We all love a good shower…
Showers are one of the most important parts of any bathroom. They arguably get the most use of any of your bathroom’s features and a good shower can really set the mood for your bathroom, as well as your overall enjoyment of the space.
Its not a simple as you might think.
Luckily we are here to hold your hand.
This is the first of a series of buying guides we aim to produce, where we will dive deeply into specific items you will need to consider when renovating or extending your terraced house. We will explain in detail the various options available, the pros and cons of each and importantly the budget implications of your decisions.
Can You Handle The Pressure?
Before you start flicking through those glossy sales brochures, just talk a few moments and speak to your plumber about the type of hot water system in your house. Not all shower fittings are compatible with all types of boilers, so it pays to know up front what you are dealing with.
It is also vital to ensure you have sufficient water pressure – especially for some of the more glamorous options.
There are essentially two types of shower: an electric, box-on-the-wall type shower and the more common mixer showers with the pipes concealed in the wall.
Electric showers heat cold, mains pressure water independently of the boiler – which can be useful if your boiler is not up to the task. This type of shower can also be good if you are adding a second bathroom or ensuite, perhaps where the distance from the boiler would make it expensive to run additional hot water pipes or a separate pump to improve the pressure.
They are generally cheaper to buy and easier to retrofit (you don’t have to remove any tiles or open up the wall to get at the water pipes). Electric showers are also particularly economical to run as you only heat the water that you use.
However, having that big white (or sometimes silver) box on the wall can look a bit ugly and, depending on the model, they don’t always provide the highest pressure output.
All in all they are generally a cheap, budget option but they look it.
All other showers pretty much fall into this category, which basically means you mix hot water heated by your boiler with cold mains water, in order to achieve a desired temperature set by you.
Manual mixer showers are the most common. Here you set the temperature by adjusting either separate hot or cold taps or a dial which regulates the mix of hot and cold water.
While still cheap and much less visually intrusive, this type of shower can be really infuriating. I’m sure you’ve been there plenty of times (I know I have) – jiggling the taps trying to find that millimetre wide sweet spot between icy cold and scalding hot, and never quite getting it right!
There is also no way of pre-setting the temperature with this type of shower so you have to go through the same routine every time.
Thermostatic mixer showers, however, offer a bit more sophistication by utilising an internal valve to regulate the temperature. This not only makes it much easier to find the temperature you want, by you will also will be less affected by water usage elsewhere in the home – meaning the shower wont suddenly go freezing cold when someone flushes the toilet or the washing machine kicks in!
The higher end thermostatic mixer showers also offer precise temperature control, either through a dial on the wall or on newer models a digital touch screen. This means that everyone can quickly get the shower to the temperature they want without wasting all that water while you jiggle the taps – a worthy investment in my eyes!
Power Showers are a kind of hybrid and there is a variety of different models with some heating the water themselves like electric showers. Essentially they are best for houses with very low water pressure – where any other type of shower would only be a trickle so weak you would have to run around under it just to get wet.
This type of shower includes a separate pump to get the water pressure up and, as the name suggests, they can produce pretty invigorating results. Power showers are not compatible with every type of boiler either (they don’t work with combi-boilers for instance) and they use a lot more water – an average of 15L per minute compared to 5L per minute for electric showers – which can get expensive if you are on a water meter.
Time to Use Your Head
Investing in a decent shower head can make a huge difference to your overall enjoyment of the shower, and there are a number of things to consider.
A fixed shower head provides the simplest and most minimal solution. They are quick and easy to fit, can be set at any height and usually offer some sort of adjustment in terms of the angle of spray.
At the higher end of the budget range, fixed rainwater shower heads can provide an experience akin to standing under a waterfall. Usually fixed flush with the ceiling or protruding from it, this type of shower head allows the water to fall completely vertically over a wide area for a relaxing and luxurious experience – though they are best suited for separate, walk in showers rather than over a bath as they can tend to make a bit of a mess otherwise.
More common is the hand held type of shower head. In this instance the shower is connected to the wall via a flexible tube or hose allowing a range of motion. This type of shower head usually hangs on fixed mounting bracket or rail, and they are great for bathing children or pets. They also make cleaning the shower and bath much easier (so I am told).
If you simply cant decide, there are also plenty of systems out there which combine a fixed shower head with a smaller hand held unit, giving you the best of both worlds. A multi-head shower unit, something of an extravagance in my opinion, also includes additional fixed shower heads at varying convenient heights for the complete car-wash experience.
All but the cheapest of showers will offer some sort of adjustment of the spray pattern. The main and most useful settings to look out for are as follows:
- Wide coverage – this feels like large drops of rain falling gently over a broader area
- Drenching Spray – this is usually more powerful and more focussed making it perfect for rinsing the shampoo from your hair.
- Targeted Spray – a high pressure, focussed spray that provides a sharp jet of water making it perfect for directing at sore muscles.
