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  • Ella S

The Lowdown on Showers

When looking to buy a new shower, consumers can be bewildered by all the different technical terms and end up more confused than when they started. In this guide, we are going to break down all the jargon surrounding showers to help you with selecting your perfect shower.

Shower Terminology Breakdown

Before getting into the nitty gritty details of showers you need to understand the basic terms that are attributed to showers:

  • Exposed – Whenever you see exposed in terms of showers this will often refer to the shower valve. It means that the shower valve sits outside the wall, including all the controls and parts.

  • Concealed – This is the opposite of exposed. With concealed shower valve, all the working parts of the valve sit within a recess of the wall and the only visible parts are the back plate and controls.

  • Thermostatic – These types of valves include a thermostatic cartridge and are specially designed to maintain the water temperature. This prevents sudden bursts of freezing cold or scalding water when water is being used elsewhere in the home.

  • Manual – Unlike thermostatic valves, manual valves are not able to maintain the desired temperature when water is being used elsewhere in the home.

 

Things to Consider When Buying a Shower

While selecting a new shower may seem daunting, you first need to ask yourself a few questions. The main parts to consider when selecting a new shower are:

  • The type of water system within the house determines the water pressure available to operate the shower. If you have a gravity-fed system, which is usually low pressure, will you be adding a pump to improve the performance of your shower?

  • Where is the valve being positioned, do you require an exposed or a concealed valve?

  • Who the main user of the shower will be? Do you want it to be easy to use? Will small members of the family be using it?

  • Do you want an all-in-one system, or do you want to pick and choose components for a truly personalised end piece?

  • The finish of the shower - Traditional or modern? Chrome or special colour finish?

Answering these questions will help you narrow down your options and mindset when selecting a shower.

 

Shower Components - Which Do You Really Need?

Showers are made up of multiple components. Some are essential such as a shower valve and an outlet (shower head or hand shower), however, once you have the basics can put together a shower that is individual to your liking and needs.

Shower Valves

In essence, a shower valve is the working part of the shower. Receiving the water from the plumbing system, the shower valve mixes both the hot and cold water in order to create the desired temperature. The controls allow the user to adjust the flow and temperature of the water that flows from the shower head.

There are two types of shower valves: thermostatic and manual. Thermostatic valves are the preferred style of shower valves. As well as giving precise control over water temperature and flow, thermostatic valves are able to maintain the specified temperature when there has been a change in the flow of the water to the valve. This could be down to the turning on of a tap elsewhere in the house or the flushing of a toilet. Ideal for busy family homes, thermostatic shower valves will ensure the user isn’t scalded or frozen by sudden changes in water temperature. The other option is a manual shower valve. These valves still mix the water but are not able to maintain the water temperature when water is used elsewhere in the home.

Deciding on your style of shower valve is important as it will affect the whole layout of your showering area. For a minimalistic look, you may want to opt for a concealed shower valve. These sit within the wall cavity with only the handles and backplate visible. For concealed shower valves you will need to ensure you have enough room for the working parts behind the wall. The alternative to concealed valves is exposed valves, which stand proud on the wall face. Exposed valves are easier to install when the wall the valve is sitting on is made up of solid brick as the wall only needs to be chased out to accommodate the hot and cold water pipes. Each type of valve is available in a multitude of styles to suit a specific bathroom décor.

A final consideration is too how many outlets you require. Outlets refer to the ways in which water can come out of the device. So, if you are only fitting an overhead shower, this would be 1 outlet and you would only need a single outlet valve. If you wanted to run a hand shower as well as an overhead shower you would need a 2-outlet valve. Multiple outlet valves include diverters that change the flow of the water between outlets and in some styles can be run simultaneously.

For more information on shower valves see our shower valve buying guide.

Overhead Showers

Everyone’s expectations from a shower are different and that’s why there is a wide selection of showerheads to choose from. From a range of shapes and sizes to different installation methods, there is a style of showerhead to deliver the perfect showering experience.

