How to Build a Custom Shower

One of the biggest questions when renovating a bathroom for a client: What type of shower should I go with? Before you decide which shower system to install, however, you need to be able to answer another question:

How many outlets of water does the client want? Just a basic showerhead, a full-on “human car wash” (think body sprays on all sides), or something in between?

There are three main shower setups to consider: Pressure Balance, Balance with Diverter, and Thermostatic with Volume Controls. Below, our in-house shower system expert Jessica will walk you through each setup, laying out the ideal scenario for each.

Pressure Balance – Base Model ($)

This setup usually consists of a shower only or tub/shower combination and is most commonly used in secondary bathrooms (anything that’s not the main bathroom). With a Pressure Balance shower system, there will be one trim and one handle, like this Delta Dryden Shower Faucet. When the water is turned on, it will be at a preset pressure that cannot be adjusted. As the handle is turned, the water cycles through the cold to the hot temperature level.

Pretty basic stuff, right? So, what is your option if you want to step it up a little?

Pressure Balance Shower System

Pressure Balance with a Diverter – Upgrade ($$)

The next setup usually consists of two outlets of water with a showerhead and handshower. This is becoming the norm since it allows for ease of cleaning your shower as well as an upgraded look. With this application, you have two options: a stacked trim, like this Hansgrohe Shower Trim, or two trims that consist of a main trim and a diverter trim, like this Delta Trinsic Dual Balance Volume Control Trim.

Let me explain in more detail how the two above options work. The stacked trim is a great, cost-saving way to upgrade the shower. There are still two outlets of water, but you only have to purchase and install one trim and valve. Usually, with this type of trim the bottom handle turns on the water and the top handle directs the water between the two outlets. In some cases, there is a shared function which allows both outlets to be on at the same time. Not all manufacturers offer a stacked trim; if you’re designing the bathroom in a brand that does not offer it, you will have to go with a two-trim setup.

Shower System with Stacked Trim

Although two-trim setups are a little more expensive, they have advantages. Some brands offer diverters that allow three outlets instead of only two, like this Grohe Atrio 3-Way Diverter Trim or this Delta Trinsic Shower Diverter. In a two-trim setup, the main trim controls the pressure and temperature of the water, and the second trim directs the water. The second trim is usually slightly smaller in scale and placed directly above the main trim. A three-setting diverter allows for two outlets, with the third setting as a shared option between the two. In a three- or six-way diverter, there can be up to three outlets of water and any combination of two on at the same time. Both of these are great options for a custom shower, but if your client really wants the “human car wash” feel, you’ll need to go with a Thermostatic and Volume Control setup.

Shower System with Three-Way Diverter

Shower System with Six-Way Diverter

Thermostatic with Volume Controls – Luxury ($$$)

If your client is looking to have the all-inclusive, spa-like, luxury shower, this is the best option. There can be multiple showerheads, body sprays, a rain head, a handshower, and they can all be run at the same time. This setup operates with exact temperature and pressure control for your outlets of water.

This shower is going to use more gallons per minute than the other two options, which results in the need for a larger supply pipe. The first two showers run off ½” pipe, but a shower of this capacity needs to be fed by ¾” pipe to ensure enough water flow.

With the Thermostatic setup there will be a main trim, like this Brizo Traditional Sensori Thermostatic Valve Trim, that sets the temperature, along with multiple volume controls, like the Brizo Traditional Sensori Volume Control Trim, that control each outlet of water individually. This means as many outlets as one or all of the outlets can be on at the same time – that’s why this setup is commonly referred to as the “human car wash.” The Thermostatic setup is, of course, the most expensive with its multiple valves, trims, and shower components. We typically see this setup in a Master Bath.

Shower System with Thermostatic Setup

Keep in mind that the configurations above are only the most common ones. There are multiple ways to design your custom shower. Your professional sales rep is a shower expert and can help you design the perfect custom shower for you and your client.

Want to start building your shower system? Give our product experts a call at 877-781-3114 or start shopping below!