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A few weeks ago we purchased a home from an elderly gentleman who is wheelchair bound. The house is in good condition and we are enjoying it so far, except for one thing.

The entire house is designed to be wheelchair friendly, including the shower area. As you can see from the pictures, the shower head is attached to the ceiling and almost all the water falls on the permanent bench on the shower. The shower head isn't very flexible and I can only tilt it very little, which isn't enough to direct the water outside the bench.

After googling/shopping around without much help, I'm looking for ways to extend the shower head outside the bench area. Is there some type of extender that would direct the water beyond the bench?

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  • What is the ceiling height in this shower? What is the length? Standing next to the bench can you reach the flow/temp control (presume that is on the right and diverter is on the left)? If you would be relocating the support rod for the handheld shower, you might need a longer rod so the the lower end would clear the left hand control in wall and the upper end would be high enough. If you don't want to drill holes in the tile, there is a German system for attaching grab bars to stone or tile which does not require drilling. Perhaps this could be used for the bracket bar. Feb 2 at 18:05
  • The raised platform would appear to be useful for washing a dog without having to bend over. Feb 2 at 19:20
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    That is a weird, funky, oddball shower layout!
    – FreeMan
    Feb 2 at 20:10
  • Moving the top shower head is not hard. A couple of 90s or 45s elbows and a length of pipe, will move it to where you want. A long flex pipe with a holder will work also. Removing the bench might be nicer if not needed, the bench will be in the way for the controls.
    – crip659
    Feb 2 at 20:56
  • Whereabouts is the floor drain ? All the water has to run off the benchtop and down the front? Is the tile/facing on the front identical to the rest of the surrounds or is it subtly different ?
    – Criggie
    Feb 3 at 20:02

4 Answers 4

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Shower nipple elbows are available. I'd start by adding a 45° elbow to simply direct the flow outward.

If that doesn't work, replace the existing nipple with a shorter one, add a 45° elbow, then another nipple, another elbow, and the shower head. This displaces the head to your desired location. I'd probably avoid 90° elbows as the horizontal run is too tempting for use as a towel bar or grab bar. These pipes aren't up to that task.

Use several wraps of PTFE tape on the male threads of each joint, oriented with the installation rotation. Keep it near the end so it doesn't show (or trim off the exposed portion).

enter image description here

source

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  • Are shower ball-pivots available stand alone, or only as part of shower heads? I'm wondering about installing one between the drop and the head. Or some other articulation.
    – keshlam
    Feb 3 at 16:37
  • The link to the source of the 45 elbow identifies it as IPS (parallel) threads which mate to a female fitting containing an elastomer seal. As such they do not need thread sealant (can spoil the appearance if over-applied) and often people get the PTFE tape over the end of the pipe where it can get torn off and swept downstream into the shower head. The vendor supplies PTFE tape to be used only "if necessary". Feb 3 at 17:04
  • The vendor supplied PTFE tape may be narrower than usual so it could be applied away from the end and still not be exposed. Some people make the joints leak by getting the tape over the end of the pipe and thereby interfering with the seal of the metal pipe end to the elastomer. In one case a poster on this site got multiple leaks in shower arm joints from application of PTFE tape on parallel thread joints with elastomer seals. The white PTFE tape also was exposed and spoiled the appearance of dark metal finish. Feb 3 at 17:15
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Personally I only use a shower on a flexible hose where the handheld shower head clips into a holder or can be held in the hand. It can be used both ways--fixed to direct shower on the head or torso with both hands free or held in one hand. The overhead "rain shower" setup seems an unnecessary complication.

Does this setup have a diverter between the wall outlet and the overhead rain shower?

Contact the previous owner or the fabricator of this shower. Maybe the fabricator has contructed it so that removal is possible with much less work that it could be, e.g., maybe there are finished walls and floor on the outsides of the bench.

In the meantime, assuming the bracket of the hand-holdable shower allows it to be turned 45 deg or so (CW from above) you could relocate the rod bracket of the hand-held shower over to the left of the controls.

If necessary add an extension hose to the existing flexible connection to allow full reach, but maybe it would work as is. At this new location raise the vertical position of the bracket rod so that at its highest it is above head height of the tallest person using the shower. Current vertical position of the bracket seems too low. (Maybe the low position of the bracket is to allow washing of the feet, but this could be done with the hand-held use.)

