Unless you have a wetroom, you will need to keep the spray from your shower under control. Most bathroom floors are simply not designed to cope with large amounts of water cascading onto them. So your choices will be a shower curtain or a bathroom shower screen. And if you opt for the former, then you are going to need a shower curtain rail.
But there are so many designs on the market it can get a bit overwhelming. We will go through each of the various designs, explaining the benefits and shortfalls. You will then be in a position to choose a rail that is right for your bathroom.
What Shower Curtain Rails Designs Are Available?
There are several different designs on the market although they all do the same thing in reality. Baths come in all shapes and sizes as do bathrooms so there are rail designs to suit all requirements.
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Rods and Rails For All Bathrooms
The basic types fall into the following categories:
- curtain rod
- telescopic curtain rod
- solid curtain rail
- bendy curtain rail
- modular curtain rail
Each design lends itself to certain applications better than others so we will look at each of these in turn.
Shower Curtain Rod
This is the simplest of the designs listed. These are round, metal rods that are run in a straight line from wall to wall. There are some that are made from heavy-duty plastic but you should avoid wooden designs. These are more suited to living areas because wood and water do not get on well together.
An advantage of this type of rail is that you can use shower curtains with eyelets. You will sometimes see these referred to as hookless shower curtains. This is where the curtain has large, round, holes that can run straight over the rod without the need for hooks.
You will need to be able to take the rod out of its wall brackets to enable you to thread the curtain into position. But the resulting look is very neat. They also increase the overall height of the curtain because it no longer dangles from hooks below the rod. This is ideal if there are taller users of the shower in the house.
Telescopic Shower Curtain Rod
Another variation of the shower rod is the telescopic design.
This works in the same way as a solid version but it has one great advantage – they can be fitted without the need to drill fixings into the wall.
The unit consists of two tubes one of which fits inside the other. There is a spring-loaded mechanism inside the tubes that creates outward pressure at the ends. This is transferred into the cups that fit over the ends which in turn hold the rod in place.
They can be fitted in seconds. So they are very popular for those who are not keen on DIY or don’t have the tools (or skills) to drill through tiles and masonry walls.
The main problem with this design is that the rod can move out of place as it is only held in place by friction.
How much friction is developed depends on the strength of the spring and the size/design of the cups at each end. As with most things, the more you pay the better the quality (in general).
If you are using bathroom cladding as an alternative to tiles in your bathroom you need to be wary of this design. Cladding is hollow so the pressure from the cups can sometimes distort, crack or dent the surface. Again, this will depend on the spring strength, cup size/material and the resilience of the panels. Saying that, the cup will tend to cover up any problems but it is worth keeping this in mind when choosing.
Going Around The Bend
It is not always possible to run a rod from wall to wall in a straight line in a bathroom. The room could be very large which would mean it would have to be extremely long. Or there might be something in the way of positioning it – such as a window.
Either way, you might be in need of something that will fit around the perimeter of your bath And this is where L-shaped shower rods come in.
They have two attachment points that will need very solid fixings. This is because there is a degree o leverage involved in their use. The curtain will not be running in a straight line and will weigh down on the rod where it bends. This is a design that is not ideal for use with hollow bathroom cladding as it could well crush the panels. There are a few methods that you can use to try and counteract this problem but to be honest it is just easier to use one of the alternative rods or rails that has a central support.
L-Shaped rods can be prone to drooping as they rely on very firm attachment points at either end. Some are better than others – the larger the plate or bracket at the end of the rod the more chance you have of obtaining a really solid fixing.
But what if your walls are not that great? Stud walls or cinder blocks are notoriously difficult for getting a good fix. So some clever person came up with the idea of a rod with a central support.
Usually, this would mean that you would need two shower curtains because they would not be able to be pulled past this obstruction. But creating shower curtain rings with a split in the middle, allows the curtain to pass while the support lends a lot more stability to the finished installation.
Straight Shower Rail
This is another straight, wall-to-all option that is a direct alternative to the shower rod.
The track will have runners inside which the shower curtain will be attached to. These rails are not designed to be used with hookless shower curtains. The rail will need to be securely fastened to the wall at both ends so some skills will be needed to drill holes through the tiles. They can be used with bathroom cladding but again, you will need to drill through the panels into the wall behind.
If it is not possible to run the rail wall to wall then you need to look at one of the alternative options. The modular rail kit that follows would be a suitable choice.
Need A Rail To Meet Your Specific Needs?
Then you might need to invest in a modular system.
These come as a kit and have various components that you can configure into the shape you require. There will be straight sections and curved angles as well as straight joints in some cases.
So if you need a U-shaped rail there will be parts suitable. L-shaped rails to help utilise all of the space above the bath are also within the scope of these systems.
And because they are a rail system there are supports available to help stabilise the unit once it is in place. Most L-shaped rods do not have this support option although there are some new designs that allow this (as we shall see).
Or You Could Opt For A Bendy Rail…
A bendy shower rail will offer similar options to a modular system. But rather than using separate components to make up the rail you simply bend the rail to the shape you require.
The rail is made from aluminium so can be bent into shape without the need for any specialist tools. These are a great idea for baths that do not have a straight edge. So if you have a corner bath, for instance, you can bend the rail to follow the curve of your bath pretty accurately.
You will need to drill to fix this type of rail into place.
The Curved Shower Rail
This is a relative newcomer but they are actually a great idea.
The rail ends are fixed in line with the rim of the bath. But the rail curves outward along the length. This gives you a lot more elbow room within the showering area. It also prevents the curtain from sticking” to you when it’s wet. This is a really annoying characteristic of showering with a curtain rather than a bath shower screen.
You need to ensure that you buy a curtain with sufficient length for this design. By moving the rail out from the bath edge you increase the distance that the curtain has to reach. It needs to drop down a good few inches below the rim. This will ensure it doesn’t get pushed out accidentally when in use.
Are shower Rods or Shower Rails Best?
There’s no right or wrong answer here.
Most shower rods do not allow a central support so they can droop when used in an L shape or U shape. There are one or two designs that get around this problem by using split shower rings as shown above.
Shower rail track designs vary and some designs might be a bit more prone to “sticking” when you try to pull the curtain around. This is not usually an issue for rods.
Spring-loaded telescopic rods can be fitted without drilling. There are one or two makes that claim that L shapes are possible without drilling. But you are then starting to rely on the strength of the bond of the bracket onto the tile. And the strength of the adhesive holding the tile in place. Plus the strength of the bond of plaster onto the blockwork.
So overall there will be something in these options that will suit your needs but there is no one, clear winner.
Shower screens could be used as an alternative – more info
Blog Post – Shower Screen Or Shower Curtain