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Rain Shower Heads vs. Regular Shower Heads: A Side-by-Side Comparison

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 headsalong 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:

FeatureRain Shower HeadRegular Shower Head
Average Price$75-$300$20-$100
Minimum Flow Rate2.0 GPM1.5 GPM
VersatilityAdults onlyAdults, kids, and folks with limited mobility
Spray PatternSingle Downward DirectionMultiple patterns
Installation CostExpensiveInexpensive
Minimum Space Requirements48″ x 48″36″ x 36″
Bathing ComfortDifficult to wash, rinse, and shaveEasy to rinse and shave, but colder
Cleaning/MaintenanceDifficult and time-consumingEasy

Price comparison

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.

Spray patterns

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.

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Frank Harmenstein

From humble beginnings as a plumber and handyman, Frank Harmenstein has emerged as a leading authority on shower heads, a title he has earned through years of dedication and hard work. With over two decades of experience in the plumbing industry, Frank has developed an unrivalled expertise in the installation, maintenance, and repair of shower systems. His passion for shower heads has led him to write extensively on the subject, sharing his knowledge and insights with readers around the world.

Born and raised in a small town, Frank's interest in plumbing was sparked at an early age by his father, who was a respected plumber in their community. Inspired by his father's dedication to his craft, Frank pursued an apprenticeship in plumbing and soon discovered his niche in the world of shower heads. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled handyman who could fix any shower-related issue and provide expert advice on selecting the perfect shower head for any bathroom.

After years of honing his skills and knowledge, Frank decided to share his passion for shower heads with a wider audience by becoming an author.