Are Rain Showers Worth It? 7 Downsides You Might Not Realize

Here’s what you should know before choosing a rain-style showerhead for your home.

There’s a lot to love about rain showers—most notably, they offer a relaxing shower experience with a gentle rain-inspired flow. They also look fantastic, instantly elevating the style of even the most basic showers. Typically mounted to the ceiling, rain showers can also be wall-mounted, featuring a long arm to facilitate the overhead rain experience.

But before you set your heart on your own personal rain cloud, we asked Ebony Stephenson of Designs By Ebony what homeowners should know about the popular configuration. A member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association and a Certified Living In Place Professional, Stephenson will help you consider everything from bathing frustrations to what’s happening behind your bathroom walls.

white tiled shower and bath combo

Ann VanderWiel Wilde

1 . Your existing plumbing might not work. 

Some of the most significant considerations for a rain shower involve plumbing. When adding a rainfall showerhead, Stephenson recommends getting a qualified plumber to do the job—especially for ceiling-mount installations. “Those fixtures require a different type of rough-in than your standard wall-mounted showerhead,” says Stephenson. For starters, a ceiling-mount showerhead requires plumbing that reaches above the shower ceiling, which your current bath might not have. 

You also need plumbing that provides adequate water pressure. Rain showerheads are large—typically 8-12 inches wide, but can reach up to 20 inches—compared to standard showerheads, which are generally 3-6 inches wide. But rain showers have the same flow rates as traditional showerheads. This means the same amount of water must travel further to be distributed across a bigger area, which can result in low water pressure. One remedy is larger pipes for more water to travel to the showerhead, but this could result in replacing a significant amount of plumbing, including tearing into walls and ceilings. 

The key to having the best use out of a rainfall shower is not actually the showerhead itself, but the valve hidden in the wall.

Finally, plumbing that will adequately regulate the water is imperative for comfort and safety. “The key to having the best use out of a rainfall shower is not actually the showerhead itself, but the valve hidden in the wall,” says Stephenson. “Although they may be a little more expensive than your standard pressure-balanced mixing valve, if you are installing a rainfall showerhead, always splurge for the thermostatic valve to reduce the risk of temperature fluctuations.” A thermostatic valve protects the shower from the impacts of a flushing toilet or dishwasher cycle. “The last thing you want is to be standing under the showerhead and the water abruptly changes temperatures. This could also be very dangerous,” says Stephenson. 

wood beam and hanging curtains in tile cornered shower
Edmund Barr

2. Your water heater might struggle to keep up.

A rainfall showerhead with a high flow rate—a high gallon per minute or GPM—could tax your water heater. Upgrades to plumbing to account for a rainfall showerhead can also take a toll. “Make sure that your home's water heater can handle this additional load. Otherwise, you will end up having a shorter shower experience as you will run out of hot water faster,” says Stephenson. Installing an additional water heater, closer to the shower, can help. 

3. They cost more and offer less versatility. 

Compared to standard wall-mount and hand-held showerheads, rainfall showerheads typically cost more—sometimes hundreds more. This is, in part, because they are so much larger than most traditional showerheads.

They also have fewer settings. Do you like a showerhead that offers multiple sprays, from light mists to pulsating bursts or pounding jets? Most rainfall showerheads have only one function. 

4. It’s hard to avoid getting wet.

“As someone who does not wash their hair on a daily basis and would have a complete meltdown if my hair even got a drop of water on it, rainfall showerheads are not for me,” says Stephenson. While a wall-mount or handheld shower can be angled and directed away from your head, a rainfall shower comes from above. To avoid getting wet, you’ll need to stay outside the water—which is inefficient, cold, and possibly impossible depending on the size of the shower—or lean out of the water, which is uncomfortable and not easy for everyone to do.

“As someone with a disability, I prefer a standard angled wall-mounted showerhead versus a rain shower for my cleansing needs. It is easier for me to stand under the showerhead instead of having to angle my body to not have a direct stream coming down from above,” says Stephenson. She also points out that if you don’t like getting water in your eyes, it’s probably not the right bathing experience for you.

An easy remedy for this is to supplement a rainfall showerhead with a handheld shower or even a wall-mounted showerhead. That way users have options to choose what shower experience is best for them. 

fresh modern master bath freestanding tub black fixtures
Edmund Barr

5. Washing long hair is a challenge.

Despite all the water, the combination of less water pressure and distance from the showerhead can make it harder to wash and thoroughly rinse long hair with a rain-style shower. Shorter or seated users struggle with it, too. 

6. Ceiling height matters.

Your shower stall can be too short or too tall to pair with a rain shower. “Make sure that you mount them at the right height so that they are not too low to hit your head on but also not too high making for a colder shower,” says Stephenson. A wall-mount conversion is tricky, too, since a new rain shower will sit a few inches lower than the original thanks to the necessary 90-degree shower arm.

Stephenson also points out that ceiling-mounted rain showers can be harder to clean, too. If you already avoid cleaning a showerhead, having it just out of reach won't help. However, cleaning is imperative for functionality, especially when low water pressure is an issue.

7. Drips and leaks are common complaints.

Whether it's wasting water when a shower is not in use or dripping cold water overhead when other showerheads are in use, rain-style showerheads are commonly maligned for leaks. The droplets can form for a number of reasons, from buildup in pipes to water left inside the showerhead after a shower. But it can also mean issues with the diverter or plumbing installation, which is why Stephenson recommends hiring the work to begin with. 

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