After a long, hot day, nothing quite beats the joy of jumping into a great shower. But getting all the design elements of a shower room right, from screen to tray to shower head, takes careful planning.
“People are dedicating more space to showers as they become more important in their homes”, says Steven Salt, showroom manager at Boffi. “And the current trend is all about getting maximum effect from a minimal look.”
Yet there’s more choice than ever, so it’s important to seek expert advice to achieve your ideal showering solution.
Typically, space dictates which option will work best in any given room, says Kerri Andrews, senior designer at Ripples. But before you think about aesthetics, there are several practical points you must consider.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
If your drainage has to be positioned above floor level (due to the height of the soil pipe or the direction of the joists), you’ll need a raised tray. Otherwise, a floor-flush tray or wet room are viable options.
It dictates the type of fittings you can use. In the UK, low-pressure supplies, such as gravity-fed systems from a storage tank, are common and limit your choices, so you may need to install a pump – these cost from around £300. With a combi boiler, which heats cold mains water to achieve a hot, high-pressure shower, you don’t need a pump. With either option, it’s best to install a thermostatic shower valve to maintain a constant temperature.
“Don’t forget about head room”, says Kerri Andrews, senior designer at Ripples. “This determines the suitability of a particular type of shower head, and is especially relevant if the shower is in an attic space or tucked under the stairs.”
A SHOWER OVER THE BATH
This is the ideal solution if you don’t have the space for a separate shower.
- “Choose an enamelled-steel bath as opposed to an acrylic number”, suggests Naresh Shamji at Colourwash. “They’re much sturdier to stand in”.
- Think about the way in which you protect the rest of your room from the shower spray. A shower curtain is a cheap and almost instant option, but, if you prefer something more structural, opt for a glass screen. The latest designs are frameless, have minimal fixings, and can range from a single screen to sliding or folding panels that make it easier to access the bath.
- One way to create a more “designed” look is to install the bath in an alcove and centre the shower. “You can then use a screen at either end to enclose the showering space completely”, suggests Hayley Tarrington, senior designer at CP Hart. “This way, the bath itself almost becomes one big, deep shower tray and creates a more luxe look.”
The newest shower enclosures are a world away from the wobbly cubicles of the past. For a really sleek look, choose up-to-date frameless designs with as little chrome as possible.
In smaller bathrooms, where water needs to be contained to prevent soaking the rest of the room, shower enclosures with a door are ideal.
Doors can pivot inwards or outwards if space allows. If room is more limited, a bi-folding or sliding door is a more sensible choice.
Trays come in all shapes and sizes, from standard squares to quadrants (shaped like a quarter circle), offset quadrants (with one side longer than the other, for a larger showering area) and even U-shaped quadrants, which resemble extended semicircles with one flat edge. These open up options for alternative bathrooms layouts.
VALVES AND FITTINGS
“A thermostatic valve controls the flow and temperature of water, so the heat stays constant”, says Naresh Shamji at Colourwash. Choose between a concealed valve (flush to the wall) or exposed valve (proud of the wall).
Digital fittings allow you to control your shower’s flow and temperature remotely, so you can set it before you get out of bed.
Fixed overhead or wall-mounted showers are popular, but it’s advisable to combine them with a separate hand shower for easy rinsing.
A hand shower can be mounted on an adjustable riser rail for flexibility.
“Some multitasking shower heads, such as Dornbracht’s RainSky, have different settings that can mimic anything from a misty spray to a tropical-style deluge”, says Hayley Tarrington, senior designer at CP Hart. Be aware though, that a rain shower won’t reach its full potential on low pressure, and will empty a standard tank in minutes, so make sure your system is up to the job.
Sculptural, freestanding shower columns are ideal for wet rooms, as they occupy little space and can be installed anywhere in the room.
As well as chrome-finished fittings, steel, satin or platinum can be used to great effect. The newest fittings come in a rainbow of colors and matt finishes. Be sure to choose sleek and minimal shapes, though.
“Walk-ins have grown in popularity”, says Georgina Spencer, marketing manager at Roca UK. “They need no extra room for doors, so create the illusion of more space”.
Walk-ins are also a good choice for small bathrooms as they don’t require space for the doors to open into the room.
Some walk-ins come as a whole unit (complete with screens and tray, which can be raised or fitted flush to the floor). Others have a more bespoke feel, made to your exact dimensions with a low-level or sunken tray and frameless screens.
“If you create a bespoke walk-in, make sure you leave yourself enough room to get in and out of the shower comfortably”, advises Mark Crabtree at On The Level. “At the same time, you need to ensure the screen is big enough to catch all the splashes.”
Trays can be made from materials such as cast resin, natural stone, acrylic or steel. By combining a frameless screen with a flush tray that’s the same colour as your floor tiles (such as the BetteFloor tray, which comes in a variety of colours), you can achieve a complete wet-room look without having to tank the entire room.
“The new generation of walk-ins have fully-integrated water delivery, meaning that the shower and valves are part of the minimal frame”, says Des Rocks, sales director at Matki. “This way, water comes from pipes under the floor, so you don’t have to excavate the wall to plumb in the unit.”
“The latest screens have minimal fixings and use UV-bonded glass for a seamless look,” says Hayley Tarrington, senior designer at CP Hart. “Tinted glass, in smoky greys and petrol blues, looks really stunning, too.”
Glass with an anti-plaque treatment is an optional but wise extra. It not only reduces the amount of cleaning required, it extends the life of the enclosure.
A classic wet room is waterproofed or “tanked” so the room itself becomes the shower enclosure, with a drain inset into a sloped floor in place of a conventional shower tray.
As tiling alone lets some moisture through, a waterproof membrane is used underneath to protect the floor and walls. Installing the correct drainage, effective tanking and good ventilation is, therefore, essential.
Wet rooms can be a good option in a small room or if a traditional tray isn’t viable, as there are no space limitations.
Most wet room designs now incorporate a glass screen to shield the room from spray and keep towels dry.
If you’re handy with your tools, a wet room can be installed on a DIY basis, but even
a tiny leak can cause a lot of damage, so if you’re less confident, call in an expert. Look at the Aquadec by Impey or Wedi systems.
Wet rooms can be installed on first floors as well as ground floors, and on wooden floors as well as concrete.
If you have a traditional central drain, smaller tiles, such as mosaics, are easier to lay on a sloped floor. A linear drain (such as a Unidrain) is placed against the wall and works well with larger-scale tiles.
Consider how slippery the tiles will be when they are wet. “Mosaics give better slip resistance in wet areas”, says Cressida Johnson, sales consultant at Surface Tiles. “If you prefer larger tiles, choose natural stone, porcelain or composite.”