shower stall should have a minimum dimension of 36″ x 36″, rain shower heads require several additional inches of space to accommodate the oversized shower head. Some plumbers estimate that a 48″ x 48″ shower stall be the absolute minimum to prevent the risk of water damage to the surrounding walls and flooring.
In contrast, standard shower heads can be installed in as small as a 30″ x 30″ shower stall (though not recommended).
Comfort while cleaning and rinsing your body
One of the biggest regrets folks have after purchasing a rain shower head is the comfort while showering. While many shower heads are sold based on the idea of a relaxing and luxurious experience, the reality is starkly different.
The water of a rain shower head with a smaller diameter falls directly on your head, which almost feels suffocating if standing under it for too long. Secondly, when rinsing the lower half of your body, particularly the groin and legs, it can be quite challenging to get sufficiently cleaned. For folks who like to shave in the shower, it can also be uncomfortable to contort your body around the water. As an added downside, many rain shower heads can’t tilt – making the task even more difficult.
Shaving or rinsing with a standard shower head is much more functional and efficient. However, given that the size of the shower head is significantly smaller, the rest of your body may get colder, especially if you have a low-flow shower head or are showering during the winter months.
Cleaning and maintenance
While cleaning any bathroom isn’t a particularly fun activity, to clean a rain shower head, you’ll need to remove it from the ceiling and soak it in a vinegar solution – both difficult and time-consuming. In contrast, standard shower heads can be cleaned with a simple scrubbing brush or by tieing a bag filled with vinegar and water solution to the head and letting it soak overnight.