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Designing & Specifying a shower system

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a shower system? Is it the plumbing and mechanical side of the system, or is it a spa-style experience with multiple heads, steam, chromatherapy, and water falls? Both are correct. You can't have beauty and functionality without first understanding the mechanics.

Today's shower systems offer many options. First, there is a standard single showerhead controlled by a pressure balance valve(PBV). You can add a hand shower using a shower arm diverter. You can also suggest a wall bar to adjust the height of the hand shower. This is partucularly relevant for someone with special needs, be it height or handicap.

On the more luxurious side of things, you can go with up to two showerheads, but that would be the mabximum with a PBV. Pressure balance valves are limited in the amount of ware that they can handle -usually 5 gpm (gallons per minute). If you want to use more water, a thermostatic valve with volume control is required. Depending on the size of the therm valve and your water pressure, you can get up to 22 gpm.

There are a number of considerations when specifying themostatic over PBV. Here are two major differences:

*PBV's only regulate pressure, not themperature.

A thermostatic valve will regulate both. This means that as you use up your hot water with a PBV, the water coming out of the showerhead will keep getting cooler. Fore a five-minute showert with a single head, this is not a big deal. But once you add more showerheads, the water will cool much faster.

*A PBV starts from the off position and moves from cold to hot, always full force (no volume control). A themostatic valve will only control temperature and has no control over the water volume. You will need to add shuts offs, commonly referred to as colume controls. The more you use, the more can customize the amount of water coming out and from which showerhead. Volume controls give you the ability to usemore than one showerhead at a time. With a PBV, a diverter is required to switch between shower functions.

When it comes to designing custom showers, you are limited only by your imagination, as well as water supply to the home and plumbing codes. It's great to dream big, and custom showers have never been more popular. For instance, even the iPod has made it into the shower, as have steam systems, speakers, and TV's. There are a few limitations to what can go into today's shower.

Some simple things to chekc when designing a custom shower:

  1. Make sure you will have enough hot water. Do you need to go with a bigger water heater or maybe a tank less water heater?
  2. Do you have enough pressure? Is there enough water supply? It may be necessary to increase the pipe size going to the bathroom.
  3. Are the code restrictions to be considered? It is always a good idea to workd with a plumbing professional and not a showroom! The plumber is the only one with up to date local and state codes. And has the most experience when it comes to designing plumbing systems for custom showers.

Some systems are easier to install than others. From the all in one, column-style showers to the multi-piece custom shower, most shower systems require a detailed drawing so that all trades involved understand what needs to be done. This is not limited to carpenters and plumbers, but tile, HVAC, and electrical trades.

Drainage should also be considered. The more water coming out at one time the larger the drain needed. I often recommend wieht two drains or the new trough-style drains. the rough drains provide more options when it comes to construction and tiling.

When deciding where to place the showerheads or water features, there are many factos to consider: The needs of the client, including where the spray will hit; Can thee user turn the shoer on withou getting drenched?; Will the water go through the space between the door and the paner (or wall)?; Is there enough room for the plumber to plumb anf the framer to frame? Proper desifn is crucial to making sure the finished product meets expectations

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