Showers have become an increasingly popular alternative, or at any rate addition, to baths in recent years and they offer several advantages, being quicker, more economical on water and fuel, and more hygienic into the bargain. The initial decision when considering installing a separate shower or adding one to an existing bathroom is whether the hot water supply system provides enough pressure or head. Pressure is determined by the position of the cold water tank (not the hot water cylinder as you might expect) and there should be at the very least 1.2m between the draw-off point on the cold water tank and the highest outlet in the bathroom, which is generally the shower. Less than this and the results will be very disappointing and some mixers will not operate below about 1.5m head. Electric pumps are available to boost pressure as the last resort.
The next decision is whether to have the shower installed above the bath or to have a separate shower cubicle, which may be a proprietary unit or can be specially built on a ready-made base. lt is, of course, easier to integrate a specially built shower into the rest of the bathroom, and fittings can be chosen to match those elsewhere in the room. The basic requirement is a shower tray, which can be made from vitreous china, vitreous enamelled pressed steel, glazed fireclay, acrylic plastics or GRP. These are fairly easily installed in combination with water-proofing of nearby walls by means of ceramic tiles or other finishes. A curtain or door will be needed to avoid splashing the rest of the room.
Shower cubicles can be bought complete with all fittings, including a seat in some cases, which is a useful thing to have in any shower. They are, however, often not very attractive to look at and may be difficult to integrate into the room as a whole. They can be most useful for installing in a guest bedroom or a downstairs cloakroom where additional facilities are required. It is possible to provide a miniature second bathroom, complete with WC, shower and basin, in an area 1065mm by 2000mm in this way. Shower controls can be either manual or automatic, whether or not they are combined with the taps for the bath. There is a lot to be said for automatic, thermostatic controls, which provide water at a constant temperature irrespective of the hot water temperature and pressure.
Once set, there is no need to juggle with hot and cold taps to get the temperature you need, and they are an important safety precaution where children or old persons use a shower. Controls for separate, step-in showers can be recessed into the wall and hidden, which looks particularly neat. Small, instant electrically heated shower heaters are available for use with mains pressure water supply, but their installation must be approved by the local water authority.