How To Design and Plan your Perfect Shower Room

How To Design and Plan your Perfect Shower Room

Advice and Tips for UK Bathroom Makeovers

After 35 years of designing, manufacturing and supplying bathrooms to both the trade and consumers. I’ve seen a thing or two when it comes to folks converting their homes. Most turn out well. But some are not well planned out and people must live with the consequences or face huge turmoil changing things around. So here I have listed some of the things to look out for and consider. A complete guide on how to achieve a better result avoid the pitfalls.

In the UK. You will know all too well, no two bathrooms are the same, every room has certain challenges. But most of us all face the daily issue of space versus storage versus budget. Space for a bath and shower can often be limited. These days most families seem to shower rather than a bath. In most households, a shower is used dozens of times a week. Furthermore once installed it will stay there on average for at least 10 years. It should be a calm and restful place rather than chaos and compromise. Often customers will purchase a pre-designed bathroom suite from us or use them for inspiration to design their perfect bathroom. 

Planning in advance

Shower rooms can often start off as a spare bedroom its critical space and the design is right and often space for a bath and shower can be limited. The first and obvious question to consider the location of the soil pipe for the WC. This will dictate the location of everything else in many cases. If you haven’t got a vented soil pipe nearby you could opt for a Saniflo type unit. It's fine if it’s not the main toilet that’s used several times a day. So now is the time to plan out space and work out your wish list of items you want in the room. Write down your measurements and double check them. When visiting your showroom it’s good to speak to an expert and explain your ideas. There are a few online planning software packages out there, but honestly, all you need is a pen and some graph paper.

 

How to choose a bathroom installer

Knowledge is power. By reading these hints and tips you will understand hopefully what you require, what to look out for and what to ask your installer. If they can see you have some knowledge your less likely to be overwhelmed or overcharged. Many installers will urge you to let them purchase the goods as they will cover any issues and warranties. This is not always a good idea. Installers often earn commission or kickbacks from their supplier. They will push you hard to go there as they can offer you great prices. Do you own research and know that the warranties are from the manufacturer for the items, not the installer. The plumber should be just that, someone to install your items, not a salesman who might compromise on the quality of the products in order to maximise their margins. It's advisable to have an inclusive price with plumbing items such as copper pipe and fittings though. If you're having other works done by the installer, such as the central heating system, ask for a breakdown of the bathroom radiator. I've been shocked at times when I've gone into a fabulous home where the builder has full control and installed cheap ugly radiators in the bathrooms. So in this instance, it might be worth nicely asking for you to choose your own.

A good resource for asking questions of your prospective installer is the WRAS website was 

And here plumbing heating APHC  

Should you buy a custom shower doors?

A large open walk-in shower area is a must have and on most peoples, wish list. Often what is available off the shelf is suitable, you can view our range of shower doors here. But sometimes a bespoke or custom-made solution is the only way to achieve the best use of the space. Specialist showrooms like Bathroom City in Birmingham can design and build shower doors and screens for most situations. Using high quality toughened safety glass and polished chrome frames, a robust and elegant look can be achieved that will last many years.

Along with standard clear or opaque glass, new designs for 2017 coming to British bathroom space now includes mirror glass and smoked black tinted glass shower doors. These give can give an amazing striking design to any space. Also available are reduced height shower doors in various sizes. Very useful in tight spaces.

sloping shower room walk in shower and fitted unit

Whether it’s an awkward corner, a half wall or a sloping ceiling sometimes custom cut glass templated to fit is the way to go. Combined with high-quality aluminium frames with solid brass or stainless-steel hinges it will be truly bespoke to your room. When planning your new shower room for a compact space you will need to consider the swing of the door. In a small confined space, you may want to avoid the door opening out if you have to step back or walk around to get in for example. In those instances try going for a folding indoor and a sliding shower door. Also consider the water that will be running off the glass when you swing the door open if it’s a frameless shower door, puddles on the floor could be a trip hazard. If you have elderly or infirm people using the shower, try to avoid inwards opening shower doors as they can be difficult to open if someone has fallen down inside.

build quality sticker

Regarding build quality, generally, a high-end shower door installation should be with at least 8mm up to 10mm toughened safety glass. Lookout for the British Standard Kitemark. This means the glass has been tested to a critical standard. This ensures the glass is very safe and compliant for domestic and commercial uses. In case of an accident, the glass will implode into tiny pieces. With thicker glass, the weight of the glass needs to be combined with quality fittings. I would recommend solid brass chrome plated, it will last you many years. A true case of fit it and forget it. If you’re on a budget then go for at least 6mm glass. The online retailers are generally between 4mm and 6mm. Tread with care as the cheaper the price generally means lighter components such as nylon runners as opposed to brass bearings, aluminium hinges with nylon parts as opposed to brass hinges. As a general rule, the cheaper lightweight doors online are made in China. The better quality heavier shower doors are made in the UK or Europe.  I will give you one guess which ones last the test of time.

