You’re ready for a new bathroom, and if you’re like most people, your new bathroom will include the removal of a whirlpool tub or an increase in shower size.
In remodeling, the shower has become the number one most requested item in the bathroom. Gone are the days of meeting code with a 30 x 30 fiberglass enclosure and in its place is the handcrafted walk-in closet.
There’s so much to designing a shower that it’s hard to know where to start, especially when it comes to budgeting. With over twenty years of design experience and nearly eight years of field work, I know a thing or two about showers. Before you call in a professional like me, you’ll find it helpful to familiarize yourself with building a custom shower.
Let’s start with the basics of the shower: the pan, the walls, the plumbing, and the door. Next we have accessories such as niches, decoration, shelves, tiles and benches.
Each of these will contribute to the cost of your overall project and it is important to understand all of your options so you have a better idea of what your vision will cost.
To get started, you’ll need to determine the size of your shower. If it’s standard, you’ll have the option of using a prefabricated or fiberglass shower tray. This option will save you money compared to other options.
If you want a more elegant look or if your shower size is custom, you may want to look at a tiled tray. With this option, the basin can be manufactured in any size and can be tiled with stone, ceramic, mosaic or marble. Some things to consider here. When tiling a tray, you should also think about what material will be used for the curb. Quartz is often a favorite curbside option and is cut to size. If you are looking to save money, a cheaper material would be tile. Often in design, if quartz is not used, the tile that is on the shower walls is used on the curb. A side note to consider is that when using tile on your curb, you must have a product to finish the edges of the tile. Bullnose is one way to achieve a clean finish and a more economical tile edge solution is to use a metal/plastic edge. I’m not a fan of plastic, but I often select metal over the rounded tip because it can actually enhance the design.
The other consideration is the tile. The shower floor takes its fair share of abuse, so staying away from marble (while beautiful and elegant) will keep your shower looking new for years and years.
Moving on, let’s talk about shower walls. Shower walls can be finished with any size tile and any type of tile, but not all are within the same budget. Marble, the king of any bathroom, is the most expensive in both labor and materials, and requires a lot of maintenance. Travertine is next on the price list. Although travertine is one of my favorite materials to work with, the tolerances for laying this tile are tight and care must be taken with the materials used behind the scenes so as not to stain this stone. Because marble and stone are more labor intensive and more expensive to purchase, using any of these materials in your bathroom will put your project at the higher end of the bathroom remodeling price scale.
If you are looking for custom but low maintenance tile and yet want a more modest budget, I would consider ceramic or porcelain tile in a large 12×24 format or plank tile in any size. Both tiles are easy to work with and can often be cut without the use of a wet saw, saving time on labor.
Looking for something right in the middle? The best option for the middle of the road is ceramic or porcelain subway tile. Subway tile is my favorite tile to work with for several reasons. The first reason is that I consider it “evergreen”, since it never goes out of style. I love that this unassuming tile can look more glamorous than stone and marble if styled correctly. It comes in a variety of sizes, colors, and can be installed herringbone, 1/2-set, 1/3-set stacked, and more. The possibilities with the meter are endless and the cost is cheap. If you want a great design but don’t have the budget for marble subway, it could be the tile for you.
Other materials to consider are glass and shapes like the hexagon. Both will run on the higher side, but still won’t come close to the price of marble or travertine. Often these mosaic tiles are used as accents to give the shower a little wow factor.
As with the curb, you should think about how the edges of the tile will be finished with options of metal or beaded edges. Just like curbing, metal curbing on the wall will save you money compared to curbing.
Now let’s talk plumbing! It may seem like you don’t have much to think about here, but in fact you do. Let’s start with the most important piece of plumbing, aside from the obvious rough pipes, the valve. By code, you must use a pressure balanced thermostatic mix or a combination of the two. From there, you need to decide on accessories, such as a rain shower with a standard shower head and body jets. Every component you add to your shower will require some thought to ensure the correct valves are used to provide the necessary pressure based on the fixtures used. To save on both material and labor, a standard pressure balance valve with standard shower head will help keep your budget balanced.
Another way to save money is by selecting a standard drain. If you are looking to create a little more glamour, the draw through will do the trick. It will cost a bit more for both labor and material, but the final look is well worth the upgrade.
The final main piece of the shower is the shower door. Shower doors are not all the same. There are standard doors that require their opening to be a specific size. They come in a variety of finishes, as well as glass types. They require assembly but will save money on both material and labor.
My preference is the custom door. Available in almost all finishes and made to order. These doors will have thicker glass and can be treated to resist water marks. Heights can be increased for a more dramatic look and they come both frameless and framed. Doors can be hinged to swing in both directions or can be ordered as sliding. Finally, these doors can have wraparound glass, allowing designers to create stunning display showers.
With the main shower components discussed, it’s time to explore the features that will enhance your shower. These features will add to your overall shower experience, but they can also add to the overall cost of your project.
My favorite accessory to add to any shower is the shower niche. Adds dimension to tile and is great for storing shower essentials while keeping showers tidy. Shower niches can be made in any size and are often lined with a different material, such as mosaic.
Benches are another classic accessory. The code requires a shower clearance of 30 x 30 and the NKBA requires a clearance of 36 x 36 before a shower seat can be added. Shower seats vary in size, but the most common is 15″ deep and 17″ to 19″ off the floor. Benches can be covered using the same tile as the shower wall to save money or you can order a piece of quartz to cover the top of the bench.
Other accessories include niche lighting, grab bars, waterfall tiles, corner shelves, and box walls. The possibilities for creating a unique shower are endless and no matter what your budget, there are options available to enhance your space.
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, it’s time to call in a professional and get started!