Upgrading your shower? Here’s what you need to know

23rd Jul 19 | Lifestyle

A one-stop guide to your bathroom’s most complex piece of kit. By Luke Rix-Standing.


There are few things more satisfying than working up a sweat in the gym, before popping home for a relaxing soak in the shower. Conversely, there’s few things more annoying than stepping into the shower – and finding it intemperate, malfunctioning, or just plain bad.

It’s probably fair to say that the average Brit logs roughly 48 hours in the shower every year (based on the assumption you shower daily for the frequently-cited eight-minute average). So whether you’re renovating, restructuring, or simply replacing, it’s well worth getting it right.

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Here’s how to navigate this tricky bathroom buy, from pumped-up power shower to the feel of falling rain…

Technical considerations
A functional item first and foremost, a new shower comes with a host of technical and structural considerations you’ll need to take stock of in advance.

First, you need to determine your home’s water pressure, as a cutting-edge, many-nozzled power shower will be reduced to a trickle without the water pressure to back it up. There are ways to do this yourself, but we recommend calling in a professional. When plumbing goes wrong, it goes really wrong, so if you don’t already know how to do it – don’t.

Shower comparison
Same shower, different water pressure (iStock/PA)

Consider the heights of your shower’s likely occupants – if you cohabitant is 6ft 9 and sports a mohawk, you might at least want a shower that’s adjustable. Do you want a hand-held, detachable shower, or are you happy with a fixed model that protrudes directly from the wall?

Think also about space – if you’re kitting out a wet room, you can employ more powerful units with potentially high splash damage, while narrower spaces might be better served with more concentrated flow.

A variable amenity
You might think there’d be only so many ways of ejecting water through a nozzle, but depending on preference and plumbing, there’s a whole host of different models and methodologies.

First, there’s your run-of-the-mill mixer shower: An easy-to-install, all-purpose design that combines hot and cold water to reach the desired temperature. It’s simple but effective, and requires independent hot and cold water supplies.

Cleaning shower head
A handheld shower corded directly to the tap (iStock/PA)

Add a splash of modernity with a thermostatic mixer, which comes with a valve used to closely control temperature. You can add a pump for systems struggling with low pressure.

Alternatively, try an electric or power shower. Electric models are essentially in-built water heaters, that rapidly warm water on the way to the shower head. Economical, because it only heats what you use, these showers can function without an independent hot water supply.

In normal parlance, ‘power shower’ just means ‘powerful shower’, but technically the term refers to a unit with an integrated pump that boosts flow with both hot and cold.

Shower head
No, you can’t just have a bath (iStock/PA)

Showers have a rep for saving water, but some modern high-impact power showers can outstrip the average bath in less than five minutes. Eco-conscious consumers should consider water-saving, ‘aerated’ shower heads, which preserve water by injecting the flow with air.

For next-level washing, you can opt for a digital shower, which maintains the balance of temperatures with an electronic processor, generally controlled from a nearby panel.

The fashionable showerer
There are as many different bathroom designs as there are bathroom designers, but for the sake of simplicity we can split the shower aesthetic into two categories: Modern and traditional.

The classic modern shower is chrome-coloured and shiny, made up of sleek, straight-lined, angular shapes, and goes well in minimalist, white-washed bathrooms decorated with marble or textured tile.

Traditional shower heads tend to value elegance. Think circular ‘watering can’ styles, exposed fittings, vintage valves and ceramic handles. While chrome can be integrated into a classic look, more luxurious builds have expanded into brass, nickel and even gold.

Minimalist bathroom
A classic of the genre (iStock/PA)

Naturally, you can mix old and new at your leisure, and your best bet is to embark on some window shopping.

Aquatic accessories
For those looking for more from their bathroom routine, there’s a variety of high-end designs to make your morning wash experience a bit more bespoke.

Particularly popular right now are ‘rain showers’ – huge, flat, ceiling-mounted (usually) units that deluge the showerer with vertical streams of water. No prizes for guessing where they get their name.

Rain shower
Makin’ it rain (iStock/PA)

Inevitably, in the era of remote-controlled toasters and voice-activated toilets, there are also smart shower options that can integrate with household AI. Take, for instance, the SmarTap, which warms up automatically in line with your routine, and can be programmed to stop after a set amount of time. It can also warm your towel rail.

At the very pinnacle of luxury, there are even showers with horizontal body jets lined up down the walls. Expect a bill in the thousands – and that might just be for installation.

Last but not least, remember the most important bathroom accessory of all… A well-chosen rubber ducky.

© Press Association 2019