Maximizing Shower Space
Have you thought about water pressure, body sizes, drain ventilation, ceiling height or ceiling angle?
Shared From Qualified Remodeler / By Jeffrey Holloway
The kitchen and bath industry has provided architects, builders and remodelers the components to assemble a spa-like experience in the shower. Included in these components are numerous thermostatic valves, volume controls, body sprays, rain heads and hand-held shower sprays. With so many components it is easy to make a mistake while specifying, ordering and installing them. A hiccup during the installation of these items can cause expensive remedies that prolong the length of the project and steal profit.
Careful planning along with multiple jobsite visits can prevent problems. Planning begins with a survey of the clients’ wants and needs. The client is the central component of the system, so be mindful of their budget and the space they have to work with. Prepare a script for questioning your clients about their needs, and approach this survey with a sense of humor. Questions about the number of people sharing the space at one time often raise eyebrows and cause blushing. Asking where grab bars can be placed can be challenging as well; many “Boomers” can get defensive when we suggest they place stability aids along shower walls.
Measurements are averaged to locate the heights of thermostatic valves, volume controls, hand-held sprays, rain head sprays and grab bars. Normally, adjustments are required. Sometimes we’ve had clients stand in the shower while we position components during the rough-in stage. Heights vary but some simple averages that apply are as follows: 52 in. to 56 in. off the finished floor to shoulders; 38 in. to 44 in. to mid-back; and 26 in. to 32 in. to lower back and upper thighs.
Remember that big is not always better. Naked bathers require warmth for comfort so do not design the shower too large. In addition, the optimum distance from most body sprays is 30 in., so design with this number in mind. We find that a 48-in. long space is adequate for a single user. If two people are going to use the space at the same time, a minimum of 60 in. has worked well. In any instance a minimum width of 36 in. is required. Ceiling height is also important when determining the overall size of the shower. Eight feet should be the limit. If introducing steam to an enclosure, slope the ceiling about 8 degrees to prevent water droplets from falling on bathers.
Drainage is another important consideration when we plan for this type of shower. It has been our experience that a 2-in. drain is more than sufficient to accommodate up to 20 gph, which most of these spas are capable of creating. However, it is imperative that you work with a manufacturer’s representative or a licensed and insured plumber to determine the drain size. Some larger multivalve configurations could require multiple 2-in. drains or a single 3-in. drain line. Different styles of floor drains are available from round to trough-style drains with removable grids. Remember, every drain requires a vent. Make sure there is a place to terminate the vent. This is important if you are installing the system in the first floor. The vent needs to run up through any additional floors and terminate at the roof. If an additional vent is required, wall and ceiling repairs will need to be added to the scope of work in a remodeling situation.
It’s important to evaluate the client’s hot water supply as well. In new construction this is easy because an additional water heater can do the trick. On average roughly 75 percent of water running during a shower is hot. With multiple showerheads running at a minimum of 2 to 3 gpm, a 55-gal. water heater will be depleted in about 10 minutes.