But if you want to use the rain shower head then add a 45 deg fitting close to the ceiling and a diagonal run with another 45 down to get the rain-shower head over to where someone would be standing. A metal stabilizing support from the ceiling over the 2nd 45 (over the rain-shower head) might be required.

Alternative to removal of existing bracket of hand-holdable shower

Rather than remove and reposition the rod bracket from the back wall, it might be better to leave it in place and install a new rod bracket on the control wall to the left of the controls. If you don't need a long adjustment range you could get a short rod so that both ends could be located above the decorative band perhaps within the same piece of 18" tile. The grab bar which attaches with special adhesive would allow attachment without drilling holes if you wanted to avoid that. However, it is very likely that there is no plumbing in that location so holes for anchors would probably have no interference.

Grab bar without drilling. These were developed for installing grab bars to glass, stone or tile. The can be reportedly be removed with no damage to the original wall and no trace they were ever there. I have never used them because I drill and use anchors, have basic soft white small tiles and I would tolerate filled holes should I want to remove the grab bar later.

I can imagine cases where drilling was not wanted. These adhesive attachment bars could be installed without drilling by following the instructions. This bracket bar should have very little stress on it, but of course if someone felt they were about to fall this bar would make a handy grab bar.

Alternative use for the raised bench

Perhaps best not to remove this bench. It might be useful for washing a dog or certain other washing jobs. Maybe fully able persons would find sitting on the edge of the bench beneficial. Since it is already there see if it is useful.

Long vertical grab bar to the left of the controls

Alternatively you could mount a long grab bar (matching the other in appearance) vertically to the left of the controls. The bottom end would be well below the decorative band and the top end as high as necessary to act as a mounting for a bracket to hold the hand-holdable shower head. You could have a bracket fabricate that would clamp to this grab bar which would give an uncluttered appearance and unobstructed access to the grab bar. I can imagine holding onto this with the left hand while reaching for the water controls with the right hand.

Personally I would drill into the tile and use anchors for the ss screws which come with these bars (two needed on each end). Alternatively, there is an anchor called a Wingit which fits through a single 3/4" hole on each end and is very secure. If there would happen to be a vertical 2x4 at the location or horizontal blocking, the two ss screws into that are all that would be needed.

If there is a cavity there, then the recommendations are to use a Wingit or other similar anchor. Personally I have found plastic anchors work as well as needed (in my thick bathroom walls: tile, 1/2" cement board, maybe drywall under that) and these use the supplied ss screws. Not everyone agrees that the plastic anchors are adequate for a grab bar. I use two anchors on each end into each 3/8" dia or 5/16" holes all the way through to the cavity. Could depend on what is under the tile--minimal cement board or something heavier. There msut bea reason why the Wingit is recommended.

Alternatively, the original type of rod could be affixed to this vertical grab bar and that rod used to adjust the height of the shower head. In that case I would avoid drilling into the grab bar to secure the bracket rod because that would be a route for water into the inside of the grab bar.

After-shower dripping from rain-shower head

These seem to be more prone to dripping than the standard shower head. One procedure that might eliminate this would be to turn the diverter to an intermediate position after showering. In this position the rain-shower piping can drain back through the lower piping of the hand held shower.

If this doesn't work as well as desired, then also take the hand-holdable shower off its bracket, drape the flexible hose over the bench with the hand holdable end hanging over to drain all this tubing more fully. It could be left in that position till the next shower, but in case this seems unkempt, let is sit there for a few minutes before replacing it on its bracket.

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Remove the bench. It will be forever in your way, and not really that useful. It looks too high to be a practical seat, and there's a chance it was an add-in after the shower was built.

A wheelchair user can generally use a dedicated "shower chair" better than getting up on a platform.

I don't see how this platform was any help to the previous owner. There's no indication of a manlift or anchors.

If you have any way to see in this wall, try and identify if the shower lining and floor go under this area. Look for an inspection/access hatch in the walls, or if the floorspace is open, try look from below. Can you ask the PO's family? Find out what builder did the work and ask them?
Last resort is drilling a small patchable hole and use a borescope camera.

