Adding a shower to your bathroom is vital in this day and age. A long luxurious soak in the bath is great, but people’s lives are so hectic these days that this is not always possible.
So a nice quick shower is a great alternative. But what type of shower should you install and what can your heating system handle? This guide will answer all of the questions you may have about showers and show you the options available to you.
Let’s start with the easiest option.
Bath Shower Mixer
Adding an over-bath shower is by far the simplest way of adding a shower to your bathroom. And a bath will actually provide you with quite a large showering area.
A bath shower mixer is a bath tap that has a diverter on it. This diverts the water away from the tap and up to a shower. This is a vary basic option but is actually highly effective.
The huge advantage of this option is that you do not have to run any new pipes to the shower. It uses the same water as your bath taps. You then fit a slider rail kit to the wall and hey-presto you have yourself a shower.
You will need to fit a shower curtain or a bath shower screen to the wall to keep the shower spray where it needs to be – inside the bath.
Unfortunately there are a few complications.
Your Heating System
Firstly, not all heating systems work well with mixers.
The valve mixes hot and cold water together. Ideally these should be the same pressure. If you have tank pressure hot water and mains pressure cold water, the higher pressure will dominate. You can try limiting the cold by only just turning the cold tap on and having the hot fully open. One other issue is that you have to ensure that your hot water tank is above the level of the shower head. In most houses the tank will be in the attic but in flats and apartments this will not be case.
If you have a combination boiler then this will have essentially the same pressure for hot and cold so this problem is not an issue. Similarly, if you have an unvented heated system you will have similar pressures. Both of these system are high pressure so you will get a decent flow of shower water in both cases.
The second issue is that fitting a bath shower mixer is not an easy task without removing the bath. It is sometimes possible to do but it is fiddly with very limited access.
If you remove and replace the bath this could lead to damage to the surrounding bath. Which leads to our next section, decorating around a bath.
Make Sure The Walls Are Waterproof
The walls around your bath might not be waterproof if you do not currently have a shower over it.
Quite often a few rows of tiles are fitted to make a splashback. But this is not sufficient for a shower. You need the tiles to run up the whole wall.
You will need to fit some form of waterproof wall covering if you find yourself in this situation. Bathroom wall panels are an ideal product to work with. They are very easy to fit with no specialist skills or tools required. These panels are much easier to fit than tiles. They can even be installed over any existing tiles.
Electric Showers – Flexible And Convenient
The type of heating system that you have can be a problem for showers, as was previously discussed.
So is there a shower that will work with any type of system? Luckily the answer is “yes”.
Electric showers will work with any type of heating system as they only require cold water. The water needs to be fed to the unit at high, mains pressure. It will also require some pretty hefty cable running to it from you fuse-box. Electric showers use a lot of power so they need to be installed by a qualified electrician who will also fit the necessary safety devices.
The water pipe can be run on the surface of the shower wall if required and so can the cable. This is not the prettiest method but at least it is quick and easy.
You can bury both of these in the wall if you are fitting new tiles or bathroom wall panels. Or you might have an airing cupboard behind the shower wall where everything can be run out of site. A neater finish will be achieved with these last two options.
Are Electric Showers Powerful?
You don’t get as much flow with an electric shower compared with one that runs off the heating system. This is because it heats the water as it is being used. And there is only so much water the heater can cope with.
But only heating the water that you use is very efficient so this can be a plus-point. And another advantage is that an electric shower runs independently of your heating system. If your boiler ever breaks down you will still be able to have a shower.
A mixer shower is a valve that is attached to the wall. Hot and cold water is fed via pipes to the unit. It mixes the water and outputs it to a shower head. Most mixer valves are designed to work with equal pressure. They are similar in this regard to bath shower mixers.
But some mixers can be used with unequal pressure water. They have restrictor washers that you can insert to alter the flow to try and achieve a more balanced flow.
You will see the term manual and thermostatic used in their descriptions. These refer to the temperature ranges that the shower produces. A thermostatic shower will be limited to the highest temperature that you set. It will never get any hotter even if the flow is interrupted by other water use around the home. These are ideal for use where you have children or inform people using the shower as it prevent scalding.
Manual showers do not have this facility and the temperature can rise if the supply fluctuates. Thermostatic showers have dropped significantly in price over the years so now there is not too much expense in providing a little extra safety.
Can I Have A Power Shower?
Again, this will depend on your heating system.
A power shower is simply a shower that uses a pump to boost the water pressure. If you already have high pressure water (with a combi boiler for example) a power shower is not needed.
You will need to have stored hot water and stored cold water at the same pressure. You might require an extra cold water tank installed because power showers can suck through a lot of water.
The water jets off a power shower can be a bit too powerful for a shower curtain. The force of water can push the curtain up and over the rim of the bath. You also get a lot of deflected spray so make sure your bath screen can handle it. Or you could end up with a wet floor.
Power showers do not heat the water even though they have an electrical supply. They only pump it. So you will be using hot water stored in your copper cylinder. Keeping a tank full of water hot at all times ready for use is much less efficient than using an instantaneous heating system.
The only advantage of a pumped system is the volume of water they can supply. You can have body jets, drench heads and all sorts of options with a pumped system. But the most powerful systems can end up getting through more hot water than the average bath. So be warned!
Adding A Shower Enclosure To A Bathroom
Many bathrooms are pretty small in the UK. They are designed to fit a standard bathroom suite and not a lot else. So most of the time you will will have to choose between a bath with a shower in or ripping out the bath and having a shower enclosure instead.
We have an article on the pros and cons of getting rid of your bath here.
But some older properties, and larger modern ones, might have enough room for a separate shower enclosure. If this is the case, then pipework will need to be run to and from wherever you site the unit.
Shower Pod Or Shower Enclosure
A shower pod is worth looking at if you are adding an enclosure to the room.
These are self-contained units that are totally waterproof. You will need to choose your shower valve: mixer valves; power shower; electric shower. The appropriate pipework and cable (if required) will need to be run to the pod. And a wastepipe will need to take the shower water away. But other than that that is all that is needed.
The walls will need to be waterproof if you opt for a more conventional shower enclosure. Tiles would be a lot of people’s first choice but many are switching to shower wall panels.
These are large sheets of a waterproof material that use no grout in their construction. The lack of grout means that they are a lot less prone to leaks and have zero maintenance.
Shower pods are more expensive to buy than a conventional enclosure. But standard shower requires a lot more work to fit – especially if it to be tiled. The walls need to prepared, the tiles fitted, they then need to be grouted and finally polished.
You can see that there are many ways of adding a shower to a bathroom. Probably the biggest factor in making your choice will be budget. Some of the options listed are a great deal cheaper than others. Next, your heating system will be a deciding factor. And finally personal taste and your overall requirements will shape your decisions.