Of all the home plumbing repairs you could tackle, the replacement of an old showerhead with a new one is probably the easiest. A shower plumbing project is a good starter project for a number of reasons. No special tools are required, the necessary parts are pretty close to one size fits all, and if you do make a mistake and have a leak, the only thing that gets wet is your shower/bathtub. This is the perfect project for the novice home repair handyman to start with and can usually be completed in well under an hour.
The first step is to decide what type of shower head you want to replace. While most shower fixtures connect to a standard size pipe thread, you must make sure you have enough clearance for your new showerhead. If the stem (the portion of the pipe from the wall to the existing shower head) is short or close to the ceiling you will want to check before purchasing a large fixture.
The Tools You Need – For this project, you will need a wrench or pliers and some teflon tape. Depending upon the age of your existing fixture, you may also need to have a pipe wrench on hand as well. You may also want to have something available protect your fixture from the jaws of the wrench or pliers (a folded rag or piece of rubber from an inner tube work well)
Remove the Old Showerhead – If you have an older unit you probably have some rust, oxidation, or lime buildup that may make removal difficult. If the fixture does not readily unscrew, use two sets of pliers/wrenches (with the jaws of each protected as indicated above), one set on the stem and the other on the fixture. Apply equal pressure to both sides to until the showerhead starts to move. Be careful not to apply too much force as you do not want to break either the stem or existing showerhead. Once the shower head starts to turn you should be able to remove it by hand.
Clean and prepare the stem pipe – A little preparation here could save you quite a bit of time later if you decide to replace the showerhead again. Clean the threads of the stem of any rust or lime and apply teflon tape to the threads. This will help the new showerhead install easily, provide a good seal, and make it easier in the future if you ever have to replace the shower head again.
Install the New Shower – If you selected a simple replacement showerhead all that remains to be done is to screw the new fixture onto the prepared pipe stem. Make sure not to over-tighten when you are installing this – hand tight plus a quarter or half turn is probably all you need. If you have purchased a more sophisticated fixture like a shower massage wand you may have a few pieces to install. Make sure that you apply teflon tape to all threaded connections (unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer) to ensure a good seal.
Test It – Before putting your tools away and jumping in the shower take a few minutes to make sure the job is done. Turn on the water and check each of the connections for leaks. If you find any, usually they will be fixed by tightening the connection another quarter or half turn. If this does not address the problem you may need to check for a missing or worn washer.