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    My immediatel reaction too. But on reflection I can imagine that a wheelchair bound person would find it safer to move, without assistance, from his wheelchair to a fixed bench rather than a shower chair. Feb 3 at 12:15
  • @JimStewart plausible - ts hard to get a sense of scale from the photo but I estimate the horizontal surface is somewhere between mid-thigh high and hip height for a standing adult. A surface for sitting on should be knee height generally, excluding barstools.
    – Criggie
    Feb 3 at 20:00
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    With the tile appearing to match perfectly I'm skeptical that it was added later. I'd advise starting with inspection from outside the shower stall, you wouldn't want to start ripping out the bench only to discover the space behind/below it doesn't have it's own waterproofing temporarily putting the shower out of commission until you can retile it. Feb 3 at 20:22
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    And while not as convenient as a shelf somewhat higher would be, the bench still could be used as storage for shampoo, etc. That's what my parents are currently doing with the just-in-case bench they installed when renovating their bathroom to include a walk in shower last year. Feb 3 at 20:22
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The shower head is on an arm that attaches to a stubout in the ceiling. They are all attached to each other with standard threads.

You can break open the ceiling and move the stubout. That's not a huge job. A couple of hours for the plumber and a few more hours for a painter to patch it up.

Alternately You can unscrew the arm from the ceiling, and replace it with an articulated one (Moen and Delta examples below) aided by assorted nipples and elbows, or not as needed. For example, the Delta one below (chrome one) is attached to the original shower arm already on the wall, and in fact you could simply do that with your existing arm but it will look a little odd.

Careful, although the threads are "standard", there are at least two standards. One in the wall where pipe tape and/or dope is used, and one for shower heads and hoses, where rubber washers are used. Some of these articulated arms are not clear on what threads are where. The Moen one in particular says it is reversible, implying it has NPT threads at both ends, so installing the shower head on it will be a bit difficult. Or maybe Moen shower heads don't use whashers? I don't know, the point is, it's not a mindless exercise, pay attention.

Moen articulated shower arm Delta articulated shower arm

(Photos from build.com)

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  • "Standard threads" can lead to confusion. There are standard tapered threads NPT and there are standard parallel threads. In my limited experience all the piping joints inside the wall are NPT. Once outside the wall a lot of shower fixtures use parallel threads with an elastomer seal. These joints do not tighten are they are threaded in until the end of the pipe contacts the elastomer seal. Pipe thread sealant is not needed on parallel threaded joints that have an elastomer seal. (In some countries parallel threads were used for water pipes under pressure with elaborate thread sealing req'd. Feb 3 at 16:44
  • Good point @JimStewart. Some care is needed in ensuring thread compatibility at both ends. My second example seems to have parallel threads at both ends, to be installed on an existing shower arm or elbow. The first example seems to have IPS threads at both ends, at least the documentation implies that, which would make it a little difficult to install I think? I made a small update to the answer.
    – jay613
    Feb 3 at 17:29
  • IPS (Iron Pipe Straight) are parallel. NPT are tapered. The normal basic shower arm goes into the wall and usually connects to a brass fitting secured to framing. I assume this joint is NPT. The other end of the basic shower arm is meant to connect directly to a shower head and I belive is IPS (parallel). Feb 3 at 17:34
  • @JimStewart my mistake, and fixed in the answer. The Moen web site has "IPS" somewhere on the page, but the installation manual does not say IPS or NPT, it says it's reversible, and it says to tape the end and screw it into the fitting inside the wall. Puzzling. Anyway, didn't mean for this to deep dive this one product, it was just a handy photo. There are dozens of others. Probably all quirky. :)
    – jay613
    Feb 3 at 17:48
  • IIUC the inside-the-wall end of a standard shower arm would be NPT (tapered, requiring thread sealant). The outside end of a shower arm would be IPS (straight, parallel, with elastomer seal). So anything designed to fit on the outside end of a shower arm would be IPS female and have an elastomer seal in it. If the seal would get lost or damaged, my first choice would be to get another elastomer seal. If for some reason an elastomer seal was not available, the sealing procedure for parallel threads is to use a combination of pipe dope and fiber (plumber's hemp). Maybe coarse thread wud work. Feb 3 at 18:25

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