The shower stall is rapidly gaining importance in family bathrooms. Once little more than just a shower head mounted over the bathtub, the shower has emerged as a key aspect of a bathroom’s features and décor. Because many people don’t have time or space for baths, and yet want a spa-like luxurious experience, walk-in showers have proliferated in style, features, and popularity in recent years. For many homebuyers, the shower is a key factor in their buying decision.
Reasons to Install a New Shower
There are many reasons to install a new shower in a bathroom. Here are just a few:
Safety. Showers are simpler and safer to use safely for children, people with disabilities, and aging adults. The reduced the risk of drowning, severe injuries from slipping and falling, and are less difficult getting in and out of. All of these make showers a safer option for many homeowners.
Cost and environmental savings. Showers are faster than baths and use less water, reducing energy and water costs, and also easing our burden on the environment.
Saving space. In a small bathroom, a shower can take up a fraction of the footprint of a bathtub, and will be used more frequently than a bathtub anyway.
More hygienic. Bath people will disagree, but it’s cleaner to rinse dirt, sweat, grease, and makeup down a drain than to soak in it. And sitting in a bath full of soap residue from washing or shampooing can dry out the skin.
While nothing beats a bathtub for relaxation and luxury, a shower is simply better and more convenient for daily use.
How to choose a new shower stall
When considering adding or upgrading a shower stall in your bathroom, the first consideration is cost. If you are simply replacing an existing shower stall, and will use the same plumbing for fixtures and drains, the project will be much easier and less expensive. If you are adding a new shower, or moving existing drains and fixtures, there is significantly more cost.
The cost of removal and demolition should be factored into the overall project cost, in addition to the new shower and installation. For a good idea of what the overall cost will be, first determine the extent of your plumbing changes, then determine your choice of surround, and consult with a contractor or plumber (or both) for estimates.
When choosing a new shower stall, the second key factor is the amount of space it will require. A shower stall should measure at least 36×36 inches within, and allow at least 24 inches of clearance outside for the door and ease of entry.
However, a small shower stall doesn’t have to look cramped or cluttered. Even tucked into a corner, a shower stall with a glass enclosure and shower curtain can look both spacious and luxurious, while maximizing the space and usefulness of a bathroom.
Prefabricated Shower or Tile Surround
If space isn’t an issue, the next big consideration is the surround. Will you purchase a prefabricated shower that is all one unit, or create a tile surround? There are key factors on both sides of the decision.
Prefabricated shower units are formed by the manufacturer and shipped in one or more large pieces, assembled and installed in your bathroom. Generally, they use a solid pan for the base of the shower, and one or more solid side panels, and a shower door.
Prefabricated shower units are:
• Easy to assemble
• Easy to clean
• Flexible material; good for earthquake-prone regions or houses where the shower floor might sag or flex, these shower pans are unlikely to crack or leak
Prefabricated units also include some downsides. The drawbacks are:
• Large pieces may not be able to fit into or be assembled in small spaces
• Limited range of styles, shapes, and materials
• Limited range of size and fixture options
The alternative is to create a custom surround with tile. Adding ceramic tile and grout makes existing walls and surfaces waterproof, so there is no need for a prefabricated shower wall.
Tile Shower Surrounds
Tile shower surrounds are:
• Good for remodels, because component pieces are small and easy to transport
• Have higher resale value
• Can be made from recycled materials
• Can be made in any color or style
• Can fit in any space
• Can accommodate unusual or custom options for shower-head placement, storage, seating etc.
Drawbacks to custom shower tile surrounds are:
• More expensive than prefabricated units
• Possibility of cracks or leaks if structure shifts
• Slower installation time
• More difficult to clean
If you choose a tile backerboard, the options for upgrades are nearly endless. You can talk with your contractor about adding multiple different showerheads, including massage jets. Consider adding built-in shelving for all your storage needs, or built-in seating. Luxury showers may also include custom mood lighting, shower-friendly speaker and audio systems, and steam vents for a sauna experience. A fog-free mirror also is a useful (and time-saving) shower upgrade.
Many of these more luxurious options are also available in prefabricated shower stalls, although they won’t be as completely customized. But the range of designs, features, and materials in prefabricated shower units is expanding all the time.
Whatever type of shower stall you use, there are a few safety and accessibility features that are important to consider.
• Install a non-slip floor. Whether in baths or showers, slips and falls are an all-too-common household accident, and can be very dangerous. No matter what your shower pan is made from, there are options and accessories available to reduce the risk of slipping, and it’s a wise investment.
• Install a grab bar. Grab bars are not just useful for the elderly and disabled; they are key to preventing shower falls for many people, and will be used more often than you think. Grab bars can be attractive and designed to complement other bathroom fixtures and features, so don’t avoid one just because of looks.
• Install hand-held showerheads. Detachable, handheld showerheads are essential not just for cleaning and rinsing yourself, but are invaluable for bathing children and pets. Detachable heads are perfect for people with less agility, or when a person is recovering from an injury and needs to keep a cast or sutures dry.
A new shower enclosure can be as small, simple, and functional as necessary; or as large, luxurious and digital as you dream of. Your shower renovation idea will add not only value to your home but also function to your bathroom.