The place where you take your daily shower is probably not something your think about a lot. As long as there is enough hot water and the shower stall is clean, your daily needs are met. But, when you contemplate remodeling that bathroom or building your dream home and need to plan for its bathrooms, there are a lot of choices from which to select. A shower stall has three basic elements; the stall itself, the door and the shower head, each of which has many options for your consideration. Let's look at the stall first.
There are two basic types of stalls. Those which are prefabricated and brought to your home partially or totally assembled, and custom showers which are built on sight.
Prefabricated shower stalls are either a molded single-piece, or shower wall panels which are assembled on site. These can be made of either fiberglass, laminate, or synthetic marble. The single-piece showers are watertight, relatively inexpensive, simple to install and easy to clean. A single-piece shower units are usually too large for a remodel unless you are already knocking down some walls. This is where manufactured shower wall panels are preferred. They lap over a molded shower base and are attached to a waterproof wall.
Custom shower stalls are either built from the ground up or using a prefabricated base. The walls must be waterproof which is defined as having a layer of water-resistant drywall covered with waterproof cement board. These are then finished with ceramic tile, slate, granite, marble or a solid surface. Unless you are using a single-piece shower, all stalls begin with a base, which is sometimes referred to as a receptor or a pan. These can be purchased already made or built on site.
When buying a prefabricated shower pan, be sure to select the one with the drain opening matching the location of your drain pipe. These bases come in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Doors for your shower stall come in a variety of types depending on the opening it is designed to cover. To help you make a decision on which one is best for you, you will want to consider the type of shower you have, the layout of your bathroom and your personal preference and taste. Shower doors are available in sliding doors, swinging doors, or bi-fold doors which is a combination of both.
Sliding doors are the most commonly used in bathrooms as they use the least amount of space, are attractive and are easy to care for. They are in two or three sections and glides on tracks at the top and the bottom of the door.
Swinging doors are commonly used to cover a wide area and can be combined with matching fixed panels. These doors can add elegance to your bathroom but you will need to take into consideration your room size and ensure the door doesn't swing into sinks, towel bars, or any other fixtures in the room.
Bi-fold doors work well in a bathroom that is not large enough for a door to swing out into the room. These doors fold in accordion-like sections into the shower, preventing water from dropping onto the floor. These sections ride in a track at the bottom of the door. Any of these doors may be framed or frameless. If it is a framed door, the frame is commonly made of anodized aluminum, giving it a corrosion-resistance surface. During this process, dyes are added to providing you with an array of colors to match the decor of your bathroom. If the door is frameless, the hinges and handles are mounted directly through the glass giving the room a larger and more open feel. To support these hinges, frameless doors are made of thicker glass, adding a feeling of luxury and durability. As with all elements of the shower, the glass used is offered in a mixture of styles. Glass for a shower door is either clear or opaque. While the clear glass is popular in many areas, it should be noted that it is very unforgiving when clean, leaving streaks and spots. Opaque glass can come in as assortment of patterns to match the design of your bathroom.
Basically, there are two types of shower heads - stationary and hand-held. The stationary shower head is attached to the shower wall and generally has some limited ability to direct the spray of water. The hand-held model has a flexible hose and can efficiently direct the water to where it's needed. The hand-held model can also be clipped to a hanger to allow hands-free showering. Whether stationary or hand-held, most shower heads use twice the water needed for a thorough shower. When selecting a shower head consider a low-flow model which typically uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute (gpm) or less. The water flows through special orifices that control droplet size, focus the stream, and in some models, increase the blast by mixing in air to create turbulence or pulsing.
For an investment of $10 or less, you can save $50 to $75 per year in water bills and $20 to $60 or more per year in energy costs to heat the water.
A nice, warm shower at the end of a long day is truly one of life's pleasures. With some thoughtful selection, your shower can meet the needs of you and your family while complementing your bathroom's design.