Where possible go to your local showroom and try out the shower doors and the mechanism. It's near impossible to know when you're squinting at a screen and trying to judge if your spending wisely. Once this door is on your wall, it needs to last at least 10 years of daily use/abuse. A reputable specialist such as Bathroom City in Birmingham will display a large range to suit most needs.

For custom made doors always ask about the hinges and brackets. Feel the weight in your hands and be satisfied that it's a quality solution that will last for years. Look out for the polish on the chrome too if you’re going for plated hinges. Is it rippled and lumpy or smooth and mirror-like? How much adjustment is there with the hinge and the profiles. No wall is absolutely level and true, so adjustment is needed. Otherwise, you will have gaps. Gaps need silicone. Silicone can look unsightly after a few months. The framework around glass panels is nearly always aluminium, as its easier to mould to a nice shape. It’s perfectly fine, but again look out for the finish here and ensure there’s plenty of adjustment for fixing to your walls and floors.

Shower Trays

stylish low profile shower tray

For a modern shower, shower trays are by far the most popular choice for British bathrooms. They are quick, reliable and easy to install. Shower trays come in all manner of sizes and materials these days. New for 2017 are materials such as black quartz stone and multicoloured shower trays with teak wood inserts. Available in various heights to sit on an existing floor or thin edge. You can also get shower trays that sink into the floor for a flush fit. These are ideal for wheelchair use also. The most popular shower trays are acrylic capped on to a resin type material. Look at the reverse if you can. Look at the framework. Is it a couple of metal bars with adjustable feet or is it solid with no adjustment?

Feet on a larger shower tray might mean the tray will flex in places. Fine to the point, but not against the walls. There’s a big range of solid shower trays that sit flush to the floor. This won’t flex but you need to think about installing the waste of servicing it should you have a leak. Often, they are plumbed between the joists, which is fine. But on a concrete floor acrylic trays can be more practical as you have space beneath, in between the frame support, for the waste.

You can purchase shower trays as small as 70cm but you need to think about what happens when you drop the soap. No room to swing a cat comes to mind.  Shower trays are available the same size as a bath at the other end of the scale. Square, round or pentagon shapes are all available in various sizes.

Where possible set the shower tray slightly into the wall so that your tiling down on top of the shower tray to achieve a better seal. Use the correct waterproof silicone. I suggest you silicone twice, once before you tile and then again once tiles are set.

Waste outlets is another factor to consider when selecting your shower tray. Not only if the waste location if you are replacing an old shower tray. The waste can be in the corner or in the centre. The aperture of the waste can be important if you are having a power shower or overhead rain head.

You can purchase shower trays as small as 70cm but you need to think about what happens when you drop the soap. No room to swing a cat comes to mind.  Shower trays are available the same size as a bath at the other end of the scale.

Rain and Drain

wet room shower with body jets

When considering the shower fittings and valves it’s very important that these are considered early in the planning stages. The plumbing requirements can often become a headache if you have already made the walls and not allowed for enough water flow or drainage. Ceiling showers are growing in popularity and the plumbing needed is simple but needs consideration early on. Drainage is often overlooked. Some showers with the huge watering can type heads look great and will throw out up to 9 or more litres per minute, add this to a handheld shower on a hose and you can suddenly be drowning in water as the waste trap you installed is too small to cope with the deluge.

 

WRAS Approved

Most quality fittings for Shower and bathrooms will have WARS approval. In some cases, you will need this, mainly for new build or commercial builds. It’s worth checking when purchasing shower valves, WC's and taps. More info here WRAS Approvals

Shower Systems

Shower valves running off a heating system are the most common. Electric showers are ideal where you don’t have sufficient and constant hot water. Electric showers now come in many guises. The latest have smart home features. All need direct wiring to the mains.

Thermostatic showers offer the options to throw out a lot more water and you can add body jets etc. Most are inset into the wall behind the tiles. In cases where you simply can’t chase the wall out for the valve and shower fittings, you can get them as exposed shower valves. These can be mounted onto the tiles, but you still have the issue of the hot and cold inlet pipes that need to be buried in the wall.

An important point is the flow rate. With any thermostatic shower valve, you will need to check its flow rate. They are options where they will work with very low flow rates perfectly fine. But if you have a large shower rain head you will need to make sure the valve can cope. A specialist such as Bathroom City will be able to offer advice on the best options here. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Build quality can vary. The chrome can become flaky. The controls are mounted on to nylon bushes, after a while they will start to wobble and become problematic. Worse still the valve sticks and does not control the temperature very well. The best ones are generally European. The Germans dominate. But there's also a few good British manufacturers that also excel. It’s important to invest in the best you can afford and try to avoid internet bargains.

Regarding the accessories such as the shower heads, you would be amazed at the variation in quality. See the video link here.

I bet we have all seen shower hoses that have stretched or kinked. There are better options available that don’t do either. Make sure they are long enough to swill down the shower floor too. An extra half a metre can be very handy.

A problem if you have just a fixed shower head coming out above you to consider is that your hair will always get wet. Consider a long sliding shower rail mounted at the right height so everyone can use it. Most shower heads have anti-limescale heads but its worth checking. Like everything in life, it seems the choice of sprays available can be mesmerising at first. It can be difficult to choose which one. But in truth, once the novelty has worn off you end up sticking to the old favourites. Talking about novelty features shower heads with lights built in is now available. More for show than any therapeutic benefits in my opinion, but they can look wow when showing your friends. So don't waste money on fancy sprays. Better to invest in a good valve and well-built shower head.

Final tip always takes photos of the plumbing before it's covered up. You just never know when you might need to figure out which pipes went which way.

Shower Accessories

With so many lotions and potions in most people’s bathrooms and shower rooms, it can become an obstacle course to find the right one when you want it. A very useful solution is a corner basket shelf or something similar.

Glass shelves can offer more space but the downside is they can get greasy and slippery as well as a hazard if you drop something on it and it breaks. Ensure its toughened safety glass. Another option is a cabinet inside the shower, may be sunk into the stud wall.

 

How to increase your shower water pressure

Bear in mind for any shower system you must be sure there are enough water pressure and water supply. What's worse than investing in state of the art shower kit only to find the water is either not coming out strong enough or goes cold because of your hot water tank can't cope. Be sure that the copper pipes are 22mm not 15mm if you want the best flow rates from your shower. It costs more initially but the long-term benefits outweigh the outlay trust me. Avoid too many bends in the pipework as this slows down the pressure as well.

Should you consider a wet room?

wet room shower next to a inset bath in-bedded into a tile structure

Wet rooms are often talked about but don't suit all spaces. Whilst wet rooms can offer an amazing and sleek hotel style look to your new space, think and plan carefully. Issues to look out, for example, are your floor must be strong enough with ideally no flex. The floor level needs to have a slight gradient towards the waist area and ideally, the floor tiles would have skirtings so there’s no joint in the corner against the walls. Use the correct flexible glues and grout and ensure you have securely fixed the timber substrate before you begin tiling. You can never overdo this. I have seen too many instances where tiles become loose or the grout has disappeared down the plug hole after a few months.

Ventilating Your Bathroom

Consider that water and condensation will be everywhere with a wet room or powerful shower system. Towels can become damp and windows and mirrors steam up in no time without the right ventilation. Leaving your mobile near the shower can have issues in damp environments. And what can be worse than a damp toilet roll? Worse still is the very real possibility of damp and mould issues down the line due to poor ventilation.

Finally, if your thinking of having a hair dryer in your shower room, you might find it too damp to get your hair smooth and dry in a wet room. Of course, in any shower room, the biggest issue is mould around the grout areas or when cheap silicone has been used. It's worth checking the grade of silicone to ensure it's mould resistant. Standard bathroom extractor fans are fine for normal bathrooms. But with power showers and wet rooms, you will need to consider upgraded models. Near silent bathroom fans are now available, some have lights built in too. Companies that specialise in these items like Bathroom City in Birmingham are well placed to advise on good robust solutions.

Lighting

It’s very important to also consider the lighting for the shower room in the planning stages. Mostly they are low voltage or LED these days. Recessed downlights are probably the most common choice. Try to fit ones with adjustable fittings so you can angle them accordingly. Be thoughtful where you position these, as they can’t be moved afterwards. I have seen many instances where the installer has simply fitted them to be symmetrical. What then can occur if you are either blinded by the light or in a shadow as it's behind you when you face the mirror.

Led lighting can be installed almost anywhere these days. They can also add atmosphere and mood when used correctly in a shower room.

Think about mounting it behind a cabinet or along the bottom ledge to bounce off the walls. Led lighting can really add class and great ambience.

 

How to keep your shower glass clean

There are several products on the market these days to protect your glass from soap and scum marks. Mostly supplied as a spray, you apply it directly to the glass so that water and soap slide off. It's worth investing in if you want to keep the glass shiny and clean and save a lot of elbow grease. Here’s a typical example Shower spray 

Wet Wall Panels

black marble wetwall

Its common to finish the walls with ceramic or porcelain tiles. From glass and stone mosaics to one metre long tiles, the choice is overwhelming. Matching floor tiles should be slightly textured for anti-slip.

The latest trends are towards sheet materials with nearly invisible joints. These Shower Wall Panels eliminate the need for grout and all the issues around keeping tile grout clean and mould free. Quicker and often cheaper to install, Shower Walls come in different materials at various price points. From plastic twin wall sheets to textured and wood grain high-pressure laminate sheets. Most come with matching corner trims. So it’s possible to have one full sheet to cover your shower area in some cases.

 

Heating your bathroom

stylish modern heated towekl rail with a wall hung unit and sit on basin and mirror in a bathroom with black tiles

Now how are you going to heat our new shower room?

 

Often people settle for a nice-looking chrome plated towel rail and they hope its sufficient to heat the room. Well, picture yourself in mid-winter when the windows are iced over. Also, at the other end of the scale, and often overlooked, in the height of Summer, you won’t have the central heating on. So when you grab your towel it will be wont be soft and warm but cold and rough. Remember a 'towel warmer' precisely that, not always a bathroom radiator. If you don't have room for a full-size radiator think about electric underfloor heating, on a timer. Perfect for the winter months.

Another good option is dually heated towel rails, ones that have electric heating elements. Always check the BTU output and calculate the size needed to heat your bathroom. Here is a useful link radiator calculator. I have seen many installations where plumbers have installed the towel warmer in the best place that suits them rather than where you need warm towels. There’s nothing worse than walking from the shower to grab your warm towel when you're soaking wet.

 

Shower Room Flooring

Flooring materials for shower rooms is an important consideration. Ceramic or porcelain tiles are a good choice and often will have matching wall tiles. Consider underfloor heating if you don't like cold floors. Another product that becomes more common is rubber based flooring, in tile or wood flooring plank styles. Linoleum materials remain a good option for those on a budget. Simple and cheap to fit and keep clean.

Avoid real wood as it's not ideal with moisture. Engineered wood can be used if it states it's suitable.

 

If possible think about running the new flooring up the wall as a skirting. This helps when mopping the floor and can make the floor look a little bigger.

Whatever floor option you go for always ensure good preparation is made in terms of flexing or loose boards.

Mirrors and Storage

A good idea to keep things stored and not get too damp or wet is by fitting a wall cabinet. Normally mounted above the washbasin. Some models can be sunk into the wall.

Bathroom mirrors and cabinets often come with lighting. So again, when planning thinks about this and ensures there’s a cable-ready in the wall. Some can be connected directly to the mains switch so the bathroom mirror or cabinet is always illuminated when you turn on the light. They all work off low voltage and ideally should be IP44 rated to conform. You can view our range of illuminated bathroom mirrors here.

Shaver sockets are very useful too. They can be fitted into the wall or you can find them already installed inside some mirror cabinets.

Bathroom mirrors will always mist up. Some now come with Demister pads built in, these work well but they need to be wired in.

Consider 3 door mirror cabinets such as this one, this means you can see the back of your head which can be very handy.

