Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


The Problem With Hand Showers

Hand showers are usually installed improperly -  I estimate that at least 95% of the hand showers that I inspect have the same installation defect.  Looking at the photo below, can you guess what it is?

Hand Shower

If you said outdated tile, you would be wrong.  That has nothing to do with the hand shower!  The problem is that the hand shower creates a potential cross-connection with the potable water supply for the city.  If the bath tub were to fill up with sewage or some other nasty substance, the hand shower could come in contact with it.

The most obvious way to correct this is to replace the hand shower with a standard shower head that doesn't have a hose, but that's not your only option.  If you own a hand shower and you're not willing to give it up, you have several other ways to correct this.

Install A Backflow Preventer This is probably the simplest fix.  Just buy a backflow preventer and install it in-between the pipe coming out of the wall and the shower head.  Most (all?) shower heads have 1/2" standard pipe thread.  Home Depot sells a backflow preventer with 1/2" standard pipe thread for $6.97 - it looks like a much cheaper version of the one shown below.

Backflow Preventer for Hand Shower
Install a Shorter Hose If the hose for the hand shower isn't long enough to allow the shower head to sit in contaminated water, there's no potential for a cross-connection.   The only problem is that I can't seem to find hand shower hoses that are shorter than five feet long.

Install Dual Inline Check Valves on the water supply lines that feed the shower.  This is probably the most difficult way of dealing with this issue, but for the sake of giving all of the options that I can think of, I'm tossing it out there.

Dual Check Valve
If you live in Saint Louis Park or Bloomington, you'll have to fix this when you have your pre-sale inspection done.  For Truth in Sale of Housing evaluations, Minneapolis only requires that handheld showers have a hook to hang on that's above the spill line of the fixture.  I guess they trust their residents to be a little more responsible (ha ha).

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 10 commentsReuben Saltzman • April 20 2010 05:04AM


Thank you for the post. I will mention it to my clients when I show houses with hand showers.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 8 years ago

Good info Reuben, thanks for the blog!

Posted by William True, Sarasota Real Estate (True Sarasota Real Estate) over 8 years ago

I guess you see what I see, the shower head laying in the tub. The cradle doesn't do much to prevent back flow with the spayer in the tub.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

Reuben, most newer wands have built-in back flow protection----but there is still lots of old ones around----these are really common on those tubs with no shower enclosure.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Gita and William - thanks for reading.

James - exactly.  By that logic, there would be no need for vacuum breakers at exterior sillcocks either.

Charles - I'll be writing a blog dealing with that topic coming up in the near future.  I stopped by Home Depot the other day, and they don't sell a single hand shower with a built-in check valve in the handle.  Compare the specs on these two - they're not identical, but you get the point.

Home Depot faucet -

Non-Home Depot faucet -

The Non-Home Depot faucet has certified dual check valves, the Home Depot faucet doesn't.  Same thing with the faucets that are Lowes exclusives.

I've heard that plumbers won't warrant the faucets that come from home improvement stores because they're a cheaper faucet.  There may be some truth in this.  This will be a good topic whenever I get around to it.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

And don't you love the way they make them look so similar that the consumer will go with "price":)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Heck, they even get me with the price!  I have a tough time seeing the value in a faucet that costs twice as much when they both have a lifetime warranty.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

Hard to tell the difference unless you know that you need a diverter valve somewhere in the system.

Posted by Gene Allen, Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate (Fathom Realty) over 8 years ago

My easier solution is to simply put the handheld shower head back in the holder that came with it. LOL

Posted by Not a real person over 8 years ago

Gene - I assume you're referring to comment #7, right?

Russel - that's a little too easy.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago