You are ready for a new bathroom and if you’re like most people your new bathroom will include removing a whirlpool tub or increasing the size of your shower.
In remodelling the walk-in shower has become the number one most requested item in the bathroom. Gone are the days of meeting code with a 30 x 30 fibreglass enclosure and in its place is the hand-crafted walk-in!
There is so much that goes into designing a shower it’s hard to know where to start especially when there is a budget to consider. With over twenty years of design experience and almost eight years of fieldwork I know a thing or two about showers. Before you call in a professional such as myself it will benefit you greatly to familiarize yourself with how a custom shower is built.
Let’s start with the basics of the shower there is the pan, walls, plumbing and door. Next, we have accessories like niches, decor, shelves, tile and benches.
Each of these will contribute to the cost of your overall project and it’s important to understand all the options so you have a better idea of what your vision will cost.
To start you are going to need to determine the size of your shower. If it’s standard you will have the option to use a fibreglass or pre-made shower pan. This option will save you money over other options.
If you desire a more upscale look or if the size of your shower is custom you might want to look at a tiled pan. With this option the pan can be made in any size and tiled with stone, ceramic, mosaic or marble. A few things to consider here. When tiling a pan one must also give some thought to what material will be used on the curb. Quartz is often a favorite option of the curb and is custom cut to fit. If you are looking to save money a more economical 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. One side note to consider is when using tile on your curb you must have a product to finish the tile edges. Bullnose is one way to achieve a clean-finished looked and a more economical solution to edging the tile is to use metal/plastic edging. I’m not a fan of plastic but often I select the metal over bullnose because it can, in fact, enhance the design.
The other consideration is the tile. The shower floor gets a fair amount of abuse so staying away from marble ( though beautiful and elegant) will keep your shower looking new for years and years.
Moving on let’s talk about the shower walls. Shower walls can be finished with any size tile and any kind of tile but not all are within the same budget. Marble the queen of any bathroom is the most expensive for both labor and material and will come with lots of upkeep. Travertine is next in line for pricing. Though travertine is one of my favorite materials to work with the tolerances for setting this tile are tight and care must be given to materials used behind the scenes so as not to stain this stone. Because marble and stone both require more labor and are more expensive to buy using either of these materials in your bathroom will put your project on the higher end of a bathroom remodel price scale.
If you are looking for custom tile but little upkeep and yet you desire a more modest budget I would consider a ceramic or porcelain tile in a large format 12×24 size or plank tile in any size. Both tiles are easy to work with and often can 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 to be “evergreen” as in it never goes out of style. I love that this unassuming tile can look more glamorous than both stone and marble if designed correctly. It comes in a variety of sizes, colors and it can be installed in herringbone, 1/2 set, 1/3 set stacked and more. The possibilities with the subway are endless and the cost is budget-friendly. If you want a high design but you don’t have the budget for marble subway might be the tile for you.
Other materials to consider are glass and shapes such as hexagon. Both of these will run on the higher side but still not anywhere near the price of marble or travertine. Often these tiles are used for accents to give the shower a little wow factor.
As with the curb, thought must be given to how the edges of the tile will be finished with options being bullnose or metal edging. Like the curb, the metal edging on the wall will save you money over bullnose.
Now let’s talk plumbing! It may not seem like you have a lot to think about here but in fact, you do. Let’s start with the most important plumbing piece besides the obvious rough-in pipes, the valve. By code, you must use either a pressure-balanced, thermostatic mixing or a combination of the two. From there you must decide on fixtures such as a standard shower head rain shower and body jets. Every component you add to your shower will require thought to ensure the right valves are being used to deliver the pressure needed based on the fixtures used. To save on both material and labor a standard pressure balance valve with a standard showerhead will help keep your budget balanced.
Another way to save money is by selecting a standard drain. If you are looking to create a bit more glamour the through drain will do the trick. It will cost a bit more for both labor and material but the end look is well worth the upgrade.
The final main piece of the shower is the shower door. Shower doors are not all created equal. There are off-the-shelf doors that require your opening to be size specific. They come in a variety of finishes as well as glass types. They require assembly but will save money in both material and labor.
My preference is the custom door. Available in almost every finish, and made to order. These doors will have thicker glass and can be treated to resist watermarks. The heights can be increased for a more dramatic appearance and they come in both frameless and framed. The doors can be hinged to swing both ways or can be ordered as sliders. Finally, these doors can have wrap-around glass allowing designers to create stunning showcase showers.
With the main shower components already discussed it’s time to explore the features that will enhance your shower. These features will add to your overall shower experience but can also add to the overall cost of your project.
My favorite accessory to add to any shower is the shower niche. It adds dimension to the tile and is great for storing shower essentials while keeping showers looking clutter-free. Shower niches can be made to any size and are often tiled in different materials such as mosaic.
Benches are another classic accessory. Code requires a 30 x 30 clear shower space and NKBA requires a 36 x 36 clear space before a shower seat can be added. Shower seats range in size but the most common is 15″ deep and 17″-19″ off the ground. Benches can be covered using the same tile as on the wall of the shower to save money or a piece of quartz can be ordered to cover the top of the bench.
Other accessories include lighting up the niches, grab bars, waterfall mosaics, corner shelves and boxed-out walls. The possibilities for creating a one-of-a-kind shower are endless and no matter what your budget there are options available to upgrade your space.
Now that you are familiar with the basics it’s time to call in a professional and get started!