How to Replace a Shower Head

The shower that person takes in the movie looks so invigorating! How come yours isn’t like that? It’s the shower head, of course. Good news! It’s easy to replace a shower head, and here’s how you do it.

Things You Will Need

For this operation, you’ll need an adjustable wrench, some Teflon tape, a washcloth, and a new shower head.

First, you’ll need to get a new shower head. You can find shower heads at most home improvement, plumbing, and even general retailers like Target and Costco, and of course online. You can find one with the features you like for not a lot of money.

Once you’ve picked out your shower head, pick up some Teflon tape, too. You”ll need that and an adjustable wrench. That’s great news by itself, because you can use the wrench for all kinds of things around the house. If an adjustable wrench isn’t in your budget, you can also get by on this job with a simple pair of pliers. 

One of the nice things about this job is that you don’t have to turn off the water supply to your place: as long as the faucets are off, you’re good to go.

Remove the Old Shower Head

First, take a look at the old shower head. You’ll see a couple of flat sides – that’s where the wrench will fit. 

If you’ve never adjusted an adjustable wrench before, we make a video called How to Use an Adjustable Wrench. In the short term , the beauty of an adjustable wrench is that it’s, well, adjustable.

Turn the knurled nut clockwise to close the jaw, and counterclockwise to open it. Hold the wrench up next to the showerhead and turn the knob until it will just clear the two flat spots.

Now, before you put the wrench on there, put a washcloth over the flat spots so that the wrench won’t damage the metal surface.

Put the wrench onto the flat spots – if you wiggle it a little, you’ll feel the flat spot under the wash cloth. Now turn the knob until the wrench holds on tightly.

With one hand, hold onto the pipe that holds the showerhead. With the other hand, turn the wrench counterclockwise – righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Counterclockwise is left, so we’re loosening the old showerhead. 

It might be a touch recalcitrant at first – it may be slightly calcified in place. Keep working at it. Sometimes it helps to actually turn the wrench clockwise a little bit, making the showerhead even tighter on the piple. Then go counterclockwise again.

If you can’t get it to come loose, well, this plumbing job may be bigger than a ten-minute thing.

Otherwise, the old showerhead will come right off. Behind it is the nasty end of a nasty pipe, maybe with a bunch of white gunk in there. That’s calcium, making micro-stalagtites in the plumbing.

Apply Teflon Tape

Clean away an old Teflon tape or sealant stuck in the threads on the pipe – you want them to be as clean as possible.

There may be instructions with the new showerhead – read through them.

They’ll tell you to wrap a thin layer of your new Teflon tape around the threads of the pipe, so do that. Wrap the tape clockwise, so that it won’t jam up when you screw on the new showerhead.

Install New Shower Head

If your new shower head is just a head, carefully screw that onto the pipe – it will be a little difficult because of the Teflon tape.

To screw it on, you turn it in the clockwise direction – righty-tighty. However, before you do that, gently push it against the pipe and turn it counterclockwise. When you feel it click slightly, you’ll know it’s okay to turn it clockwise. 

Screw it all the way in, until you can’t turn it anymore. Now put a wash cloth over it, and use the adjustable wrench to tighten it. Don’t super-tighten it – just turn it until you can’t move the wrench without exerting a lot of force.

If your new shower head has a wand, or multiple heads, you may instead have to mount an adapter, which in technical terms would be called a manifold.

It goes on exactly like the single shower head: put Teflon tape on the pipe, push the adapter against the pipe and turn it slightly counterclockwise until you feel a click, and then turn it clockwise until it’s tight. Use the wrench to make it even tighter.

However, with an adpater, you’ll want the wand attachment to face the same direction as it shows on the package, usually pointing down or off to the side. 

Turn the wrench until the adapter’s tight, and then back it off to point in the right direction.

The wand goes on the end of a hose. Just like we did with the pipe, put some Teflon tape around the threads of the adapter.  Now screw the hose onto the threads, and tighten them with the wrench. See? That wrench came in handy, didn’t it?

Now, finally, the shower head goes onto the other end of the hose. Put some Teflon tape onto the hose threads and screw on the shower head.

Hang the wand onto the adapter so that it points into the shower, take your tools and stuff out of the tub, and turn on the faucet.

Ta da! You did it!

Shower Head Troubleshooter

So, if the shower head leaks, either at the shower head or at the adapter, it’s because either there’s not enough Teflon tape, or because it’s not screwed on tightly enough.

The Teflon tape does a great job at making a waterproof seal: that’s why you use it on plumbing. It’s so thin that you an wrap around the threads and not affect the way they work. But, if you missed a spot and your pipe leaks, you can see how effective it is.

Turn off the water, and use the wrench to take apart the leaking connection. Peel off the Teflon tape and put on a fresh wrap, making sure it goes all the way around the threads. It’s okay to have, like, two layers on there. That will fix it.

One more thing about tightening the shower head with a wrench. Most shower heads, and especially the adapters, are made of plastic. They may look like metal, but that’s usually a chrome plating over a piece of plastic. If you screw the plastic fitting too tightly onto a metal pipe, you can actually crack it, and it will never stop leaking. If you do that, you have to get a new one.  Instead, tighten it by hand, and then use the wrench to gently make it tighter. Don’t go torquing on it.

Finally, you may not really have to replace the shower head at all. If it’s a little older, it’s probably just calcified. All it needs is a little bit of cleaning and it will work as good as new.

Whichever you choose, congratulations! You did it!

Please Note: Do not use this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it does not seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability from your usage of it.

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Published by John Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as Smashwords.com.

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