There are many ways that you can add a shower to your home. You can have a shower over your bath. Or you can fit a shower enclosure. Wetrooms are a luxurious option but not very common. And then there are shower pods.
If you are not sure what a shower is then read on. There are various configurations, materials and designs. Terminology can also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so make sure you know exactly what it is that you are buying.
What Is A Shower Pod?
A shower pod is basically a shower enclosure that comes with its own walls. It can sometimes have its own ceiling too but that is not always the case. They can be one piece or made up from various sections. These sections are designed to slot together to ensure there are no leaks.
A normal shower will consist of a shower tray and a glass panel and door. You need to sort out the walls of this type of shower yourself. So you would need to tile the wall to make it waterproof. The preparation for tiling is quite extensive and the process is time-consuming because you need several days between stages (plastering, tiling, grouting).
Shower pods were designed to do away with this slow part of the process and also eliminate common problems.
Many shower enclosures have a nasty habit of developing leaks over time. The shower tray and the tiles/grout are the main causes of the problems (see this article for more details on leaking showers). So shower pods were designed to ensure these problems are eradicated.
There are varying approaches to these issues depending on which make of pod you look at.
What Are The Walls Made From?
Again, this will vary from make to make.
The most common material will be some form of plastic or fibreglass. These have the advantage of being easy to cut and drill. So if you want to fit a particular type of shower mixer then you can make the necessary holes to enable this to happen.
There are many environmental concerns around plastic but its longevity is a real bonus when used as a building material. It will last for years with no chemicals needed to keep it clean. Many plastics can be made from recycled material and most will also be recyclable when they are no longer needed.
Compare this with tiles which take huge amounts of energy to fire. They require many strong chemicals to keep the grout looking clean and cannot be recycled once used. So the environmental aspects are far from clear-cut.
Glass is another material that manufacturers have turned to for the wall construction. This is also recyclable but it is not easy to work with. So any holes (for pipework etc) need to be pre-formed. Glass will limit what can and cannot be fitted inside the shower. These walls use metal strips to form all of the joints. They are not the prettiest items to look at but they do away with the need to use silicone sealant.
There are bathroom accessories available, such as shower caddies, that use a special adhesive for their fixing. This type of accessory requires no drilling so is ideal for use in this situation.
The 3 Basic Design Concepts
Shower pods are made in one of 3 basic designs:
- one-piece design
- sectional design
- individual components
Let’s have a look at each of these in more detail.
The all-in-one design was an attempt to solve the problem of leaking showers by doing away with virtually all of the joins. The whole cubicle is moulded in plastic as one solid piece. This makes for lightning-quick installation but there is also one major downside: size.
Because it is made as one complete unit it needs to be able to be carried through the home to its final destination. This means it has to fit through standard door apertures. And this really restricts how large they can be made and results in quite a small cubicle.
This is a development from the all-in-one concept that limits the number of joints inside the unit and removes the join between the lower wall and shower tray completely – always the weak spot in any shower design. This type of shower pod can be made in much larger sizes as door apertures will only restrict individual components rather than the whole thing.
These are not restricted by size as each component is essentially flat. The tray, door and wall sections are all specially made to ensure they fit together with no leaks. Many will utilise a system that eliminates the need for silicone sealant. This is something that is popular with customers as it can be a pain having to re-apply the sealant if it turns mouldy. We have an article that provides details of sealing baths and showers permanently here
Corner Or Alcove Installation
It is usual for shower cubicles to be installed in the corner of a room. And most pods are designed to be used this way.
The next most common location is in an alcove. Here, the walls form 3 sides of the shower with a door at the front. Not all pods are suitable for use in this situation so check with the manufacturer before buying in this instance.
This photo shows a sectional shower that is purpose-designed for alcove installation. It necessitates that the wall sections be made in 3 parts. This is because the size of 3-sided sections starts to get rather large and becomes an issue with regard to access through doors.
The design of shower pods is mainly concerned with keeping shower water inside the cabinet. But obviously, this water has to drain away. There are two possible options for all shower installations when it comes to drainage:
1. run the waste pipes under the floor
2. the waste pipes run on top of the floor
The advantage of option 1 is that it allows the shower tray to be installed flat on the floor. This has a few advantages: it results in a lower level entry for people with disabilities; there will be extra head-room for very tall people; the tray section is fully supported and will not move; it looks neater.
But you can only fit the tray if the floor will allow you to run the pipes below the surface. On a masonry floor, you would need to chase out a trough in which to run the pipes. On a wooden floor, the joist would need to run in the right direction to allow the pipes to be sunk under the floorboards. If this is not possible then you will have to choose option 2.
Most shower pods will have a riser kit available. This lifts the try up off the floor and allows the waste pipe to be run on top of the floor. It will usually consist of a series of adjustable legs and a plinth to cover the gap.
Shower Pod With Electric Shower
If the unit has glass walls it will have apertures designed for a mixer shower. If you want to use your shower pod with an electric shower then you might need to look at a different design.
Pods with plastic walls are designed for you to cut your own holes so these are a better option.
You need to ensure that the wall section designed to take a shower valve is wide enough to accommodate an electric shower. Most can take a bar-style mixer shower so there should just about be enough room.
Some electric showers are narrower than others so you may need to shop around to find the right fit.
Shower cabins usually refer to a fully enclosed cubicle with a roof – but not always. This term is sometimes used for shower pods so make sure you know exactly what is being offered.
When a unit has a roof it is usually because the unit can double as a steam room. They tend to have a comprehensive array of showering jets together with steam generators for a full spa-style treatment.
This type of unit is normally considerably more expensive than a standard pod but it does provide facilities that a standard shower cannot.
Are Shower Pods Good?
Yes, they are. They offer 3 key advantages over a traditional shower cubicle:
- wall preparation – no need to skim or plaster the walls
- speed of installation – much quicker than a tiled shower
- no leaks – these units are designed to eliminate leaks completely
If you were to tile a shower you would need very flat walls. So this would mean plastering before a single tile can be fixed. Once dry, you then fix the tiles. When the tile cement has dried you can then grout the tiles. And once this has set you can polish the grout and seal it. Each step is slow and several of the processes are very messy.
The shower valves usually come supplied with push-fit fixings so the plumbing side of things takes seconds. The pipes run behind the surface so everything is out of sight and neat.
Tiles are one of the most common causes of leaks in showers. The other is movement of the tray. Shower pods are designed to ensure that movement will not cause a leak.
The only real downside of shower pods is that they are a bit expensive. But compared with the damage a leaking shower can create it could be money well spent.