A diverter switch is a useful thing to consider as it allows you to switch the water flow between the shower and the bath taps or the fixed and hand held shower heads. This eliminates the need for separate tap sets for each one, reducing clutter on the bathroom wall and ultimately the cost to your budget.
If you are looking for all the bells and whistles in your bathroom then you might want to opt for digital shower controls. These little gizmos allow you to set the temperature of your shower remotely from anywhere via a data cable hidden in the wall – no more waiting around in a cold bathroom.
All decent and most half-decent tapware is made of solid brass, and the cheaper stuff is usually plastic. All come in a range of finishes to compliment the other hardware in your bathroom (look out for future posts on this) with the most common being a shiny chrome-like finish.
Some other finishes to look out for include:
- Brushed chrome
- Brushed or polished nickel
- Stainless steel
- Matt Black and
- Oil-rubbed bronze
Depending on whether you opt for a shower over the bath or if you have room for a separate stand alone shower cubicle, you need something to keep the rest of the bathroom from getting drenched.
Traditionally the solution has been a shower curtain, and you can still get some nice ones depending on the style of your bathroom. However, shower curtains tend to promote a build up of mould over time as they can be tricky to clean and store properly.
I would personally recommend some sort of solid, glazed screen, and these are available in a range of styles from framed and fixed to frameless and hinged. They can include a towel rail fixed on the back or may be concertinaed to fold away against a wall.
I think a frameless screen looks best if you can afford it, as they can add a sleek and modern look to the whole bathroom. At the very least, try and go for the best and simplest one you can afford.
The shower screen is something that is likely to get a lot of wear of tear and has the potential to make the biggest amount of visual impact in your bathroom – so choose wisely.
Energy Saving Considerations
Where possible I would recommend opting for water-saving showers if you can your hands on them. These are lower flow shower heads that use less water and thus less power than the standard models, reducing the impact on the environment whilst saving you a bit of money in the process.
Honestly you wouldn’t know the difference.
Cost is something which is always difficult to predict, given the many variables in play including location, existing fittings and pipework, water pressure, availability of plumbers etc.
Therefore, rather than give you specific figure, I have grouped the options mentioned above into various ‘budget brackets’. Ultimately the only way to get an accurate handle on price is to speak to your plumber or builder, but hopefully this should give you some idea of the range of options available to you.
At the very bottom end you are looking at a simple electric shower over the bath and a curtain to preserve your modesty. In my experience this is something of a false economy, however, as both will need replacing after a relatively short time.
At the very least I would recommend opting for a hand-held shower and a framed glass shower screen over the bath in this price bracket.
In this bracket you should be able to get a two in one fixed and hand held shower head with a frameless shower screen. A little bit more cash should get you a decent thermostatic shower mixer and maybe even a separate shower tray if you have the space.
The sky is really the limit when it comes to this stuff and it can be surprisingly easy to spend a lot of money updating your bathroom. In my opinion, the smart money would go on a rainwater shower head in a walk-in shower with a frameless glass screen.
If you want to push the boat out even further, then I would go for remote digital temperature controls and get the best quality fittings you can afford – they just last longer.
Money Down The Drain?
There you have it.
Renovating a bathroom can be an expensive exercise if you let it, with a complex series of choices – this whole article is just about choosing a shower!
That said, there is a certain amount of false economy in cutting corners and buying cheap fitting that will end up costing you far more to replace later on.
My advice is to go for the best quality you can afford. Simple as that.
Please do not allow yourself to be influenced by glossy brochures and shiny showrooms. You don’t need any more gimmicky things or fancy gizmos in your life. Stick to the items outlined above, prioritise the functional aspects that are important to you, and then find the fittings that best suit your needs.
If you need to save money, do so with items that can easily and relatively inexpensively be replaced, involving as few different trades as possible. For example, a shower rail and curtain can easily be upgraded to a fixed glass screen at a later date but going from an electric shower to a thermostatic mixer can become a big job.
Well..thats it from me on showers, look out for the next installment in the series when we will be looking at choosing a bath.
The Ultimate Terraced House Renovation Information Pack
In the meantime if you would like to know how to layout your house AND make sure that the building work goes as planned then you need to check out a our Terraced House Renovation Information Pack.
This information pack has been developed over the last 16 years in designing & managing peoples renovation projects.
Here are some of the things that are covered:
- Step-by-step, easy to follow instructions that show you how to remodel or reconfigure your terraced house so you can create a tonne of extra space WITHOUT needing planning permission
- How to AVOID BEING RIPPED OFF by builders during the work
- Several remodeled & reconfigured layouts so you can pick and choose what to do with your home
- How to create an AMAZING KITCHEN in your house
- Where to get some other work done to your home that will add a lot to the value of your property
- How to make sure and check that you are getting QUALITY WORKMANSHIP in your renovation
- How to put together a world class bathroom in your home
And this is just a sample!
This info will give you confidence when you deal with builders so you’re not taken for a fool or even worse ripped off.
So to find out more all you have to do is click the link below: