Shower Buying Guide

Just about anything can be called a shower, as long as it sprays you to get you clean. Naturally then, showers can differ by all kinds of variables, including construction, material, size, and configuration. For most people, that means choosing between a prefabricated shower (one that's installed as a unit) and a custom shower that is built in place. And though building codes may allow a shower size as small as 32 inches square, you'll probably want to allow at least 36 inches in each direction for comfortable movement in the enclosure.

Prefabricated Showers

Because these showers have been manufactured as a unit, installation usually takes place in a matter of hours. They generally come in molded fiberglass, synthetic marble, or laminate as single- or multi-piece units.

  • Single-piece units

    These prefabricated units come in a single, molded piece (not including the door). They are structurally more solid and offer fewer spaces for mold and mildew to grow. These units are generally used for new construction, as getting them into an existing house can be difficult, especially an older home with narrow doorways.

  • Multi-piece units

    This shower features several interlocking components that join to form a cohesive unit. The package usually consists of a shower pan or bathtub, side pieces, a larger back piece, and front doors. This is the most common type of shower for remodeling projects.

  • Wall kit only

    This kit contains all the pieces of the multi-piece unit, with the exception of the shower pan or tub. This allows you to customize that portion of the unit.

Custom Showers

A custom shower is built on the spot to your specifications. At the minimum, a custom shower needs a shower fixture, a drain, surfaces that can handle extremely wet conditions, and provisions for a curtain or a door. A custom shower allows you to tailor every component to your own taste.

  • The shower pan

    This is the base for the shower and can be purchased already complete (e.g. pre-made polymer, poured masonry, or composite), or it can be built in place, usually with tile.

  • The walls

    Wall materials can vary widely and include options such as ceramic tile, slate, granite, marble, and solid surface. The primary consideration is that they must be installed so as to be waterproof, protecting the wall behind them from moisture.

  • Options

    Don't forget to consider add-on amenities, such as seats, multiple spa showerheads that can give full-body massages, or even steam-shower generators. (The latter requires special shower construction, so be sure to make that decision early in your building process.)