They say size matters, but when it comes to rain shower heads, is there such a thing as too big? As Alex and I think ahead to the final hardware details on our master bathroom renovation, we've begun exploring the fixture, hardware, accessory, and finish options that will make the space truly function for us. 

It's hard to choose just one thing in particular that I'm most looking forward to about the space, but in the top five has to be a functional and generously sized, luxurious glass shower (complete with tile that doesn't make me want to vomit and grout not filled with mold). I mean really, who in the 1980s really thought this was a good idea to inflict our home with the various tile selections we've had to endure? 

But I digress. As we work through our future bathroom layout, utilizing the sophisticated space planning tool of a paper napkin and crude sketch, it has become clear that the shower will be generous (about four feet wide and just under six feet long, complete with an in-shower bench to use up some of the awkward space formed by the chimney jut out on that wall. 

With a shower so spacious shower head placement comes into play. We want to ensure that regardless of where one is in the shower, they'll be adequately covered with water. For instance, no one will use the bench if it means you sit shivering and cold, because the main shower head on the opposite wall can't reach you.

In our guest bathroom, we have a modest sized shower, but it has a main shower head as well as a rain shower head. We like the look of the rain shower, the different water placement, and the different feeling of the water flow. It allows gravity to draw the water out of the shower head, rather than using forced pressure, giving the sense that it's just a warm rain. So it's not just a clever name for the shower head.

Knowing how much we like the guest room set up, we know we want to install at least one rain shower head in our master bathroom, but given the size and configuration of the shower, likely we'll want two. What we're planning on is the main shower head, complete with two large rain shower heads spaced for the "front" of the shower, as well as the "back" of the shower closer to where the bench will be.

Years ago in an optimistic and unrealistic DIY surge, we went ahead and purchased several of the hardware elements and accessories we thought we'd need for the master bathroom, guessed it....two rain shower heads. Picked up on sale from Restoration Hardware, we skipped home thrilled with our purchase, with stars in our eyes and renovation plans in our heads.

Fast forward five years, and we've yet to put any of these items to use. In fact, when digging out and dusting off the boxes, we uncovered the shower heads and were a bit horrified. At the time, Restoration Hardware sold just two sizes, a 5-3/4" option (the one we used in our guest bathroom) and a 12" option. They say size matters, and we went whole hog, bringing home a full 24" worth of rain shower heads between the two fixtures.

I seem to remember Alex and I getting into a heated renovation discussion on this item. My recollection goes something like this:

Me: You want to do what?? Have you entirely lost your mind? Those shower heads are ridiculously enormous, and will look out of place. 

Alex: Six inches will never be sufficient! We need to go with the twelve, and we need two of them.

Me: You could land a spaceship on these <expletive>. 

Alex: Are we going to do this...or are we going to do this right?

Me: (Crying, stomping, and having a fit.) Do whatever you want. There's no talking any sense into you. (Meanwhile I assumed that he would see my point, and make the "right" decision." Ahem. He feels he did make the "right" decision, but I know better.)

Oddly enough Alex has no memory of this exchange, instead insisting that it was, in fact, me that suggested the guest bathroom's "sunflower" style shower head might be undersized for the large master bathroom shower footprint! THE NERVE! But this is my blog post, not his, so he's definitely wrong about the exchange. And while I have to give it to him that six inches probably would be too small, twelve inches just feels insanely huge. Here are the two, side by side, for comparison sake.

To add insult to injury, Restoration Hardware is now selling 8" models, but there' are a couple snags with swapping out what we have for their smaller version.

  1. The price of their bathroom fixtures has gone up exponentially over the last five years, and the 8" is now actually more expensive than what we paid for the 12".

  2. We're well outside the return window (apparently five years is a long time when it comes to returns), and they've stopped carrying the fixtures in store, meaning we can't just do an in-store swap. So we'd have to try to navigate the murky waters of a customer service department that has changed order recording systems since we made our purchase, sending back the 12" fixtures, proving they're the same model as they currently sell, proving they're unused, and then working with someone to make the adjustment and send us the smaller versions.

