I am asked all the time the best way to lay out a shower. There is really no “best” way. The design and layout are a function of personal preferences, budget, wall and door placement in the shower and valve selection. There are two things that are a must in my opinion: a hand shower and a place for soap and shampoo.
There are two types of shower valves: pressure balance and thermostatic. I will take them on one at a time and try to find simple language to help you understand their function.
Pressure balance valves prevent scalding and eliminate drastic changes in water temperature in a shower which makes them much safer than the old fashioned hot/cold system. They are designed to maintain a constant water temperature despite fluctuations in the hot or cold water supply pressure when someone opens a tap or flushes a toilet. It is a sophisticated plumbing devise that reacts to changes in the pressure of the delivery of water and ensures that the volume of water that leaves the pressure balance valve is a constant mix of hot and cold water.
Generally speaking, a pressure balance valve is less expensive than a thermostatic valve. The mechanics are less sophisticated and they are more familiar to the plumbing contractor, therefore easier to install. The shower setup will be confined to a shower head unless you install a two way diverter valve to operate the hand shower that can be on a bar or a hook (please note, that I am speaking of Waterworks specific shower valves here). I cannot imagine cleaning a shower or washing the dog without a hand shower.
Our pressure balance valve is available with a built in diverter. However, that diverter has been engineered to operate a tub /shower operation only. This particular system allows you to install a family specific tub spout rather than a generic diverter spout.
The feel of water flowing through the shower head in your house is a function of where you live. You may have a well, live in a high rise or have city water and each situation will deliver different amounts of water even though the valve is the same. It is a function of the pressure in the system that makes a difference.
Shop carefully, buy the highest quality valve you can afford, ask lots of questions, hire a licensed plumbing contractor and remember, once this is installed it is unlikely you will redo your shower for many years.
PS. Last week I incorrectly identified a photograph taken by Lee Mindel. It was taken at the Finn Juhl Museum NOT as specified in the caption as being shot at the Republic of Fritz Hansen. Sorry, Lee.
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