What You Should Know About Installing a New Walk-In Shower System

Few things can take your bathroom from ordinary to luxury like a new shower system. Of course, a walk-in shower involves a lot of plumbing, which can make an upgrade significantly more complex than other home renovation projects. 

With that in mind, here is a closer look at some of the things you’ll need to take into consideration when installing a new shower system inside your home.

A Walk-In Shower or a Shower/Tub Combo?

walk-in shower

Before you even begin your project, you should consider whether you want a walk-in shower or a shower/tub combination. There’s more to consider than just how these installations will make your bathroom look — they will also impact what you can use the bathrooms for.

A shower/tub combination is generally recommended in any bathroom that is going to be used by children. This allows you to give your children baths when they are younger, while still offering the flexibility for them to transition to showering when they are older. These models can also help you conserve space if you have a smaller bathroom, as you won’t need separate floorspace for a shower and a soaking tub.

Walk-in showers provide a more luxurious look for your bathroom, and glass shower doors in particular can help the room feel larger by reflecting light sources. Walk-in showers can be a good choice for individuals who plan to age in place, as the installation of a shower bench and non-slip flooring will greatly reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents in comparison to a normal tub.

A lot of the decision to install either a walk-in shower or a shower/tub combination piece comes down to personal preference — what you think looks best and how you plan to use the bathroom. Still, this is a decision that should be made well in advance, as it will directly influence which parts you need to buy to complete the installation.

Rough-Ins Valves and Stops

rough-in valve

A commonly overlooked — yet extremely important — part of any shower installation is the rough-in valve. This component is installed inside the wall, and is the valve the connects the hot and cold water lines. Essentially, it controls the mixture of hot and cold water so when you turn the handle on your shower in the morning, you can get the right temperature.

The type of valve fixture you should choose will depend in part on whether you have a walk-in shower or a shower/tub combo. Rough-in valves typically have two inlet ports (for hot and cold water), an outlet for the shower head, and an outlet for the tub spout. For a walk-in shower, you will need a rough-in valve that has a shower-only function, which plugs the tub outlet.

Some rough-in valves also have stops. Shut-off stops are devices that are built into the shower valve and are accessible after removing the shower trim kit. Stops allow you to turn off the water flow with a screwdriver. While this isn’t a necessary installation, this can prove useful should you ever need to conduct repairs for a leaky shower head. A rough-in with stops allows you to only turn off water to the individual shower, rather than needing to shut off the water supply for the entire house. Stops are typically considered something that is “nice to have” for a single-family home, but in a multifamily apartment building, are an absolute necessity.

While not every shower upgrade will require that you replace the rough-in valve, it may be a good idea to check the condition of your current valve when beginning the work. Items like the Kubebath ASV142 Aqua Piazza by KubeBath 2-Way Rough-In Valve With Cover Plate, Handle and Diverter will have you well on your way to taking care of this essential part of a shower installation.

Bases and Drains

shower base

Shower bases and drains also play an important role in many new shower installations by helping direct water out of the shower enclosure. Proper installation of these parts will keep water from leaking into other areas that could be damaged by water or experience mold and mildew growth as a result of excess exposure.

Not every shower installation will use a shower base, as many homeowners prefer the look of tile. However, acrylic and polyurethane shower bases do have some advantages that are worth considering.

For starters, these shower bases tend to be more cost effective than a tile installation. After the shower walls have been installed, the base is quick and easy for a qualified plumber to install. Acrylic or polyurethane bases are also easier to clean because they do not have grout lines. These shower bases are also quite waterproof, and are generally less likely to have issues with water leaks along the edge with the shower door.

A variety of shapes and drain configurations helps shower bases better fit your space — including if you are working with a relatively smaller bathroom. The DreamLine DLT-2038380 SlimLine 38 D x 38 W x 2 3/4 H Neo-Angle Shower Base, White is a great corner shower solution. On the other hand, models like the Swiss Madison SM-SB514 Voltaire 32 x 60 Inch Acrylic Single-Threshold Shower Base with Right-Hand Drain, White and the DreamLine DLT-1036481 SlimLine 36 D x 48 W x 2 3/4 H Double Threshold Shower Base, Left, White are well suited for a standard rectangular space.

Regardless of whether you will use an acrylic shower base or tile flooring, you will want to be mindful of the type of drain you choose to go along with it. The shower’s “floor” should always slope toward the drain so that water doesn’t leak outside of the shower enclosure. Typically, you won’t need to install new drain lines, as these should already be in place. If you are planning to move the drain lines, you should work with a professional plumber.

Once the shower base has been put in place, you can install a drain cover that best matches the base design and your personal preferences. Drains like the Infinity Drain RKD 5-2P SS 5 x 5 Inch Strainer-Link Pattern and 2 Inch Throat with Drain Body with 2 Inch Outlet, SS, PVC Body work well with acrylic or tile, while options like the Watermark LD6-48-PC Linear Shower Drains Trim Kit with Height Adjustable Grate, Polished Chrome offer a unique look that works well with tile.

Shower Heads

shower head

For many homeowners, the shower head is going to be one of the main points of emphasis during a shower enclosure upgrade. After all, the shower head’s design and features will have the most notable impact on your experience when you bathe in the morning!

Overhead shower heads like the Isenberg HSB.10SCP Universal Fixtures 10 Inch Solid Brass Showerhead / Rainhead, Chrome have become especially popular in recent years thanks to the sleek contemporary look and “rainfall”-type spray.

Many shower heads offer multiple spray settings to better match each user’s preferences. Models like the Grohe 26457000 Euphoria 260 Shower Head 3 Sprays, 2.5 GPM, Starlight Chrome also offer hard-hitting jet sprays and water-saving “smart” sprays. The integration of an anti-lime system in this particular shower head also prevents hard water buildup for easier cleaning and maintenance.

Of course, overhead “rainfall” shower heads aren’t your only option. You can choose more traditional shower head options like the Moen 3638 4-3/8 Inch 4-Jet Showerhead, Chrome if that’s your preference.

Regardless of the type of shower head you want to install for your updated shower enclosure, don’t forget about the shower arm! The shower arm extends from the wall and connects to the shower head to provide water at the right angle for when you are bathing. Without a shower arm, the shower head wouldn’t stick out far enough to spray you with water.

While some shower heads come with a standards shower arm or a ceiling mount arm, this isn’t always the case. When placing an order for your preferred shower head, double check to see if you will need to order an additional shower arm. If your current shower arm is in good shape, you may not need to replace it (though you may want to replace it anyway to match the new shower head). 

Shut off the water before unscrewing the old shower arm. Wrap plumber’s tape around the threaded portion of the new shower arm and screw it into the wall, and you should be ready to add on the new shower head of your choice.

Shower Doors

shower doors

Last, but certainly not least, are the shower doors. Shower doors are generally installed at the end of the project, after the walls and base are finished. You must take careful measurements of the space to ensure that the new doors will fit properly and form a watertight seal when they are closed. 

In addition to measuring the surrounds and the height, width, and thickness of the door, you will also need to be aware of any space that the door needs for opening and closing. To keep the shower door from taking up as much space, many homeowners prefer to install a bypass (or sliding) shower door, such as the Dreamline SHDR-1660760-01 Encore 56-60 W x 76 H Frameless Bypass Sliding Shower Door, Chrome. Because the door panels slide past each other rather than opening outward or inward, you have more available floor space for the rest of the bathroom.

Another space saving option is an open entry shower door like the Dreamline SHDR-3234721-89 French Linea Toulon 34 W x 72 H Single Panel Frameless Shower Door Open Entry Design in Satin Black. Be mindful of the spray provided by your shower head if choosing this style of door — you don’t want the shower spray to go past the area “shielded” by the door.

If you prefer a more “traditional” approach to shower doors, pivot shower doors function essentially the same as a standard door, swinging out into the bathroom, or inwards toward the shower enclosure. Neo-angle shower doors like the Vigo VG6063CHCL47W Gemini 47-5/8 x 47-5/8 Inch Frameless Neo-Angle Shower Enclosure with Base, Chrome/Clear Glass are specifically designed for corner enclosures.

Another thing to consider is whether you want a framed or frameless shower door. While both use tempered glass for added durability and easier cleaning, they do have differences to be aware of. Framed shower doors are cheaper and easier to install, though the metal frame may be more susceptible to corrosion over time. Frameless doors offer a minimal, contemporary look and are typically easier to maintain. However, they require more precise installation with the metal clips that keep the door level. As such, frameless installations should generally always be left to a professional contractor.

Get Everything You Need For Your New Walk-In Shower at Kitchen & Bath Authority

Whether you’re simply upgrading your shower head or going for a full-scale walk-in shower renovation, you’ll find the parts and components you need right here at Kitchen & Bath Authority. With top-quality items from brands like Dreamline, Kubebath, Kingston Brass, TOTO, and more, you can have confidence that you’re getting quality parts that will stand the test of time.

Better yet, when you buy from Kitchen & Bath Authority, you gain access to exclusive deals that you won’t find anywhere else. You can find discounts on everything from shower doors to rough-in valves, helping you save big off MSRP to stretch your remodeling budget that much further. All items are available with free shipping, and those who sign up for our membership program can unlock additional discounts on shower parts and other items throughout the site.

Not sure which parts will work best for your installation? Contact our in-house experts, who can answer your questions and use their product knowledge to help you find the right fit. Place your order today so you can start building the bathroom of your dreams.

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