Adding value to your home with a shower
Building your own shower cubicle can be very rewarding and should not take more than a day to complete. Installing a second shower will earn you points when selling the house. If you are replacing the old one it can become quite complicated and it may be best to call in a professional. Only a qualified electrician should do the electrical work where it is needed.
Types of shower cubicles
Apart from the very simple shower curtain tugged behind the bath rim, there are the shower cubicles that are fitted onto the bath. These are the easiest shower cubicles to install and there is no need for new plumbing. There are those that fit only on the end of the bath where the shower is situated and some that enclose the whole bath and provide access through hinged or sliding doors. It may be a slightly uncomfortable setting and for that there is the showerbath, which is wider at one end, but still suitable for a nice soak. This may be a good option if you have a concrete floor and the convenience of having the existing draining system of the bath.
The most popular place to install shower cubicles is in the corner of a room. This setup requires only one panel with a hinged door, but two-panel versions are also used. Shower cubicles can be built into an alcove or recess, which provide you with 3 walls and a curtain or panel to finish it off. It is much more labour intensive though.
Shower trays are available in acrylic, glass reinforced plastic (GRP), ceramic or resin. You will need a bed of mortar to install resin or ceramic trays. Acrylic shower trays are supplied with adjustable legs and they are higher off the floor than the solid versions, to make it easier to install the waste outlet.
Installing a shower cubicle
To install a cubicle on a bath a channel is fixed to the wall with rawl plugs and screws. A sealant can be applied to the channel before it is screwed to the wall or sealant can be applied afterwards to close the gap between the channel and the wall. The screen can then be slotted into the channel and sealed where it meets the bath rim.
With the more conventional cubicles it's best to start with the plumbing first, because it may become more difficult to install once certain parts of the cubicle is in place. Wastewater must always be discharged into a foul water drain and may never be mixed with rainwater drainage.
To start with the plumbing, first place the shower tray where you want to install it and mark it out on the floor with a pencil as well as an appropriate spot below the shower tray for the waste outlet. Cut out the flooring section that you marked out for the waste outlet - which should be big enough for the shower trap to fit in. Just off the mark you've made for the shower tray, mark and cut out another section to serve as access for the plumbing. From here you will connect the waste outlet to the waste outlet pipe.
The tray should be perfectly level on all sides of the rim and rather provide support for the tray by letting the centre of it rest on some mortar. This will prevent unnecessary flexing. With a corner cubicle you will have to prepare the walls for some very wet conditions. They should also be sound enough to support shower screen channels fixed to them as well as ceramic tiles. Wherever wood is used, such as in stud walls, it should be marine grade plywood.
With a sealant gun, seal all the outside edges of the shower tray where they meet the wall and where it meets the floor. The surround that fits on the tray will have channels used to secure it to the wall. Ensure with a spirit level that the walls are perfectly vertical and mark the appropriate holes for the screws. Drill the pilot holes through the ceramic tiles if present, or plastic panels, if that is to form the back part against the wall. Insert the rawl plugs and screw the channel in place. Slot the screen into the channel and let it rest on the rim of the tray. Secure the screen through the side of the channel with the screws provided.
Do the same with the second support channel on the other wall. This one will be holding the frame that will house the door to the shower cubicle. Fix the two panels together as per manufacturer's instructions and seal all around at the joints. It helps a lot to temporarily assemble the whole cubicle on a dry run to ensure everything will fit into place before you do the real thing.