In this guide, we will outline all of the things you need to consider before you choose your new shower or shower enclosure.
The first thing to consider is your domestic water system and your water pressure. These will ultimately influence which type of shower you end up having.
An unvented system is one where a boiler or immersion heater heats up the water cylinder which produces a large amount of hot water.
A gravity fed system is the most common, whereby a cold water tank is kept usually in an airing cupboard or loft. This tends to give a much lower water pressure but you can use a shower pump to improve it.
A combi boiler system tends to provide the highest water pressure and offers hot water on demand. It features a boiler without a tank or water cylinder.
Electric showers are great for en suites and downstairs shower rooms as they don't need to be connected to a hot water feed since they contain their own heating units.
Electric showers are energy efficient and ensure that you have hot water whenever you want it as the water is heated on demand so it doesn't matter how many people want to use it or how long you have a shower.
One thing to keep in mind with an electric shower however, is that they tend to have a weaker flow so try to get the most powerful model you can to overcome this. It is also important to note that if you opt for a non-thermostatic model the water temperature will be affected if someone elsewhere in the house uses a tap. Fortunately, most models these days tend to have thermostatic controls.
Power showers should not be confused with electric showers despite their similar appearance. They contain an integrated pump which takes water from your hot and cold supplies to boost your flow.
They are ideal for use if you have a low water pressure system but you will still need a reliable water supply to ensure efficient use.
For precise control over your water temperature, courtesy of a processor box - a digital shower is the way to go.
A digital shower is easy to install with the choice of exposed or concealed valves. Some digital showers come with remote controls or can be linked to a smart phone so that you can control your shower from the comfort of your bed.
The controls are easy to use and there is no risk of temperature fluctuations as the water is not affected by water being used elsewhere in the home.
The type of shower valve you choose will affect the use of your shower. A manual valve is cheap and easy to use as it is much like using a regular tap however because you cannot regulate the temperature if someone uses a tap in the house it might not be the most practical option for those with large families. No one wants the water to turn freezing or scalding in the middle of their shower!
In contrast, a thermostatic valve is designed to keep the temperature of the water flow as close to your chosen setting within a degree or two meaning you can enjoy your shower with constant heat.
Concealed shower valve - the working parts are hidden within your walls with the controls displayed on a back plate that sits flush to the wall.
Fixed shower heads feed directly into your wall or ceiling. If you have a shower hose, it will feed into the wall via an outlet.
Exposed shower valve - The shower hose or pipe is fitted directly to the valve. All working parts are visible outside of the wall.
For those who don't have the space for a separate bath and shower, a shower bath is a good alternative. You don't need a shower tray but you will need a bath screen - they are made from toughened glass for extra security and some even come with a handy towel rail.
They usually come in P-shaped and square versions with the option for left or right handed. Put simply, a left handed shower bath would feature the widest part on the left side for showering.
WHERE TO INSTALL YOUR SHOWER ENCLOSURE?
You will need to take into consideration thing like existing pipework, vents and lights when thinking about your shower placement. You also need to take into account how many walls you have available to use as the amount you have will decide how many shower components you will have to purchase.
If you have a large enough space, you can place the shower using only one wall. To do this, you will require two fixed, side panels for the shower enclosure as well as a door panel for the front.
A more common way is to fix the shower in the the corner of the room using two walls - you will need only one side panel and a door panel. This works best in small-medium sized bathrooms.
If you have three walls to work with then you would only needs a door panel at the front of the shower enclosure.
SHOWER ENCLOSURE SHAPES
Rectangular shower enclosures are more luxurious and work best in a larger bathroom. They are also a good option for those with mobility issues. They can be placed against one or two walls.
Square shower enclosures are great when space is at a premium, fitted into the corner of a room making full use of the rest of the bathroom.
Quadrant shower enclosures are also ideal for tight spaces, they use two walls like the square enclosures but have a curved side (and curved door panel) which means that they use up even less space.
Not be confused with quadrant enclosures, an offset quadrant shower enclosures is more suited to larger bathrooms as they use a larger portion of the wall.
Shower doors can be bi-fold, fitted, sliding or pivot. They can be fitted between two walls or into a corner with a side panel to form a complete shower cubicle.
Sliding shower doors usually come as two or three panels (with one fitted into a recess) which slide in and out from the corners allowing easy access to get in and out of the shower enclosure. They are larger and suit square or rectangular enclosures.
Bi-fold shower doors have two panels that fold up when opened making them great for smaller bathrooms as they don't take up any room outside of the shower enclosure itself and also don't leak water onto the floor when the door is opened.
Pivot shower doors swing outwards like a standard door. Half pivot shower doors have hinges on the top and bottom so only open halfway whereas full pivot shower doors are hinged on the side like a regular door and open all the way. These are better suited for spacious bathrooms.
SHOWER ENCLOSURE GLASS
Shower enclosures are made from toughened glass and come in a variety of thicknesses. The thicker the glass, the less vibration occurs when you open and close the shower door.
At the lower end and most affordable, 4mm glass is the minimum glass thickness requirement for frameless shower enclosures. Mid-range is 6mm toughened glass with 8mm being the premium option that is extremely durable and tough.
Some shower enclosures come with easy clean glass - a special coating is applied during manufacture to one side of the glass to prevent the build up of dirt, grime and limescale. A range of finishes are available from striped, mirrored, frosted, smoked to clear.
WALK IN SHOWER
A walk in shower is a slimline shower tray and a glass panel so that you can simply walk in the open end. The advantages to this are that it is easier for those with mobility problems as there are no doors to navigate, they are easy to clean and low maintenance. They give the look and feel of a wet room without the need to tank (a process of waterproofing the area) the walls and floor.
A wet room is when the shower is completely open and the shower floor is completely flush with the rest of the bathroom floor without a shower tray. The shower floor needs to have a slight gradient so that the water can flow down towards the drain.
A glass shower screen can be fitted for the sake of protecting any other bathroom items from being splashed with water such as towels and toilet roll.
Since a wet room needs to be completely waterproof to prevent leaking, it is recommended that you hire a professional for the installation.
Much like the walk in shower, they are easy access, simple to clean and create a real impact, even adding value to your home (if added as a second bathroom or en suite).
Wet rooms are not an inexpensive option but you should never scrimp on the cost of the fixtures, fittings and installation as insufficient drainage or a shoddy installation will cost you in the long run with the damage it can cause.
Remember that you will need to also install non-slip tiles to prevent accidents and underfloor heating is preferable as it will dry the room faster as well as keeping your feet nice and warm.
An essential part of a shower enclosure is a shower tray. You will need to ensure that the shower tray matches the size and shape of your enclosure to prevent leaks.
If your bathroom floor is suitable (wooden floorboards) you can install the shower tray directly onto it and the tray will sit with a low profile almost flush with the floor. This looks neater and is preferred by most people as it is easier to get in and out - the only drawback is that if there is ever a leak on the shower trap the only way to access it is often to cut a hole in the ceiling below (usually a kitchen).
If you have a concrete floor, you will likely have to have to use a riser kit to raise the shower tray as it is difficult and not always cost effective to fit pipework in a concrete floor. Sometimes it is necessary to raise the shower tray for drainage purposes as the waste water needs to drain downwards. It can also be the preferred option to keep the shower tray above the floor to maintain the structural integrity of the floor joists.