Shower Room Storage

Talking about lotions and potions, it’s worth investing in sensible bathroom storage to avoid clutter. Trust me you can never have enough bathroom storage. A vanity unit is a best and most popular way to cater for towels and toilet rolls. Vanity units can also hide any unsightly pipework. Wall hung vanity units can give a compact room a sense of space. Ensure the wall that your mounting to is strong enough, plasterboard walls without extra batons can be a problem. Remember you will need somewhere to store and have easy access to things like toothpaste and shavers. So a drawer can prove very handy. Floor mounted vanity units work well and offer more storage. Materials are generally MDF or solid wood for a more traditional look. A popular choice is white. Be careful with which finish you choose for your vanity unit. Most people assume white units are all made the same - they are not. Whilst the core material for the door is either MDF or chipboard, the finish applied can vary. Sprayed or lacquered paint looks good to start with. But with cheaper imports, the paint can often discolour and yellow. Higher grades have lacquers that are applied 3 times to a vanity unit door to ensure its last for many years. Also very common are vinyl wrapped doors. These are generally on MDF and the door can be shaped. The downside with these is sometimes, down the line the vinyl can peel on the corners. Other vanity doors are made from HPL (high-pressure laminate) these are very robust and many will be scratch proof too. High gloss acrylic doors look really great in contemporary design or the latest trend for 2017 is matt doors, these are fingerprint proof. The edges of laminate doors are always square as they are edged in an ABS edging. So you will either have handles or recess finger pulls with these. You can see various vanity unit options here.

Solid wood or veneered doors are becoming hugely popular again. The rise and rise of Farrow and Ball type paint companies have made its way to many British bathrooms. Painted oak wood looks beautiful and can add a lot of character and charm to older properties. These traditional vanity units come mainly on feet or legs and can be with curved doors also.

Washbasin Materials

Pedestal Washbasins are always ceramic. Quality can vary but most people go by the style as the main factor. The things to look out for with cheap far east imports on ceramics is the glaze. The lower price models can often have a poor glaze that is grey and dirty looking. The glaze can have an orange peel effect. If you feel around underneath the basin it can sometimes be rough and unfinished. Also, the ceramic when you look closer can be pitted with little pin holes. A clear sign of mass production where price is king. Internet companies selling non-branded washbasins and ceramics. Finally, if the basin is to sit on a flat surface such as a vanity unit, ensure its completely flat. A tolerance of 5% is acceptable and industry standard.

Other materials used on vanity units are poly conglomerate or resin type materials. These are hugely popular all over Europe, most are high quality and have a good finish. Great designs can be achieved with this material including curved or with splashbacks or concealed plug holes. The downside can be getting an exact colour match to the WC. If they are directly next to each other, it’s something you may need to consider.

Also, wall hung basins are becoming more popular with modern bathrooms and can really look fantastic.

Taps

The final item for the vanity unit will be the taps of course. As you will see there are literally hundreds of designs to pick from. Most are in Chrome, but other finishes are available such as nickel, but they won’t necessarily match the rest of the fittings in your new shower room. Chrome is a safe bet.

As always you get what you pay for with taps to a point. Cheaper taps are made in the far east. Some Italian and German companies produce in the far east to save costs. It’s difficult to know by looking at a picture online. The things to look out for its the wobble factor on the tap head. Are they hollow internals or solid brass body. The better taps have more microns of chrome which gives a superior finish. At entry level prices the levers tend to be made a cheaper material than brass and can snap very easily. Some have an eco click so you can reduce the flow rates. Waterfall taps look great. But if your water pressure is too high you will have water splashing everywhere.

The WC

Most common are close coupled WC. Where the ceramic cistern is coupled directly to the pan. These now have a dual flush cistern for short and long flush. If you go for one of these try to avoid the cheaper models where there's lots of groves and awkward gaps. Difficult to keep clean and bacteria free. A good many close-coupled WC's also come in comfort height, this means they are a little higher off the ground, ideal for taller people. The better designs have smooth sides so there's no chance of dirt and grime being trapped hidden.

A good choice, if you can, is a WC with a concealed cistern. The cistern tank will be behind a false tiled wall or easier is a furniture cabinet that sits on your existing wall. Wall mounted toilets look good, they give a sense of space. Consideration has to be given to the mounting as it will be taking a lot of weight. So a robust framework will be required.

Most modern toilets now come with soft close seats. Things to watch out for with cheaper ranges are the quality of the toilet seat hinges. Nylon or metal, it's easy to work out which will wobble less once fitted. Look at whether you can take the toilet seat off easily to clean it. The best seats are made from

With cisterns, the fittings are also an important factor to study. Most are plastic components. Some use brass parts more than others. Choose one that has easy to reach parts should you need to change or adjust the flow. New designs now including touch sensors and wave motion.

Douche

Commonplace all over Europe and Asia, douches are great for washing your bum. They are THE big thing in bathrooms these days. Nearly every specialist retailer such as Bathroom City sells them almost as standard with a new WC.  They come with thermostatic valves, so you can have the temperature just right. A great and easy installation. Worth considering as it may future proof your home in years to come.