Build a Custom Shower
When building your dream bathroom, creating a custom shower is a rewarding and luxurious upgrade you’ll appreciate for years to come. There are several important factors to consider when designing your custom shower, whether you are planning a light upgrade or building a shower from scratch. This article will focus on discussing the plumbing fixtures and functional aspects of building a custom shower, rather than the building materials and design concepts which are virtually limitless and depend as much on personal style and taste as they do on use.Luxury is Just a Shower Away
The phrase "custom shower" typically describes any shower providing water from multiple outlets, such as:
Shower heads and / or hand showers feature different settings for massage
Body sprays are installed on shower walls and aim water from different directions and levels.
Volume control offers the functionality to choose which of these are active at any time.
Thermostatic valves maintain consistent temperature control for maximum enjoyment.
When deciding to install a custom shower, there are various options depending on your needs. If you are not looking to do a major remodel, you can opt for a shower panel which usually can be installed in an afternoon in an existing shower, and combine features such as multiple function showerheads, hand showers, and body sprays with thermostatic valves for temperature control, giving you many of the benefits of a custom shower with less work.
Another option is a pre-built custom shower enclosure. These include showerheads and body spray features, which can be easily installed if you are building or remodeling your existing bathroom.
Finally, you can choose to build your own, utilizing a shower system kit also known as a “Vertical Spa", which come with various showerheads, body sprays, and controls. You can also pick and choose the parts to make a truly personalized and unique custom shower.
It's important to make sure you know what pieces you need to complete your shower system if you are building your own from "scratch." Make sure you consult the list that follows as well as a plumber before embarking on this adventure, even if you are a do-it-yourself type or certified contractor. This will ensure your work pays off in making your custom shower dream come true.
There are important factors to consider when developing your design, as well as prep work for plumbing your custom shower.
If you’re looking to build a custom shower system from the ground up, you will need certain components, such as what type of water outlets you desire (fixed showerheads, removable hand showers, body sprays), a thermostatic valve with trim and a second handle or diverter to control the direction of the water flow.
There are two choices of fixtures to direct the water flow to your outlets (a diverter and volume control). It’s important to choose the one that best suits your needs.
A diverter valve is most commonly seen with four ports and will allow you to run up to three outlets with just a single handle. The handle has preset positions of each individual outlet and an extra position to run a combination of two outlets at once (that’s up to you and your plumber). A diverter valve operates on an on/off scale, making it all or nothing for your water outlet.
Volume control allows you to regulate the water pressure coming from each individual water outlet. Volume controls have one inlet and one outlet to control each water outlet. So, if you have four functions you will require four volume control valves and four volume control trims.
When Being in Hot Water is a Good Thing!
One of the most important, and often overlooked, factors to consider is your source of hot water. What would be more disappointing than doing all the work to install the shower of your dreams, and have it run out of hot water in a couple of minutes? For example, if you install a shower with one shower head at 2 ½ gallons per minute (gpm) and six body sprays using two gpm, you are going to be using 14 ½ gpm, which would drain a 50-gallon tanked water heater in just over 3 ½ minutes – not our idea of experiencing the benefits of a custom shower. Manufacturer recommendations suggest upgrading to a minimum 100-gallon tanked water heater or installing a dedicated tankless model.
Tankless water heaters provide unlimited hot water, the best scenario to ensure adequate hot water supply for your custom shower. Just make sure you choose one with a flow rate that can handle the draw your shower requires. Flow rate is listed in the specs of tankless water heaters and is calculated by determining the average “temperature rise” required (the difference between the incoming water’s temperature and how many degrees it needs to rise to reach the desired hot setting). In other words, the colder the incoming water temperature is to begin with, the higher the temperature rise, which reduces the flow rate of hot water. In winter, for example, flow rate will be lower than in summer, when incoming water is cooler by nature of the weather.
Another way to extend the length of time you enjoy hot water in your custom shower is to consider body sprays and shower heads with lower flow rates. Current EPA standards restrict new shower heads to 2 ½ gpm, but some manufacturers sell showerheads and body sprays with lower flow rates because of water conservation trends. Custom shower systems also benefit by extending the usage of your hot water if you rely on a tanked water heater.
Water pressure is also important to consider. Since your custom shower will include multiple water outlets (valves, showerheads, hand showers, and/or body sprays), you’ll need adequate water pressure to keep all those outlets flowing. Manufacturers recommend at least 50 pounds per square inch (psi) for a system with three or more outlets. If your water pressure is lower than 45 psi, you’ll need to install a water booster pump.
Other plumbing considerations include your supply lines to your shower as well as drains. Standard ½-inch supply lines will restrict your water volume, so installing ¾-inch lines would be ideal. In addition, make sure your drains can handle the increase in water. Multiple water outlets can flow several gallons of water a minute each. So to make sure your shower won’t turn into a pool, you’ll need to install at least two two-inch drains or one three-inch drain.
Custom Shower Shopping List of Essential Components:
1. Water outlets: include showerheads, removable hand showers, and body sprays.
2. Thermostatic valve: a pressure balancing shower mixing valve with automatic temperature control. When temperature or pressure fluctuations occur at the water inlets, a thermal actuator adjusts the hot and cold ratio to maintain the original temperature setting.
3. Volume control handles: adjust how much water comes out of various outlets.
4. Diverter valve: directs water to the various outlets desired.
5. Water heater: either large tanked water heater (manufacturers recommend 100 gallons), or tankless water heater with high enough flow rate to handle the additional water demand.
6. Drains: a minimum of two two-inch drains or one three-inch drain is ideal.
7. Water booster pump: maintains water pressure if your existing water supply is lower than 45 psi.
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