Handmade showers: the options and possibilities are limitless
You’re ready for a new bath, and if you’re like most people, your new bathroom will include removing a hot tub or increasing the size of the shower.
In the remodel, the shower stall has become the number one most requested item in the bathroom. Gone are the days when code was met with a 30 x 30 fiberglass cabinet and in its place is the handcrafted entryway.
There is so much that goes into designing a shower that it is difficult to know where to start, especially when there is a budget to consider. With over twenty years of design experience and nearly eight years in the field, I know a thing or two about showers. Before calling in a professional like me, it will be very beneficial for you to become familiar with how a custom shower is built.
Let’s start with the basics of the shower, it’s the pan, the walls, the plumbing, and the door. Next we have accessories such as niches, decoration, shelves, tiles and benches.
Each of these will contribute to the cost of your overall project and it is important to understand all the options so that you have a better idea of what your vision will cost.
To begin, you will need to determine the size of your shower. If it is standard, you will have the option of using a fiberglass or pre-cast shower tray. This option will save you money compared to other options.
If you want a more elegant look or if your shower size is custom, you may want to look at a tiled skillet. With this option, the pan can be made in any size and lined with stone, ceramic, mosaic or marble. Some things to consider here. When laying tiles in a pan, you also have to think about what material will be used on the curb. Quartz is often a favorite curb choice and is cut to size to fit. If you are looking to save money, a cheaper material would be tile. Often in the design, if quartz is not used, then the tile that is on the walls of the shower is used on the curb. One side note to consider is that when using tile on your sidewalk, you must have a product to finish the tile edges. Bullnose is one way to achieve a clean finish and a more economical solution for tile edges is to use metal / plastic edges. I’m not a fan of plastic, but I often choose metal over the rounded tip because it can actually enhance the design.
The other consideration is the tile. The shower floor takes a considerable amount of abuse, so staying away from marble (albeit beautiful and elegant) will keep your shower looking new for years and years.
Moving on, let’s talk about the shower walls. Shower walls can be finished with tile of any size and any type of tile, but not all of them are within the same budget. Marble, the queen of any bathroom, is the most expensive for both workmanship and material and will come with a lot of maintenance. Travertine is next on the price list. Although travertine is one of my favorite materials to work with, the tolerances for laying this tile are tight and care must be taken with the materials used behind the scenes so as not to stain this stone. Because marble and stone are more labor-intensive and more expensive to purchase, using either of these materials in your bathroom will place your project at the higher end of the bathroom remodel price scale.
If you are looking for custom tile but low maintenance and yet want a more modest budget, I would consider a large format 12×24 size ceramic or porcelain tile or any size tile. Both tiles are easy to work with and can often be cut without the use of a wet saw, saving time on labor.
Looking for something right in the middle? The best option for the middle of the road is ceramic or porcelain subway tile. Subway tile is my favorite tile to work with for a number of reasons. The first reason is that I consider it “evergreen” as it never goes out of style. I love that this simple tile can look more glamorous than stone and marble if designed correctly. It comes in a variety of sizes, colors and can be herringbone, 1/2 set, 1/3 stacked set, and more. The possibilities with the subway are endless and the cost is inexpensive. If you want a tall design but don’t have the budget for the marble subway, this could be the tile for you.
Other materials to consider are glass and shapes like the hexagon. Both will run on the higher side, but still won’t come close to the price of marble or travertine. These tiles are often used as accents to give the shower a little wow factor.
As with the curb, you should think about how the tile edges will be finished, with options for rounded tip or metal edges. Like the curb, the metal edge on the wall will save you money compared to the rounded edge.
Now let’s talk about plumbing! It may not seem like you have much to think about here, but you actually do. Let’s start with the most important piece of plumbing besides the obvious rough pipe, the valve. By code, you must use a pressure balanced thermostatic mixture or a combination of the two. From there, you need to decide on accessories like standard shower head, rain shower, and body jets. Every component you add to your shower will require thought to ensure that the proper valves are used to supply the necessary pressure based on the fixtures used. To save material and labor, a standard pressure balancing valve with a standard shower head will help keep your budget balanced.
Another way to save money is by selecting a standard drain. If you are looking to create a little more glamor, the drain will do the trick. It will cost a bit more in both labor and material, but the final look is well worth the upgrade.
The last main piece of the shower is the shower door. Shower doors are not all the same. There are ready-made doors that require a specific size to open. They come in a variety of finishes and types of glass. They require assembly but will save money on both material and labor.
My preference is the custom door. Available in almost all finishes and made to order. These doors will have thicker glass and can be treated to resist water marks. Heights can be increased for a more dramatic look and come unframed and framed. The doors can be hinged to rotate both ways or can be ordered as sliders. Finally, these doors can be wrapped around glass, allowing designers to create impressive showcase showers.
With the main shower components already discussed, it’s time to explore the features that will enhance your shower. These features will add to your overall shower experience, but can also add to the overall cost of your project.
My favorite accessory to add to any shower is the shower niche. Adds dimension to tile and is great for storing shower essentials while keeping showers clutter-free. Shower niches can be made of any size and are often lined with tiles of a different material, such as mosaics.
Benches are another classic accessory. The code requires a 30 x 30 shower headroom and the NKBA requires 36 x 36 headroom before a shower seat can be added. Shower seats vary in size, but the most common is 15 “deep and 17” to 19 “from the floor. The benches can be covered with the same tiles as on the shower wall to save money or can be order a piece of quartz to cover the top of the bench.
Other accessories include lighting niches, grab bars, waterfall tiles, corner shelves, and boxed walls. The possibilities for creating a unique shower are endless and no matter what your budget is, there are options available to enhance your space.
Now that you are familiar with the basics, it’s time to call in a professional and get started.