If you are asking the question, “How do I get a spa shower in a small bathroom?” it seems reasonable to conclude that you are planning either a small bathroom addition or a remodel or a small bathroom. Either way, the short answer is, “Don’t worry – you can make it fit.” Many homeowners who are planning to remodel small bathrooms want a steam shower or a body massage shower. They see photos in magazines and model homes and become frustrated that they can’t have those shower features. You just need to look for design and product information in the right places.
There are basically three ways to get a spa shower in a small bathroom. The first is to work with the shower you have (or want to install) and then retro-fit it to include the features you want. Whether you are doing this yourself, or you are hiring a plumber to do the work, it can be done. The second way to get a spa shower is to buy a pre-fabricated shower model with the features you want and plan your design around it. The third way is to rip out everything in the bathroom and build what you want (or have it built) and make your spa shower the focus of your small bathroom.
If you are remodeling, begin by ripping out a tub/shower combination that is probably installed against three walls at the end of the bathroom. If your small bathroom is the size of many small bathrooms you will not have an option of installing both a spa shower and a tub. If you want a spa shower, you probably already know you don’t want a combination arrangement.
The first option is to retro-fit an existing (or new) shower unit. This will simply mean adding a bar or bars with additional shower heads for the body massage feature. If you want to add chromotherapy features, you will need to add the colored lighting unit. Making an existing shower into a steam shower will require a bit more work. You will almost certainly need to change out the door so you can completely enclose the shower. Depending on the height of your ceilings and the height of the shower surround, you might need to extend the walls to the ceiling. Then you will need to decide how to handle the moisture and the walls. Acrylic, fiberglass or tile are good options. Then install the steam mechanism. Finally, check the light fixture very carefully (if it is in the shower). You will need a fixture that is properly sealed to prevent short circuit and other damage from the moisture. If this is what you are considering, it is probably worth getting an estimate from a plumber before your plans go too far. The difference in the cost of doing this as opposed to one of the other options might be surprisingly small.
The second option is to choose a pre-fabricated spa shower. The word pre-fabricated no longer means inferior. Building a unit in the factory and shipping it ready to install is simply a more economical way to get what you want. High-end pre-fabricated showers offer all of the features and a sleek appearance like any other shower. If you are doing the work of a remodel or an addition yourself, this might be a very good choice. Most pre-fabricated models are available in fiberglass or acrylic. They are usually 73 inches high and 36 inches deep. There is usually an option of 32, 36 or 48 inch width. If you are remodeling, this requires a space that is a bit deeper but not as wide as a 5 foot or5-1/2 foot tub/shower combination. There are great ways to use that leftover space (like for a shelving unit for bathroom storage). There is, in fact, a pre-fabricated unit that offers full body massage, steam and chromotherapy in a size that is perfect for a small bathroom.
The third option is to tear out whatever you have and start over and build exactly what you want. This will involve custom work and some of that work might be time-consuming, which will increase the cost. Starting from scratch assures you of getting the shower you want with the materials and the features you want.
Other considerations when planning your new shower and small bathroom:
- Materials: Your shower can be built with a variety of materials from fiberglass to high-quality acrylics to ceramic tile, glass tiles or metal. If you are planning a glass door, you might want to include a mural or other design on the back wall of the shower with either specialty tiles or by painting tiles. The vivid colors of glass tiles can be very striking in a shower. You can even find glass tiles made from recycled glass bottles.
- A pre-fabricated shower will save time, cost, and custom work.
- If you choose to work with acrylics for your surround, keep in mind that the thicker the acrylic, the better. Also, you might want to try to find acrylic that is permeated with an anti-microbial agent to prevent mold and mildew.
- One-day shower makeovers are offered by several companies throughout the country. Because they use fiberglass or acrylic, the material can be molded into almost any shape and it can be made to look very much like marble or tile or other materials.
- If you do your shower in natural stone, keep in mind that you will need to seal it immediately and re-seal periodically.
- Frameless glass doors are much easier to keep clean than those with frames.
- When installing a spa shower, you will need to give some thought to water supply. In some parts of the country, you might be required to install low-flow shower heads and jets. These are now made in ways that use little water and still result in a nice massage experience.
- Massaging jets use a lot of water. You might need to either install a separate water heater or a booster on your existing water heater to be sure you don’t run out.
- If you are planning either steam or shower massage, you might also want to consider an alternative water source. You can install a rainwater collection and filtration system and connect it to your water heater.
- If you know you will be using a large amount of hot water, why not switch your bathroom to a solar powered water heater?
- If you are enclosing your shower, be sure you install the right light fixture in the shower. This will need to be well sealed to prevent moisture from causing electrical problems.
- If you are installing a spa shower and you are not using a pre-fabricated unit that includes a seat or bench, you might want to go ahead and include that in your plans.
You can get a spa shower in a small bathroom. Whether you are adding or remodeling a small bathroom, you can have the shower you want with the features you want. Don’t forget the heated towel rod!
Copyright 2010 by Dan Fritschen
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