Convert Your Tub Space to a Shower — The Fixture Shopping Phase

Before you shop for shower fixtures, it’s important to understand the basics of shower controls. What options are there? What will fit your space and budget best?

There are three basic systems for controlling the water temperature and flow rates:

  • Simple single levers or knobs that control both water temperature and flow
  • Combination temperature controls, which can include two or even three extra fixtures
  • A separate thermostatic control valve (temperature only) and flow valve (volume only)

Regardless of what system you select, the fixture will come in two parts. The rough-in fitting is the guts of the shower fixture and is usually made of brass. The fitting will get hooked up to the water lines.

The second part is the tile trim. Have your plumber install the trim prior to determining the depth of the fixture, since this will allow you to see the finished look. Many levers or knobs project too far into the shower, but you can work this out by test fitting ahead of time.

Choose your temperature and flow zones. A thermostatic control valve comes in so many styles and versions it can make your head swim.
A well-designed control will have a separate temperature setting, perhaps in the collar, and the flow valve in the handle. Decide how many temperature and flow zones you want before shopping. There are many options in plumbing setups; knowing what you want ahead of time can make the process much easier.

Decide on your handheld nozzle’s placement. If you’re planning to have a shower bench, make sure you can reach and control the handheld while sitting down. A dedicated flow valve for a handheld is great, but often the controls can still be reached in the center of the shower.
You can also place the shower controls close to the entry for easy startup with minimal splashing.

Mix and match fixtures. When shopping for fixtures, don’t just walk by the tub packages. These packages usually include a control, a tub filler and a showerhead. The tub filler can be omitted and the water line sent straight to the shower head instead. A simple system like this is perfect for a basic one-fixture shower. Often the tub packages are priced better than shower-only fixtures. Mixing and matching a couple flow valves or a handheld with a tub package can help you save a lot of money in the long run.

Try to select a fixture with adjustable flow rates. This is great for families with young kids or anyone with a rain showerhead. It makes cleaning the shower less messy as well, since water doesn’t have to blast full strength from the handheld.

Plan ahead for steam showers. If you’re planning to have steam in your new shower, then look for shower fixtures that have steam vapor flashings included with the rough-in. This might be tough for some sales people to determine, so be prepared to look into it more after you leave a store.

You’ll also need to shop for a steam generator. Make sure it can be easily accessed — try not to install the generator in the ceiling or under the shower bench. In a specific mechanical room or above the washing machine tends to be a good place that offers more serviceability and drain-pan connection points.

Don’t forget about inspectors. If your bathroom is being inspected, you should ask about the approval ratings needed. Sometimes European fixtures come with an approval letter for your inspector. If the inspector asks for it, you’ll want to have it handy.

Check the shower arm. Make sure your showerhead has a quality arm. Chrome-plated brass is a great option. It looks great and has some weight to it. Many budget fixtures come with chrome-plated plastic; these can fail in time and are far inferior to chrome-plated brass shower arms.

Leaks in the wall can cause thousands of dollars in damages if they go undetected. If you and your partner are different heights and each adjusts the showerhead daily, this is all the more reason to have a quality shower arm or sliding bar with a handheld sprayer.

Incorporating different levels of adjustment can add to the enjoyment of a steam shower in particular. A chilling blast of cold water can be a welcome treat in the middle of a steam session.

Decide on your hose’s placement. Before placing the supply line for your handheld unit, get out the hose and position it on the wall. Where does it look best? Most hoses look best with 8 to 10 inches of spacing. This seems to create the natural bend and allows the swag to stay constant and not kinked.

When remodeling your bathroom, head to PlumbTile. Our expert employees will be able to not only get you the right fixtures, but they will be able to answer any questions you have about the bathroom remodeling process. They will help transform your bathroom into what you always wanted.