Updating a too-small clawfoot tub showerhead

Normally updating a showerhead isn’t really something worth mentioning here because it’s so easy. But our new clawfoot tub ended up causing more trouble than we were anticipating, and we thought it would be worth it to explain how we went about doing this just in case any other clawfoot tub owners find themselves in the same situation.

Our new Barclay Products tub is gorgeous, and we’re really happy with it. We’d been a little worried that showers might we awkward in a clawfoot tub, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that’s not the case at all… Buuuut, and this is a big but, the showerhead that came with it is the WORST. It’s so small that there’s barely enough water to wash my hands let alone get the shampoo out of my hair! So we decided after the first shower that replacing the showerhead would be priority #1.

the original showerhead

the original showerhead

We stopped at Home Depot and picked up some plumbing tape and this really reasonably priced Delta showerhead with several settings and a nice, bigger-but-not-too-big size. We figured it would be a simple change, since normally changing a showerhead is as easy as unscrewing the old one and screwing in the new one. Normally. (oooh, the foreshadowing!)

Welllll… turns out the pipe that our showerhead connects to, which came with our tub, is 3/8″, and a standard showerhead needs a 1/2″ pipe.

Womp womp.

We did a lot of googling and found almost zero information that was helpful on whether there was a fix other than buying a new Barclay Products showerhead, which are all out of our budget. We decided to get creative and once again hit our local Home Depot (seriously, we’re so lucky it’s close!) where we picked up a little brass pipe converter that connects 3/8″ pipes to 1/2″ pipes for less than $3. (Edit 2019: the original link has gone inactive, so we’ve updated it to a product that’s the most similar to what we found at Home Depot.)

shower3

Andy screwed off the original showerhead and wrapped some plumbing tape around the pipe, which helps to seal the threads. Then the converter went on, followed by the new showerhead.

replacing a clawfoot tub showerhead

the new and improved showerhead!

Success!!

Seeing about a quarter-inch of brass on our otherwise all-chrome plumbing is a really small price to pay for a great shower, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s barely noticeable from more than a couple feet away.

shower4

The new showerhead is wonderful. Plus, I love that we went from an I’m-never-using-this shower to an I-want-to-wash-my-hair-twice-a-day shower for about 30 bucks and two minutes of labor.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see next month’s water bill after all these showers!!

–Kerry

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29 thoughts on “Updating a too-small clawfoot tub showerhead

  1. Thank you thank you thank you!! I have been googling all day about how to solve this exact situation in my house, and this was the first useful thing I’ve found. I cannot tell you how much additional time and frustration you saved me!

  2. Thanks a ton as I just rain into this problem while switching out an old yucky shower head with a beautiful rain shower head.

  3. Thank you for posting this! The Home Depot sells the Barclays clawfoot add-a-shower kit but gives you no warning that it’s a non-standard size and you can’t get a replacement shower head! I even went back to Home Depot and they were like “no way, no one sells this size shower head.” I have no idea why Barclays would do this except maybe they have some really old equipment (from before the sizes were standardized, like 100 years ago) and are still trying to produce and sell the same stuff. Or maybe there is some other country where this is the size. Who knows.

    Anyway, your post and link are extremely helpful for what would otherwise be a great mystery to many.

    1. Thank you so much, Timothy! When we originally posted this we weren’t sure if we were the only ones with the issue, so we’re really glad we’ve been able to help some people with what was such a frustrating problem.

  4. Kerry, you are a god send. The people at Home Depot didn’t know what the heck I was talking about. Went home and googled and came across your post…. went back to the store found the part and told the guy this is what I need. Came back home and installed it and IT WORKS!!! It really works…. I should have gotten some plumbing tape because there is a little leak from the head, but it’s minor…. trust, I can live with it!!!

  5. Yes, I just purchased this Barclay shower riser to replace a damaged riser and I now have a shower head that is too large for the pipe!

  6. Thank you for taking the time to share this, with specifics! I knew I would need some sort of converter to make it happen. Just googled and found your perfect solution!!! Saved me time and money :)

  7. Kerry you’ve won the internet today. I purchased a shower head on amazon and realized it was too big, after trying so many ways to make it fit, I went to Lowes and bought another one hoping it would definitely fit this time. Wrong, it turned out it was too big to stay put. I’m going back later today and thank you for this wonderful tip. Yes NY still have those 3/8 in shower pipes.

  8. Can’t thank you enough. You are the only thing google has to offer when I searched for months trying to update our showerhead on amazon. Now I can finally use this thing and take a real under the water shower!!!

  9. Thank you so much for posting this! Just ran into this problem today and was determined to find a solution. Could not find anything on the internet that was helpful until I luckily found your post! Just to confirm, the tape went over the threading on the pipe?

  10. All I can say is THANK YOU! I have been looking for months and months for advice about how to go about changing this shower head. This is so helpful!

  11. I hate the company or person responsible for designing an incompatible size without an adapter off the shelf. They don’t deserve to breath air.

  12. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO helpful!!! I just moved into a very old apartment building in San Francisco – of COURSE the shower pipe is too small for a normal showerhead that i bought on Amazon and I don’t want to have to return and buy a new one. Thank you!!!!!!!!

  13. Hallelujah!! So grateful I found this post. I just moved into an apartment in a historic building and it has a claw foot tub. I ordered a new shower head from Amazon and low and behold it was too big for the shower pipe. After finding & reading your post, I just ordered the converter from Amazon. It was a bit pricey at $7.98, but it’ll be worth it. Thanks so much!!

  14. Hallelujah! Thank you for your post, I moved into a new place with this type of shower head.

    Your post was helpful to the max!

  15. My shower head I installed in 2001 from a kit from Home Depot is the circumference of a plastic measuring tablespoon. I thought having a shower for the first time since 1962 was awesome. Now I’m going to be 70 and have balance issues. The shower head only reaches my chest and I cannot bend my head back or bend my knees to reach my head. I’ve had enough. The 1929 kitchen sink is shallow and has no sprayer devise. I can never rinse my hair well. You have inspired me to take the shower pipe and head off and go to Home Depot to get a longer pipe and a bigger shower head. thank you, Linda Long Island, New York

  16. Thanks, guys, exactly what I needed. I’m changing out a shower head from clawfood tub we had installed about 20 years ago. And my search brought me to this article very quickly. We’re in a century home in Solon, Ohio and while some century things are cool to have sometimes you just need an update. ;-)

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