The first thing to consider is the shape of the showerhead. The majority of showerheads fall into three categories: square, rectangular or round. Round shower heads are possibly the most common design available. They provide a generous amount of spray and come in more traditional rosette stylings for those wanting a classical look. Square and rectangular shower heads offer a wide variety of size choices. They are the perfect choice for those who want to highlight the angular elements in their bathroom.

You must also consider the mounting of your overhead shower. Ceiling mounting your shower provides greater flexibility for positioning the head to optimise the use of the showering area, the same can be said about installing a recessed ceiling shower. Wall-mounted showerheads are an excellent alternative, the showerhead can be positioned at the required height, with various lengths of wall arms to suit the size of the showerhead and showering area. A ball joint is usually included to allow the angle of the shower spray to be adjusted to get the best-personalised experience.

In terms of the type of spray pattern delivered by the showerhead, manufacturers are constantly developing and improving shower spray types to offer the ultimate showering experience whilst conserving the amount of water used. The way in which the nozzles are arranged on the showerhead and how the water leaves the head determines the spray pattern. This can drastically change the showering experience by elevating the feel of the water on the body. For more information on shower heads and the different spray types available, take a look at our showerhead guide.

Hand Showers

Hand showers can add an extra depth to the showering experience. They are one of the most diverse elements within the bathroom. Options for their installation include as part of a slide rail kit with a showering bath or in a shower or as an additional extra in either a shower or bath installation. A super practical extra for any bathroom, they are perfect for quickly rinsing hair or cleaning the suds of a shower or bath. Available in various shapes, popular iterations are pencil, round and square styles.

Slide Rail Kits

A popular choice are the stylish yet practical slide rails and their name perfectly describes them. These are vertical rails with a handset holder that effortlessly slides up and down the rail allowing the hand shower to be adjusted in height to suit the user. Components can be purchased separately to build your own style or as a complete kit including a hand shower and shower hose. They are an ideal choice for households of various heights. If being fitted with a concealed valve an outlet elbow will also be required.


Shower Packs

If selecting individual components isn’t for you, shower packs are the way to go. These all-in-one kits can come with a shower valve included. Shower pipes or shower columns include an overhead shower with an exposed valve and often also have a hand shower or bath spout. Shower packs are also available with a concealed valve and include options for 1 or 2 showerheads or showerheads and overflow filler to create a minimalist feel when being positioned over the bath.

Body Jets

Adding an extra element to the showering environment, body jets ensure the whole body is thoroughly cleaned and cocooned in water. Placed within the wall around the shower, they are designed to be used as an additional extra when an overhead shower has been installed. They are said to have a relaxing effect on the muscles and provide the user with a refreshing showering experience. At James Hargreaves Bathrooms we have body jets in both square and round forms to let you match your overhead shower, we also have adjustable heads for those who want to be able to change the directionality of the spray to get the most out of the experience.

 

Installation Of Your Shower

Once you’ve selected all your showering components you will need to take a look into the finer details. For mounting your shower head, you will need to check if the arm or ceiling mount is included. If it isn’t most shower heads use a standard connection allowing for you to pick an arm’s length of your choice making sure it suits the size of head and brings it far enough away from the wall for comfort when showering.

When you are using a concealed shower valve, the hidden parts may be supplied separately from the valve itself. This may mean you have to buy a trim kit (the outer handles, the nice part!) and the valve mechanism (for inside the recess) separately. Different manufacturers have their own terminology for these, so it is worth confirming what is actually included with your concealed valve.

With hand showers the choices for installation are almost endless, this means the accessories are extensive. If you are not using a slide rail there is a wide choice of parking brackets, including a combined wall outlet, and parking bracket for use with concealed valves. Some hand showers are supplied without a shower hose, enabling you to choose the style, finish and length of the hose being used.


We hope to have broken down and help you understand showers with this guide. If you require any more help or information, please feel free to contact us.