I don't know about you, but while the shower heads seem enormous, it pains me to send them back, only to pay more for a smaller size. And with the shower not yet complete it's hard to imagine if the 12" will look right, if they'll stand out like a sore thumb, or even that we'll have enough water in our plumbing to support the amusement park water ride volume necessary to make these beasts function side by side.

In your opinion, is bigger usually better in this case? Has anyone ever said, "Gee. I really wish we had downsized the shower, or gone with the smaller/less luxurious options."? I feel we're between a rock and a hard place with this one, and would love your opinion. Feel free to rain on our parade.

Comments 17


6/14/2013 at 3:03 PM
"And while I have to give it to him that six inches probably would be too small, twelve inches just feels insanely huge."

That's what she said.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I say go for the luxury. Why not?
LOL!! We are cracking up!
6/14/2013 at 5:29 PM
Allison beat me to it!! Haha.
We've had several other people say to us "I was going to comment on your blog today but Allison got to it first." :-)
We've had several other people say to us "I was going to comment on your blog today but Allison got to it first." :-)
Old School Dave
6/15/2013 at 9:11 PM
Al argued:

Alex: Six inches will never be sufficient! We need to go with the twelve, and we need two of them.

I say go with 12 inches....but I do believe one is wants to get a shower, not become a drowning victim in the process, just sayin'
Who doesn't like drowning in the shower?
6/16/2013 at 7:21 PM
Get exactly what you want, otherwise, you will never be happy with the shower.
This is exactly what I like to hear! You are 100% correct.
9/11/2013 at 3:18 PM
I don't think size matters too much when it comes to a rain shower (I think the 12 is great), but you want to be careful with your drain. The rain shower dumps out a lot of water very quickly. Make sure your drain can handle it or else the water will pool while you shower.
RK, excellent point. We're going to be at a low enough fixture count and flow rate that a properly vented 2" drain will be able to handle it within the 50% capacity line. If we had added body sprays or higher capacity heads, I'm pretty sure we'd have been looking at needing a 3" waste line or two 2".
1/2/2014 at 5:21 PM

LOL, I am considering a 12", 16" and 20" square shower head. Good to hear I am not the only who believes in "Go big or go home". For reference, my home is built with 8" metal studs, 6" of concrete between 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor and have roof joists as big as 16" metal I beam.

Alex, we can be friends.


Excellent! This is the type of support I like to hear.

1/8/2014 at 8:43 PM

We're about to start our bathroom reno at the end of the month and I've convinced my wife to up-size from a 12" square rain shower head to a 16". Our ceiling is a standard 8'and the water source is standard piping. Also chose a shower system with only 2 jets since the rain head is large. I've been told we have plenty SHOULD of water pressure to run both simultaneously....hopefully we (I) made the right choice.

2/8/2015 at 6:36 PM

There is no such thing as "too big rain showerhead" in my opinion, as long as there's enough pressure. My next one should be 20" (I just realized how bad this sounds).Alt smile

3/19/2015 at 1:46 PM

I may be a little late on this thread, but given that people still read it, perhaps my 2 cents worth of advice might help others. I'm a great believer of feeling over function. What I mean by that is, if you love the feeling a 12 inch, (or even 16 inch or 20 inch) shower head gives you (and as long as you've got the room to fit it in your shower area (and lets face it even small shower cubicles these days are around 36 inches minimum) then I dont figure anything that is roughly half that size is going to look too big.

You've got to stay focused on WHY you would instal one of these babies, and in effect, its because you want that wonderful experience of standing under a constant stream of water like a rainfall.

Whatsmore, once you have installed something that feels massive to begin with, time will change that perception. Eventually you'll come to accept the shower size on your shower, and you'll probably look at other showers (at friends and family) and think how tiny there's is. And imagine when you go on holiday and have to put up with the tiny shower heads they have in hotels and the like. You'll be looking forward to getting home.

12/12/2016 at 8:31 AM

hey...! what a great blog and awesome design.I really like speakman showerhead which has high flow pressure however lessen outsource water flow. thanks

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