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The Definitive Shower System Buyer Guide

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Few things in life are as glorious as a hot, relaxing shower after a long day. That feeling as a constant stream of water washes away the dirt and stress that has accumulated is a universal satisfaction like no other. With that said, shower systems have come a long way since the days of hot and cold nozzles (and nothing else).  Just consider some of the advancements available to you right now:

    • A gigantic shower head above you that simulates the feeling of washing yourself in the middle of a rain storm, like the Hansgrohe Raindance shower system
    • A system like the Moen Kingsley that comes complete with body sprays on the wall so that you can focus on washing your hair as your body rinses off
    • His and Her showers that allow two people to shower simultaneously while also setting their own temperatures and pressure
    • A tub like the American Standard Green Tea Whirlpool that practically doubles as a personal spa, with neck support, arm rests, and a chromotherapy LED lighting system

If you are looking to upgrade your shower experience with a complete shower system, the good news is that you will never be short on options. However, with all of these systems available (in prices that can range from less than $100 all the way into the thousands), it can be challenging to find the best fit for yourself, your family, your guests, or your clients. Luckily, we’ve created this definitive shower system guide to help you navigate some of the choices you will typically face throughout that search process.

The Basics

Before we dive into the different types of shower systems available, here is a brief list of some of the major parts you will typically encounter when talking about showers. Being reasonably familiar with the following items can help you make a more informed decision when it comes to customizing the perfect system for your needs.

Shower Heads

When it comes to putting together a shower system, the shower head is often the part that requires the most consideration. A variety of sizes and features are available, ranging from the rain shower style to the standard multi-function unit; the shower head you choose depends on your personal preference, space restrictions, and plumbing capabilities.

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Handshowers

If you prefer a more flexible shower experience, then handshowers offer all of the benefits of a regular shower head, with the added bonus of mobility. Handshowers come on detachable cords and can offer a variety of spray pattern settings, making them especially useful when washing children, the disabled, or any other person who does not shower in the typical standing position.

Wall Outlets

If you choose to purchase a handshower for your shower system, then a wall outlet should also be on your list. The wall outlet, like this model from Hansgrohe, is the piece that connects the hose of the handshower to the water supply behind the shower wall. The outlet sits flush against the wall, creating a seamless look that also prevents leaks.

Body Sprays

Body spray fixtures are certainly not required in a shower system, but if you want to take the next step into immersive cleaning and comfort, then these parts might be the perfect addition. Body sprays often come in groups of three, are embedded in the wall of the shower, and spray out horizontally. They pair nicely with rain shower-style shower heads, and can be easily controlled using the settings on a specialized shower trim.

Wall Bars

Wall bars are a quick and easy way to add comfort, style, and utility to the shower. They can be used as handles, towel holders, or in some cases as a way to add extra mobility to the shower head (like this unit from Delta, for example).

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Trims

The shower trim consists of the handle and plate on the outside of the shower wall that can be used to operate the shower itself. Depending on the type of shower system you have, your shower trim can contain a single handle that controls both temperature and water pressure, or multiple handles that allow you to adjust certain settings independently.

Rough-In Valves

Located within the wall directly behind the shower trim, the rough-in valve is the fixture that controls the pressure, temperature, and direction of water flow. The valve responds to the touch of the user via the shower trim, and acts as the central point where several water pipes meet. Due to its ability to direct water flow from one direction to another, the rough-in valve is especially important if your shower system contains multiple water outlets.

Thermostatic Valves

The thermostatic valve is located within the wall behind the actual shower. It may not be the most glamorous piece in the system, but it does do the essential job of preventing scalding water temperatures. If it senses a sudden spike in hot or cold water (from a recently flushed toilet, for example), the valve is able to balance out the temperature before any water reaches the shower head.

For more information on shower trims and the valves behind them, check out SUPPLY.com’s shower trim guide here.

SUPPLY.com offers several shower system options, ranging from just the shower head to the complex shower.Shower System Types

At its core, there are essentially four buckets into which a shower system will fall. The options range from just a shower head, to an entire array of shower system parts and accessories.

The type of shower system you choose ultimately depends on the space you have available in your bathroom, any budgetary restrictions you have, and how many water outlets you want. Take a look at the accompanying chart to view the shower system options available and make the most informed decision (click to enlarge).

Pressure Balance vs. Thermostatic

Once you have figured out how many water outlets you want in your shower system, it’s time to explore the operational options that are available to you. There are essentially two methods for operating a shower: pressure balance and thermostatic.

