Selecting Shower Components

The basic components of a shower consist of a pan with drain, the valve and the showerhead.

The shower will have a prefabricated floor, or pan, made from a formed plastic or solid surface material. Alternately, the pan may be constructed out of ceramic tile. The pan has a threshold at the entrance and the floor, then slants to the drain.

Basic manual mixing valve options for the shower are similar to those for the lavatory; two-handle faucets and single-control faucets are available.

With electronic mixing valves, the valve acts as an electronic thermostatic valve because it maintains the temperature that has been programmed in by the user. When turned on, the unit always resets and delivers at an initial 98° F (36.6° C).

Depressing either the “up” or “down” button shifts the readout display to the “set point mode,” causing the numbers to change in the direction of warmer or cooler until released. Once that button is released, the readout reverts to the actual temperature mode so the water temperature begins to move toward the selected setting and stops when it gets there. There is a hot limit device built into the valve, as well as an integral pressure balancing mode.

Flow Rating

The flow rate of a showerhead is measured in gallons per minute (gpm). Currently, some states are in the process of limiting showerheads to 2.50 to 3 gpm (8 to 11 liters). Some manufacturers also offer flow restriction mechanisms that reduce the flow even lower to 1.7 gpm (6.4 liters). Most showerheads on the market fall within the first limit, and have a 2.50 (8 liters) gpm flow rating.

A special note about the lowest flow or 1.7 gpm showerheads: Although they do conserve water, the highly aerated water may not deliver an ideal shower. Because of the increased surface space of the aerated water drops, the water temperature will cool dramatically from the time it leaves the showerhead until it reaches the bather’s body. Because humans are sensitive to a temperature drop as little as 2° F, this type of showerhead may be undesirable.


There are numerous showerheads available today. Generally, there are five broad categories of showering options: personal hand-held shower, wall-mounted shower, overhead shower, body spray shower and body mist shower.

  • Personal hand-held shower. The personal hand-held shower is ideal in showers that will be used by people of varying heights, as well as near a bench in the shower that is out of the stream of water. Hand-held showers are also a great addition to a shower that will be used by an elderly person who may need assistance while bathing. Shower cleaning is also much easier with a hand-held shower.
  • Wall-mounted shower. The wall-mounted showerhead is the most typical installation.
  • Overhead shower. The overhead shower is placed on the ceiling. It may require a great deal of water to operate — check the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Body spray shower. A body spray is a group of individual showerheads installed in a series of two or three along opposite walls.
  • Body mist shower. A body mist shower is a series of jets of water in a single bar designed to gently wash the body. When mounted at the right height, both body sprays and body mists are designed to allow a person to take a shower without getting his/her face and/or hair wet.

Water patterns

When considering any showerhead, some key functions to discuss with your client are:

  • Adjustment. The basic spray adjusts from fine to coarse; people prefer placing the control on the side of the showerhead as opposed to in the center which forces the user to reach into the stream of water.
  • Spray pattern. A full spray pattern is more desirable than one that only delivers water around the perimeter of the head, leaving a hollow in the center.
  • Water action. Showerheads can offer a soft, gentle action or a pulsating, invigorating massage.

Multiple heads

When specifying multiple showerheads in an enclosure, ask a key question: “Is this enclosure designed for one person to use with multiple heads that offer them a variety of shower experiences, or is it a shower enclosure with multiple heads that will be used by more than one person at the same time?”

If the shower is designed for one person, a diverter system can be designed to offer the user a choice of the various heads. For example, an overhead shampoo showerhead could be used in place of body sprays rather than concurrently. This type of arrangement is designed with one mixing valve and a diverting device to direct the water to the various heads.

Or, several users may enjoy the shower together. When two or more showerheads operate at the same time, you must pay particular attention to the water pressure, the size of the piping and the flow rate of the showerheads, as well as the mixer and diverter device. Designers should select a multiple-head system that has been engineered by the manufacturer and is available with detailed schematic designs and installation requirements.

This article is excerpted from Kitchen & Bath Products, one of the nine books in the NKBA Professional Resource Library. Written by recognized industry experts and thoroughly reviewed by top technical editors and peers, the volumes cover design, products, residential construction, mechanical systems, business practices, drawing, project management and more. They are available only through the NKBA at or call 800-THE-NKBA.

Excerpted from the NKBA Professional Resource Library. Copyright © 2007 by the National Kitchen & Bath Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission.