You have a lot of options to consider and a lot of decisions to make when buying a shower for your bathroom.
Chief among these are shower type, style, and design. And then there are the smaller, yet just as significant factors, like door type, showerhead type, and adding in any extra features that interest you.
Of course, you can always skip the custom design process in favor of a pre-built, pre-fabricated shower instead.
Here are the most important things to keep in mind when buying a bathroom shower. For a detailed diagram illustrating the parts of a shower, go here.
Table of Contents
- I. Bathroom Shower Buying Guide
- II. More Details
- III. Where to Buy Bathroom Showers Online
I. Bathroom Shower Buying Guide
A. Pre-Fabricated or Custom
First things first, do you want a pre-fabricated shower or a custom shower for your bathroom?
1. Pre-Fabricated Shower
Though they’re available in all price ranges, a pre-fabricated shower is your best bet when shopping on a tight budget.
As the name implies, a pre-fabricated shower is self-contained. It comes in a single-piece design, most often made out of molded fiberglass, plastic, laminate, or another synthetic material.
The single-piece pre-fabricated shower contains all the normal bathroom shower features including wall panels, shelves, grab bars, a shower base (also known as a “receptor” or “pan), and more.
The benefits of pre-fabricated showers include their relatively low price, ease of installation (DIY it up), and water tightness.
The downside is a lack of options. Your pre-fabricated shower will likely look plain and uninspired.
There are also only a handful of sizes available for pre-fabricated showers. You can’t custom fit yours to the space you have available.
2. Custom Shower
Source: Indy Renovation
Expect to pay an arm and a leg more for a custom shower. Yet know that money is well worth it in the long-term.
Not only are custom showers usually eco-friendly and longer-lasting, but they also add much more resell value to your home than a pre-fabricated shower.
As the name implies, a custom shower is built from scratch in your bathroom. It’s unique and is designed to meet your specific needs and preferences.
With that said, your options for a custom shower are nearly endless. You can select from a variety of design options to create a bathroom shower that’s different from any other.
In addition to the infinite range of design options, a custom shower can be built to any size, even very tight spaces where a pre-fabricated shower wouldn’t fit.
The downside is that, in addition to their much higher price tag, custom showers are a very difficult DIY project. Most people are better off hiring a professional contractor to do the job for them.
B. Shower Type
The main category for types of bathroom showers, after pre-fabricated or custom, relates to the mixer.
The shower mixer is the device that mixes the hot and cold water together. It also often controls the specific water pressure.
1. Manual Mixer Shower
Source: Hugo Oliver
A manual mixer shower is the traditional type of shower. It’s still seen in the majority of home bathrooms today.
It mixes hot and cold water together each time you shower. Move the valve controls to decide upon a specific temperature each time you shower.
Not only are manual mixer showers easy to use, but they’re also relatively simple to install.
2. Thermostatic Mixer Shower
Source: Fontana Showers
Those with small children should consider a thermostatic mixer shower.
A thermostat controls the temperature of the water for each shower. Simply set it to your preferred temperature, and each shower will have a constant temperature.
The reliable temperatures prevent scalding, increasing safety for households with small children, as well as the elderly.
Thermostatic mixers with a digital control panel are often referred to as “digital showers.”
3. Electric Shower
As long as there’s a cold water supply, you’re good to go. Electric showers contain a built-in heating unit to heat cold water.
Electric showers are an excellent choice when remodeling a home basement since they don’t need to be connected to a hot water supply.
C. Shower Shape and Style
After getting past the most technical aspect of shower type, it’s time to look at shower style.
The shower style is the most important design decision to be made. It relates to the basic shape and layout of your finished bathroom shower.
1. Rectangular Enclosure Shower
A rectangular enclosure shower is a type of freestanding, walk-in shower.
As the name implies, they come in a rectangular or square shape. They come in an endless variety of sizes to fit into just about any space.
Rectangular enclosure showers are usually open and spacious. In a bathroom with limited space, they can be easily tucked away into a small corner.
2. Curved Enclosure Shower
Source: Curved Shower
Another type of freestanding walk-in shower, a curved enclosure shower utilizes a rounded entryway.
Most of the time curved enclosure showers are shaped like a slice of pie. The end that faces the room is rounded while the other end is squared off and fits nicely into a corner.
Curved enclosure showers maximize shower space in smaller bathrooms. They also add a contemporary flair to any bathroom.
3. Neo-Angle Enclosure Shower
Source: Patriot Glass and Mirror
Neo-angle enclosure showers are undoubtedly the most modern looking of any freestanding walk-in shower.
The majority of them have a five-sided based, often in a diamond pattern to neatly fit into a corner of a bathroom.
Though many neo-angle enclosure showers are small, the door placement at the center of the shower makes entry and exit a breeze.
4. Corner Enclosure Shower
Source: Signature Hardware
A corner enclosure shower is simply any freestanding walk-in shower specifically designed for use in a corner.
Though rectangular, curved, and neo-angle enclosure showers all fit in the middle of a room’s wall, a corner shower cannot.
A corner enclosure shower is often the best option for tiny bathrooms.
5. Tub-Shower Combo
Source: Diamond Tub & Showers
The only type of bathroom shower on this list that’s not the freestanding, walk-in variety, a tub-shower combo is any shower installed with a bathtub as a base.
A tub-shower combo is a space-saving design for those that want both a bathtub and a shower in their bathroom. Combine the two together to save floor space.
The downside is that tub-shower combos aren’t always that attractive. They’re the type of shower most often installed in hotels and apartments.
However, several manufacturers have recently released tub-shower combos with a bigger emphasis on clean design and style.
D. Bathroom Shower Door
Your shower door is another design element that dictates both the style and functionality of your shower as a whole.
1. Sliding Door
Source: Fireweed Designs
Those low on bathroom space should strongly consider a sliding door.
A sliding door doesn’t open outward. Instead, it slides along the front of your shower to reveal an opening.
Make sure to select a sliding shower door that’s watertight. Full-length watertight panels are needed to seal the shower door, so water doesn’t leak out during use.
2. Pivot Doors
Source: Alumax Bath Enclosures
Pivot doors are perhaps the most common type of bathroom shower door.
Also known as swinging doors, these shower doors usually open outwards from the shower in a smooth swinging motion.
The hinges for the door are located solely at the very top and very bottom of the door. This makes them a popular choice for glass showers because of the clean, modern look they provide.
Pivot doors are a great alternative to sliding doors for small spaces. Bathroom showers without enough room for a sliding door can often utilize a pivot door.
3. Hinged Doors
Source: Bath Authority
Hinged doors are very similar to pivot doors. Both types of bathroom shower doors swing open in one smooth motion.
The key difference is hinge location. While pivot door hinges are tucked out of the way, hinged door hinges are often located in plain view. They’re usually installed prominently on the sides of the shower door.
Because hinged doors are most commonly used on more spacious neo-angle showers, there’s also the option to have yours swing inward into the shower.
E. Bathroom Showerhead Types
Your bathroom showerhead is one of the most important individual elements of your shower as a whole.
A weak sprinkle just doesn’t get the job done. You want your new shower outfitted with a showerhead that provides a steady, invigorating flow.
Your top bathroom showerhead options include:
1. Multi-Setting Showerhead
A multi-setting showerhead is highly adjustable.
Move between a number of settings to select flow type. The top multi-setting showerheads have more than a dozen options, including favorites like mist, massage, and pulsing.
A multi-setting showerhead also lets you toggle between stream size, from a narrow stream of water up to a wide one.
2. Single-Setting Showerhead
As the name implies, a single-setting showerhead only has a single setting.
The flow type can’t be changed. You get the same stream type and pressure whenever you’re in the shower.
The benefit of a single-setting showerhead is its price. They are the most affordable showerheads on the market.
3. Shower Tower
A shower tower is a unique type of showerhead that’s quickly becoming popular in high-end bathrooms.
Most shower towers consist of a vertical strip with several body jets. These outlets spray water directly at your body to create an almost Jacuzzi-like experience – but in a shower.
Shower towers also have a fixed showerhead at the top of the vertical strip that works much like a traditional showerhead.
F. Other Design Options
Here comes the fun part – customizing your bathroom shower to your specific preferences.
Numerous design options include shower design, materials used, color and finish, specific dimensions, and additional features allow you to make your bathroom shower all your own.
1. Bathroom Shower Design
The shower shapes and styles outlined above can all be further tweaked to meet your needs.
Instead of installing your shower in the traditional manner, why not consider one of these unique bathroom shower designs?
a. Concealed Shower
If minimalism is your cup of tea, you should check out a concealed shower.
The showerhead is hidden away behind various design elements, so it’s not immediately visible when you step into the bathroom.
Most concealed showers have a showerhead mounted on the ceiling of the shower. Instead of the stream of water coming from a showerhead on the wall, it instead falls from the ceiling.
Specific options are endless, but many concealed showers utilize a rainfall or waterfall type flow from the ceiling.
Concealed showers are also known for coming with additional features like built-in LED lighting.
b. Exposed Rain Shower
Similarly to a concealed shower, an exposed rain shower lets the water fall directly from above your head (rather than at an angle).
Unlike a concealed shower, however, an exposed rain shower has a showerhead mounted on the wall instead of from the ceiling.
Exposed rain showers give you the chance to feel like you’re taking a shower out in the middle of nature, during a rain storm.
Some high-end exposed rain showers even add bursts of air into the mix to create the effect of realistic raindrops.
c. Body Shower
Source: Salon Spa Solution
Body showers often utilize a shower tower (or similar design) to spray water on your body from the sides.
The strong jets of water are designed to help soothe an aching body much like jets in a bathtub or hot tub.
Body showers often come with numerous flow settings. Usually among these are a massage and a mist setting.
d. Waterfall Shower
You don’t see waterfall showers very often. This uncommon bathroom shower type emulates a waterfall.
A unique showerhead is mounted directly above the standing area. A heavy rush of water falls from the shelf-like showerhead over your body.
2. Bathroom Shower Materials
Most pre-fabricated showers come with built-in shower walls. These are often constructed from fiberglass, acrylic, or another synthetic material.
Custom showers, on the other hand, can be created with a much greater array of materials. In addition to fiberglass or acrylic, you can boost the style factor with tile or stone.
Tile is a very stylish choice for bathroom shower material.
Line the walls with tile for a unique look. Tile is available in a nearly endless variety of colors and styles. Create custom patterns with yours for an eye-catching design.
The downside to tile is that regular maintenance is required. The grout between the tiles needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. You can check out alternatives to tile in the shower here.
Few materials make as elegant of an addition to your bathroom shower as stone.
A stone shower is highly attractive and gives off a modern vibe. They’re relatively easy to clean and upkeep, although resealing is needed on a regular basis.
The downside to stone is that it’s the most expensive material choice.
c. Fiberglass and Acrylic
Source: Bob Vila
A single piece of fiberglass or acrylic can be shaped to create the entire wall for your shower.
The single-piece design means they’re one of the most durable and waterproof materials available. Fiberglass and acrylic are undoubtedly the most effective (and inexpensive) choice.
The downside to fiberglass and acrylic is that they tend to yellow as they age. These materials are also the most susceptible to scratching.
3. Bathroom Shower Color and Finish
Depending on the material you choose for your shower, you might be able to further customize the specific color and finish.
Tile, in particular, can be just about any color you want it to be. Add a finish on top for either a subdued or more vibrant look.
Each additional feature inside the shower can further be customized based on color. Most showerheads and valve controls are stainless steel, yet can be found in other colors if desired.
4. Bathroom Shower Dimensions
The great thing about a custom shower is that you can get one in just about any size.
Freestanding, walk-in showers are particularly spacious. This type of bathroom shower does away with the bathtub to give you even more room to shower and walk around.
While small showers are great for small bathrooms, big showers are the current trend. Primary bathrooms and other large bathrooms often feature showers with expansive dimensions.
Showers are even created with more than one person in mind. A spacious shower can be outfitted with several showerheads for a “his and her” experience.
5. Additional Features
In recent years, showers have incorporated an impressive new range of features.
There are features that add to the functionality of a shower, and then there are features that are largely there for their aesthetic appeal.
Pick and choose from these additional features to further tailor your bathroom shower to your liking.
a. Accessible Features
Accessible shower features are those created with limited mobility users in mind.
Low-step thresholds provide an easy entrance for the elderly while roll-in thresholds make showering easier for those in wheelchairs.
