All types of showerheads have a full range of sizes, finishes, and costs. For many people, the function is the most important feature.
Single-setting showerheads spray water at a constant speed and pressure. These showerheads include Speakman, sunflower, rain, deluge, tile, and waterfall. Sometimes, a single-setting showerhead includes a small lever on the side that increases or decreases the pressure, like a Speakman showerhead. Otherwise, these showerheads do not pulse, rotate, or otherwise change the water delivery. They have a wide range of costs because there are so many types in this category.
If you want control over the water pressure and whether it is massaging, pulsing, or a gentle mist, you want a multi-setting showerhead. Many hand showers and several types of stationary showerheads have multiple settings. The settings are achieved by turning or twisting either the head or a level on its face. Your sizes, finishes, and styles are more limited with this showerhead, so they tend to have a tighter price range.
Your showerhead can come in several shapes and styles. They can give you varying amounts of water, pressure, and different looks. Most come in various finishes and sizes, meaning a range of costs for each type.
The Speakman showerhead is the most classic showerhead design. It comes in several sizes, all the same shape, slightly conical with a wider base than the top. Speakmans can adjust the pressure slightly via a lever on the side. This is a good, consistent showerhead that performs the same way each time, regardless of water pressure.
The sunflower is a retro-style showerhead. This style is frequently used with clawfoot tubs. It has a brass inner body, but a ceramic “sunflower” shape flange around the face. Finishes are more limited with this style, and you will not see much bronze or nickel.
Hand showers are used as a standard showerhead or in addition to a standard showerhead. This is a showerhead with a handle meant to be removed from its holder. This allows you to bathe children and dogs, clean the tub, and make it easier for those with disabilities to bathe. They come in all shapes and sizes, with single or multi-function controls.
If you want the feeling of standing underneath a fast-moving waterfall, a waterfall showerhead may be for you. Waterfall heads are usually large, flat, and installed in the wall. They send a large sheet of water out at a time, rather than individual sprays. They come in several finishes, although only the smallest flange can be seen flush with the wall.
If you want a showerhead that can be installed flush with the ceiling or want multiple ceiling showerheads for a unique shower effect, consider the tile showerheads. These are square, flat showerheads that install on the ceiling, often flush with the surface. They come in many finishes but are mostly chrome, steel, or nickel. They have a modern look that works well in large showers.
If you want a gentle shower that feels like falling rain, a rain showerhead may be for you. These showerheads are much like watering cans. They have flat bottoms and a curved top. They fill up slowly from bottom to top, then gently release the water like rain. They come in many sizes, including some up to 12 inches in diameter.
If you like how a rain showerhead looks but want something with more pressure and power, get a deluge head. Deluge heads look similar to rain heads, but they give you a lot of water all at once. This is a better choice for people with thick hair or who want to shower more quickly. They attach to the ceiling or a wall via a long arm.
The vast majority of showerheads are made with brass. Brass is a long-lasting material that works well for faucet or showerhead bodies. The brass is then plated or finished with various other materials to give it different look. A few less expensive showerheads may be made of a mixture of brass and plastic. The plastic may be coated with a film to give it the look of a metal finish for a lower cost. Finishes vary by manufacturer. The only regulated material in the U.S. is chrome. All other finish materials can be proprietary and vary from one brand to another. For the best results, always purchase your showerhead, shower valve, bathroom faucets, and accessories from the same manufacturer to ensure they match. Otherwise, opt for chrome for consistency.
Plastic showerheads are not completely made of plastic. They are often a mixture of brass and plastic, and the bell, sunflower, or exterior shape of the showerhead is made of plastic. These showerheads usually have a finish painted on to mimic the look of metal. They are flimsy and crack over time.
If you want a showerhead with a brushed finish that is cooler in color than brushed nickel, a stainless steel finish is an option. This finish may be actual steel-plated over the brass. It is often either a brushed chrome finish called stainless or a painted finish. If this is a real steel showerhead, beware that it can discolor with mineral buildup and scratch with harsh cleansers. Stainless steel showerheads are often limited in size and style.
Chromium or chrome is one of the only finishes in the U.S. with a strictly regulated finish depth. The same amount of chrome must be placed on every faucet, handle, and the showerhead. For this reason, chrome always matches chrome regardless of brand. Chrome showerheads come in every style and size. Chrome is often the least expensive finish offered by most brands, and costs vary, depending on the style.
Nickel is a very warm “silver” finish. It has a little copper in it, which gives the metal a richer color than chrome. Nickel can be polished, stain, brushed, or “black,” and every manufacturer has a proprietary nickel finish. It can be difficult to match nickels across brands because one brand may physically brush their nickel with wires for a deep finish, and another may lightly scuff their “brushed” nickel. Nickel is more costly than other finishes, but it is available in nearly all styles.
Real bronze is a copper alloy with a rich, bright brown color. But when it comes to the bathroom, what most people think of as bronze is a color known as oil-rubbed bronze. This is a deep, almost black brown with hints of copper showing through. Every company has its proprietary bronze, and they do not often match. Some companies, such as Kohler and Newport Brass, make their own “true” bronze color. These finishes tend to be the most expensive, and they are not available in every style.
Many showerhead and faucet manufacturers, particularly those who produce nickel, bronze, and stainless steel finishes, also have a PVD finish on their items. PVD stands for physical vapor deposition, and it is the process in which metallic ions are deposited on a metal surface inside a vacuum. These ions do not change the appearance of the metal beyond giving it a slight luster. They make the finish impervious to everything except bleach. PVD-finished showerheads never discolor or show limescale. They also do not change or fade over time.
However, a PVD finish cannot be cleaned with bleach. Bleach reacts with the ions, breaking them down inconsistently and creating a milky film on the metal’s surface. Chrome never has a PVD finish because chrome is already impervious to many things that can harm another metal. If you choose a nickel, bronze, or stainless steel finish, consider opting for one with a PVD coating. Most brands that offer PVD include it on their more-susceptible finishes.