In a pressure balance shower system, one handle controls both volume and temperature; as the volume is increased, the water temperature typically increases as well. This is a standard setting for most showers, and can often pair well with the single shower or shower/tub combination. If you have multiple water outlets in a pressure balance shower system (body spray fixtures, for example), you are going to need a diverter to redirect the flow of water.

A thermostatic shower system, on the other hand, contains one switch that controls the water volume and one that controls the temperature. This system gives you a little more leeway if your pressure and temperature preferences are outside of the norm (if you prefer cold showers, for instance). Multiple water outlets in a thermostatic shower system can be controlled through the use of a diverter, or by installing individual volume controls for each outlet.

Diverters

If you have determined that a shower system with multiple water outlets is best for you, then it’s time to talk about diverters. Diverter valves are necessary if you want to direct the flow of water from one outlet to another (or to both at the same time). Some devices, such a tub spouts, typically have a diverter built in; however, more complex parts like body sprays often require a separate valve and trim for diverting.

Diverters can range from one to six settings, and the number of settings depends on how many outlets you want to use either separately or simultaneously. For example, if you have a regular shower head and a handshower, and you want to be able to use both of them separately, but also at the same time if the situation calls for it, then you are going to need a diverter with three settings to match these three options.

Installing diverters can often be the most complex part of building a shower system, especially if you want multiple water outlets. If you are a homeowner, we recommend talking to a professional plumber or a SUPPLY.com representative to figure out what diverter options work best for you.

Floor Drains

The importance of the shower drain can often be overlooked in favor of the more attractive parts of the shower system, but it is the drain that will ultimately make or break your shower experience once water starts flowing through the pipes. Fortunately, there are a variety of options and sizes available. In order to prevent water overflow on the floor, we recommend a drain (or multiple drains) that can handle twice the amount of water that all of your outputs combined produce. Talk to your plumber or SUPPLY.com representative about what drain is best for your system.

Popular Shower Systems

In this guide, we have given you an overview of some of the standard decisions you are going to face when choosing a shower system. If you have a pretty clear picture of your ideal system in mind, then SUPPLY.com is ready to work with you to make it a reality. Our collection of shower systems ranges across numerous brands and includes each of the four types of systems listed above. If you need a little more inspiration in your search, here are a few of our more popular models to get you started.

The Moen Posi-Temp Shower System

This shower/handshower combination system from Moen is equipped with a Posi-Temp pressure balancing mechanism that allows the user to maintain a consistent temperature while directing water flow to the shower, handshower, or both. The system is ADA compliant, and comes in either a chrome or classic brushed nickel finish.

The Rohl Modern Architectural Shower Kit

If your dream shower system is a bit more luxurious than the norm, then the Rohl Modern Architectural system might be the one for you. This thermostatic system includes a handshower and three body sprays (complete with three separate trims to control volume). Plus, the unit is low lead compliant, and comes in three separate finishes that are sure to match your interior design vision.

grohe_showerThe GROHE Power and Soul Retro-Fit System

This innovative system from GROHE is equipped with a rainshower and a handshower (pictured), with four different water spray settings for each and a built-in diverter to direct water flow. The four features can be interchanged at the push of a button, making shower customization quick and easy if you ever feel the need to explore new settings.

And as an added bonus, the system includes all of the standard technological features that GROHE is famous for, like the EcoJoy technology that saves both water and energy, the DreamSpray feature that ensures the perfect spray pattern for your particular taste, and the StarLight finish that promises a long-lasting shine. Bottom line? This is a shower system of the future.

FAQs

Hopefully we have answered most of your shower system questions with this guide, but if you still need a little more information on the subject, do not hesitate to contact the SUPPLY.com help team at 888-426-2323, or check out our list of frequently asked questions below.

Can I install a shower system myself, or should I hire a plumber for assistance?

We recommend hiring a plumber for shower system installations, because it can be both time consuming and costly if an error is made during installation; better to spend a little more and get it right the first time.

What kind of budget should I be working with?

Your budget depends on the extent of your shower system renovation/creation. Full shower systems can cost anywhere between less than $100 to over $3000; expect to pay less if you are only replacing a few parts of your current system. If you are a homeowner with no previous plumbing experience, we recommend that you take professional plumbing assistance expenses into account as well.

How long does the shower system installation process usually take?

A simple project can be completed in a few hours, not counting any tiling portion, while more complex projects can last a full day or two at the most.

Can I keep certain parts of my old shower, and upgrade others?

Typically no, because parts are often only compatible with other parts within the same brand and collection. There can be exceptions to this rule, however, and we recommend that you contact a plumbing expert to discuss your options.

Now that you’ve got the basics on shower systems, check out SUPPLY.com’s entire lineup today!

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