If you’re remodeling your bathroom or planning to add a new shower to an existing half-bath, you need to plan the shower design correctly. One of the big questions you’ll have is how high should a shower head be. Surprisingly, this seemingly simple question doesn’t have a straightforward answer. There are no universally accepted codes or standards for shower head height. What’s more, new trends and technologies are making their way into shower heads. Take, for example, the latest Bluetooth shower heads and rainfall shower heads.
As the options and styles of shower heads expand, so too do their mounting requirements. Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll need to consider when planning your bathroom upgrade.
Standard Shower Head Height
Let’s start with an answer to the question at hand—the standard shower head height is 80 inches (about two meters) off the floor. There’s a little give and take here, but most installations fall within a few inches of this magic number.
Since there’s no universally accepted answer, there’s room to play on either side for short or tall individuals. It’s just important to remember that while it might be your house now, you may one day be looking to sell it. Instead of installing your shower outlet at an odd height, it’s usually much preferable to use an adjustable height head mounted on a standard height outlet.
Shower Head Height Code and Regulations
There’s no international standard shower head height code. It’s still a good idea to check with your local city and county officials to ensure there are no local codes. It’s always your responsibility to follow the established codes in your area, so it never hurts to ask. Your local hardware store may also be a good source for information about the codes in your area.
Various industry trade groups layout standards for plumbing and layout of bathroom fixtures. For example, the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) has various guidelines for the location and installation of fixtures. While these standards are not binding in the legal sense, they’re crucial to getting the best possible installation.
Organizations like the NKBA are membership-driven to established professionals in the industry. It’s unlikely that a DIY installer will have access to these standards and guidelines. The best way to find them is to either purchase the NKBA guidelines booklet or ask around at your local home improvement store.
A quick online search can often turn up some information on the National Kitchen and Bath Association standards. For example, some remodeling companies put the standards on their websites. These reprinted facts may be incorrect or out-of-date, so it’s important to double-check them. But for the DIY installer, this provides a starting point to begin understanding the ideas behind the standards.
Shower Head Controls
Perhaps even more critical than the shower head height is the correct height of the shower valves. While you can modify the outlet height by using a handheld or adjustable height shower, the valves cannot move.
The shower valves and mixer taps should be mounted between 38 and 48 inches (to centimeters) above the bathroom floor. This is essential to ensure that all users can easily reach them. Making tall folks bend down or shorter individuals stand on their tippy-toes is a slip hazard in the shower.
This is a significant consideration when installing a shower fixture in a tub that’s also used for baths. If taking a bath, users are likely to be sitting or laying down rather than standing. In these cases, you should mount the controls no more than 33 inches above the floor.
Shower Head Installation
The exact height you want to place your shower head will, in the end, wind up depending on a few factors. First and foremost, if any local codes need to be followed, you’ll want to follow them.
Shower Head Height Based on Individual Height
If you’re given the freedom to choose, you can begin your shower head installation based on your height. If the installation is for a shared guest bathroom, you might want to default to the standard 80-inch shower head height for six-foot-tall individuals.
But if you’re much shorter, you could reduce the shower head height to suit. For example, the NKBA says that shower heads could be mounted as low as 68 inches for individuals five feet tall or less.
Likewise, taller folks might want to go a little higher. The NKBA standards allow for installations up to 86 inches off the floor for people 6’6” or taller.
Rain-Style Shower Head Height
The type of shower head you want to use will also play a factor. For example, rain shower heads need to be mounted higher than most normal outlets to get the full falling rain effect. The best height for these is 84 to 86 inches.
Handheld shower heads are another exception. There are two installation factors to consider. Firstly, you want to consider what sort of mount you will use when the sprayer unit is used as a normal shower. Many of these have vertical bars that allow for multiple shower head height positions. This gives you the best of both worlds since you could move it around for tall and short family members.
The other consideration with handheld sprayers is the length of the hose. Most units come with a standard 60-inch long hose. That’s plenty of lengths if you want to use it as a shower, but what about in the bath? In this case, you might prefer that the hose begins a little lower so you can use more of the hose length. That means you might want to place your shower water outlet a little lower than standard.
The recommended height range for handheld shower nozzles is between 72 and 78 inches above the floor.
Shower Walls and Shower Head Height
There’s one other consideration you might want to think about when roughing in your shower water outlet. Building codes require shower enclosure walls to be covered in waterproof material to a height no less than 72 inches above the floor.
But the NKBA has a slightly contrary standard. They suggest that a shower head should be roughed in no less than three inches below the top of the waterproof walls in an enclosure. It makes sense if you consider it since the tile or fiberglass walls will best keep water damage at bay.
So when planing your shower enclosure install, think also about the height of the waterproof walls in relation to the shower head height.
If you can’t build your enclosure high enough to cover the three-inch recommendation of the NKBA, consider lowering the shower outlet and installing an adjustable sprayer.
Benefits of an Adjustable Shower Head
One way to make the best shower for everyone in your household is to install an adjustable height shower head. There are two main types of adjustable sprayers.
Many handheld showers come with or can be adapted to mount on an adjustable bar. This enables nearly anyone to use the shower, and the sprayer can also be used by hand.
There are also combination shower heads available that have both a handheld sprayer and a fixed shower head.
Finally, there are regular shower heads that are mounted on an articulating or positionable bar. They can move higher or lower than the water outlet that they’re mounted on. Most can give you an extra foot or two either way. This is a standard mount that is sold for retrofitting rainfall shower heads to existing water supplies.
Adjustable shower heads can also be a great and inexpensive way to deal with a shower head outlet that’s at the wrong height.
Figuring out how high should a shower head be doesn’t need to be rocket science. In many instances, the choice has been made for you. But when it comes time to make a repair or add a shower in your home, doing your homework and thinking through what height will work best can save you some aggravation in the long run.