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Hate Your Shower Head? Install Your Own In Three Easy Steps

Do you have a really old, crusty, gross shower head? Or maybe just one that’s jut okay, but doesn’t really give you the kind of shower you enjoy? If you’re putting off replacing it because you don’t want the hassle of calling a plumber, you’re in luck. Swapping out shower heads is one of the easiest jobs in the bathroom. Even if you’ve never done it before, it shouldn’t take more than half an hour, start to finish, to do. How? Simple:

What You Need:

  • Shower Head
  • Groove Joint Pliers
  • Adjustable Wrench (Or strap wrench or pipe wrench if you have one)
  • Teflon Tape
  • 2 Soft Rags
  • An Old Toothbrush

Whether you want a super soaker shower head or something a little gentler, the process is the same, though you want to make sure your shower head has the right sized fitting for your shower arm. Half inch is nearly universal, but some custom showers have 3/4 inch piping. If you aren’t sure, you can hold off on getting one until Step Two so you can take the shower arm with you to check for size, but it’ll stretch out the project a little longer.  

Step One: Out With The Old

To remove your old shower head, grasp the shower arm with the pliers, fit the wrench to the end of the shower head that attaches to the arm, and loosen it counter-clockwise. It should only take about half a turn before you’re able to loosen it the rest of the way by hand. Remember, though: the metal of either wrench WILL damage the finish, so if you intend to use the shower head elsewhere, or if you’re keeping your old shower arm, make sure to either wrap the ends of the pliers in tape, or wrap the shower head and arm in those soft cloths before you start disassembling.  

Step Three: The Shower Arm

Many shower heads come with their own arms you’ll need to install, but even if you aren’t replacing your old one, it’s important to remove and visually inspect it before installing the new shower head. The material that keeps your pipes from leaking may have deteriorated, which could mean your shower is leaking behind your wall, just out of sight. As well, if your new shower head doesn’t come with it’s own shower arm, you can buy one separately. Upgrading to a new one is a great way to get a slick new finish, and choosing a larger, longer, or shaped shower arm allows you to adjust the angle or height of your shower head without having to redo your plumbing.

To remove the arm, stick one end of your pliers into the shower arm and use it for leverage to turn the arm counterclockwise, unscrewing it from the wall. Use the toothbrush to scrub off the old teflon tape (if any), and wrap a new strip clockwise around the threads of the arm three or four times. Screw it back into the wall by hand until it feels tight, and then use the (taped or padded!) wrench to tighten it one more full rotation. If you’re feeling fancy, you can caulk the edges of the flange (the round metal plate that sits at the base of the arm), which will make it water tight, but also a bit harder to remove later.  

Step Three: Installation

Now it’s time for the shower head itself. If you’re using your old shower arm, scrub the shower-end clean with the toothbrush. Then take the clean (or new) arm and wrap the threading in teflon tape, again going clockwise three or four times around. You getting the hang of this yet? Once again, screw on your shower head by hand, until it’s snug, then tighten it no more than another quarter turn with your wrenches. Remember to keep the shower head and arm covered with a soft cloth while you do this. Your new shower head might have a beautiful finish, but it won’t look so hot with deep scratches and grooves in the metal from a bad installation.

If you’re installing a hand shower rather than a regular shower head, the process is still the same: you want to screw the mount onto the shower arm, just like you would a shower head, but then wrap teflon around the threading on the mount and screw on the hose for the shower head, too. Same thing if you’re installing a dual hand held/regular shower combo. Just attach the shower head like normal, then teflon the diverter (which lets you switch between the heads) and attach the hose for the handheld, making sure all the connections are secured tightly. Some setups will come with other parts (like a slide bar for adjusting the height of the hand shower), so if you want to DIY it, make sure all the parts attach to your shower arm, not your shower wall. Aside from that, the hardware will do the rest for you.

It’s as easy as that: once everything’s screwed into place, you can simply turn on your shower and enjoy!

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