Extra grab bars are another accessible feature that makes showering easier for everyone – not just those with limited mobility.
b. Built-in Seats
Why not incorporate a built-in seat into your shower for an even more comfortable place to relax? A built-in seat means you don’t have to sit the entire time you’re showering.
c. Handheld Shower Heads
A fixed showerhead certainly gets the job done. But few things are nicer than a handheld showerhead that enables you to give yourself a full body shower with ease.
d. Steam Generators
Many of today’s luxury bathrooms are outfitted with showers that have built-in steam generators.
e. LED Lighting
Adding LED lighting to your custom shower can enhance the mood and make the experience even more relaxing.
Some LED lighting can even be timed to the water flow. As the stream changes, the light pulsates in a pattern of different colors.
II. More Details
Here are some other important factors to consider when buying a fireplace.
A. Water System and Pressure
Water pressure is one of the first factors to check before buying a bathroom shower.
The water pressure in your home directly influences the best type of shower for you. Different shower types require different amounts of water pressure to function properly.
Though you can check your water pressure yourself with a pressure gauge, it’s easier for most people to call in the help of an experienced professional.
After you figure out the water pressure of your home, it’s time to figure out what type of water system your home uses.
The most common home water systems include:
- Unvented Water System – Large volumes of water are heated and stored in a water tank under high pressure for immediate use.
- Combination Boiler – Water is heated as you need it and is not stored. It’s heated as needed.
- Gravity System – This fairly uncommon system utilizes a cold-water tank (usually stored in a loft or attic space) that trickles water down via gravity. A pump can be used to increase water pressure.
B. Overall Bathroom Design
No one wants a bathroom shower that sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s why it’s important to match your shower to the style and décor of the bathroom as a whole.
Look through shower types, shapes, and sizes for one that will work best with the space available.
If your bathroom is small, choose a smaller model that tucks away in a corner. Those with more space might consider a more spacious shower, possibly even one with several showerheads.
Consider the overall look of your bathroom when making a decision. Is it rustic, traditional, modern, contemporary, or Victorian? Choose a shower design that fits the bill.
It’s also important to consider ventilation and lighting when adding a new shower. Poor ventilation will create a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Ensure you follow the National Kitchen and Bath Association guidelines for a ventilation system hearty enough for the size of your shower. Showers with a steam generator require even more ventilation.
Perhaps the best ventilation option is a humidity-sensing unit. A bathroom fan turns on immediately when it senses moisture in the air.
Lighting is less important than proper ventilation but still important to consider. Though ceiling fixtures do the job, they often cast shadows throughout the room.
Consider mounting other lighting fixtures like vertical strips, sconces, or task lights in or around your shower. Bright LED bulbs provide the best illumination possible.
Dimming switches are a smart idea for all the lights in your bathroom. You can dim the light levels to create a romantic mood or increase them when applying makeup or another similar task.
C. Cost and Budget
The cost of your new bathroom shower depends on many factors.
Depending upon the type of shower you select, you can expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars all the way up to $10,000 or more.
The biggest factor to take into consideration when it comes to cost is whether you want a pre-fabricated or custom shower.
Pre-fabricated showers are the must cheaper option. Not only are they affordable upfront, but they also cost a lot less to install. In fact, installing a pre-fabricated shower can be a DIY job for those with a little experience.
Custom showers, on the other hand, can get very expensive very fast. In addition to the high cost of materials, a custom shower usually needs to be installed piece by piece. It’s almost always a job for a professional contractor.
And then there are any extras you might want. Shower towers, LED lighting, and mist generators all cost more.
The same goes for higher quality materials like stone or tile. Outfitting your bathroom shower with these is much more expensive than using fiberglass or acrylic.
ImproveNet.com lists the national average for shower installation by a professional contractor at $2,749.
They go on to give the average range of a new shower installation as $1,181 on the low end and $2,846 on the high end.
HomeAdvisor gives slightly different figures. They list an average range of $1,143 to $5,371, although of course there are outliers.
III. Where to Buy Bathroom Showers Online
Now that you know the details about bathroom showers, you’re probably wondering where to buy them.
Our recommendations for reputable online providers of bathroom showers include: