The height of your shower head can be difficult to plot. It seems like every book, magazine, and style guide recommends a different height. It is hard to find an answer because you are looking in the wrong place. The height of your shower head is entirely your decision.
The proper shower height will depend on the user's height and the style of the head.
Though you will want to check with your local building codes, regulations regarding the height of a shower head are not commonly found. The height your shower head will depend most heavily on your personal comfort, as well as your family's needs. If you are having your home built for you, your architect will suggest the shower height; if you have preferences you should voice them ahead of time. If you are installing your own shower head or having your bathroom remodelled, it is typical to find shower heads between 78 inches and 86 inches from the subfloor.
How you will be using your shower will have a strong impact on the best height for your shower head installation. If you are installing a shower head for someone that takes seated showers, you may choose a shower head height of 4 feet 6 inches to 5 feet with a removable shower head. This would allow you to easily remove the shower head while seated. If you are planning a smaller shower for a child's bathroom, 6 feet from the subfloor may be the best height for his comfort. If you have a tall family, you may like your shower head to be a full 6 feet 10 inches from the subfloor. A shower head too close to the head may be difficult to use to wet yourself, and a shower head too far from the head may make the spray difficult to contain.
The style of shower head that you are using may also have an impact on the height of the shower head installation. A massaging shower head that attaches to the wall often can be slid up and down into position by its mounting. This is a flexible design, so any of the range of standard heights is suitable. A rain shower does not slope down like goose-necked designs, which means that you can install it closer to your head height without much impact. If you are installing a goose-neck shower head, you will want to give additional clearance for your head. At least 8 inches is suggested as a comfortable minimum clearance.
Though there are no specific rules that apply to the height of valves and features in your bath or shower stall, there are style guidelines that are published by many respected professional associations. While most sources will agree on a standard height of 36 inches from the floor for tub controls and 48 inches for the shower valve, there is still much flexibility with the shower head height. Building Construction Illustrated gives a simple range of 6 feet 2 inches to 6 feet 8 inches, while the Bathroom Planning Guidelines for the National Kitchen & Bath Association recommends a minimum of 10 inches head clearance, and a maximum of 8 feet.
Before you decide on the height of your shower head, you may wish to have the person that most frequently uses the shower help you plot the shower head height. Either you, or your loftiest family member, should stand on the floor. Suspend the shower head above your subject and ask for his or her feedback. You can perform this test without the use of the shower head, but it can be difficult to visualize the shower head without a prop. Have them hold the shower head at the proper height as you measure up to help you find a height that works well for your family shower head installation.