There are four main finishes for taps and showers:
Chrome, the hardest wearing finish, usually last over 20 years.
Antique Gold, used more on traditional style suites, is generally a soft finish which will last approximately 3 years with day to day use but in a rarely used second bathroom could last as long as 10 years.
Nickel (either brushed or polished) is the softest finish and would normally be for decorative house bathrooms that are rarely used.
Powder coated, not as common in taps but still used on showers, is where the product is coated with a layer of coloured plastic.
There are many types of tap configuration for baths, basins and bidets. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. This next section outlines the different types of tap arrangements that are generally available.
There are several types of tap arrangement you can put on a bath. They are as follows: A pair of taps, a bath filler deck mounted, a bath filler pillar mounted, a three-hole bath filler,
a deck mounted bath shower mixer, a pillar mounted bath shower mixer, a four-hole bath shower mixer, a five-hole bath shower mixer, wall mounted filler and an overflow filler.
Pair of bath taps:
The most common form of taps for baths, one tap for hot water and one for cold. The cold tap is normally on the right and the hot on the left.
Bath filler deck mounted and bath filler pillar mounted.
This type of tap has the hot and cold-water taps combined onto one mixer block.
The deck-mounted type is normally contemporary in style whereas the pillar-mounted type (this is where the mixer is held above the bath rim on two pillars) is normally traditional in style.
The advantage of a mixer over a pair of taps is the ability to mix the water to the desired temperature whilst the bath is filling.
Three hole bath filler:
This is where the spout is separate to the bath tap valves. In this case you have a hot and cold valve and the spout is mounted either in the centre between the two valves or mounted in the corner.
Bath shower mixers:
This is the same as the bath fillers but has a shower hose and handset attached. These types of taps are not designed to be used as showers for standing under and washing your whole body.
The reason for this is that there is the real risk that is another person in the house switches on a tap or a washing machine kicks in then the temperature on the shower will change radically.
These types of showers are designed for washing hair or rinsing the bath.
Four and five-hole bath shower mixers:
These are the same as the three hole mixers but the four-hole mixers have a handset that sits on the bath with the hose under the bath rim. The shower is switched on by means of a diverter button mounted on the bath spout.
The five hole mixer works in the same way but has a separate diverter mounted on the bath, not on the bath spout.
Wall mounted filler:
More popular on the continent, this is where the mixer is mounted on the wall above the bath and not on the bath rim.
Overflow bath filler:
This is similar to the three-hole bath filler but whereas the three hole has a spout the overflow filler has the hot and cold valves on the rim of the bath and the filler is the overflow fitting which also doubles up as the pop up waste.
As with baths there are several types of tap arrangement that can be fitted to a basin. These are a pair of taps, a mono-bloc mixer and a three tap-hole mixer.
A pair of taps:
This is where you have a separate hot and cold tap on the basin with the cold tap usually on the right and the hot on the left. This is the most common configuration for taps on a basin.
This type of basin normally has a plug and chain waste.
Basin mono-bloc mixer:
This is where the hot and cold taps are mounted on a single tap bloc in the centre of the basin. This type of tap normally has a pop-up waste supplied as part of the tap.
Three tap-hole mixer:
As with the bath arrangement you have a spout in the middle and a separate hot and cold valve on either side. This type of arrangement has a pop up waste.
On a three tap-hole basin you can also fit a pair of basin taps and in the central hole fit a chain stay basin waste – this is where the plug chain is attached to a disc which fits over the middle hole.
There are several types of showers available in the UK and the type you choose has a lot to do with the type of hot water and cold water supply that the client has in their house. So I will first tackle the types of domestic water systems most commonly available.
Gravity Feed, Vented, or Low Pressure systems
This type of water system usually has a direct mains water cold feed. The hot water is provided by means of a hot water cylinder (copper) sited in an airing cupboard and a cold water cistern (tank) sited either above the cylinder or in the loft. To use a mixer shower with this type of system the cold water tank needs to be sited at least three feet (0.1 bar) above the shower head/handset. That is unless you use a pump, in which case you need the tank to be one foot (0.03bar) above the shower head/handset.
Combi-boiler, Multi-point systems
This type of water system has a mains feed cold water supply. The hot water is provided by an instantaneous gas boiler. The boiler either does both the hot water and central heating ( combi-boiler), or it does just the hot water only (multi-point). With this type of system the cold water is supplied at full mains pressure seventy five feet (2.5bar approximately) whilst the hot water is governed down by the boiler to a minimum of forty five feet (1.5bar approximately). With this type of system you cannot use a pump to power the shower as this would contravene the water by-laws. However as the hot and cold water is supplied under pressure you have a power shower anyway.
Pressurised water system, unvented
This type of water system has a mains cold water supply. The hot water supply is from a hot water cylinder which is supplied by full mains pressure of 175 feet (2.5bar approximately). As with the combi-boiler system you cannot use pump but you do not need to as the mains water pressure makes this a power shower.
SHOWER DOORS (Cubicles, enclosures and surrounds):
Shower doors and enclosures come in a variety of shapes and sizes. As with pottery the cost and quality of the units depend on the materials used in the construction and the design. Normally the thicker the glass the more expensive the shower cubicle.
Less expensive enclosures generally use glass in the thickness range of 3mm to 5mm. This thickness of glass will always have a metal framework surrounding it to support the weight of the glass. The mid to upper market enclosures have glass in the thickness range of 6mm to 8mm.
This type of cubicle generally has very little framework surrounding it or even none at all. The build quality of ancillary parts such as hinges and seals is also important, as these are the parts that wear the fastest with day to day use and will result in leaks.
With sliding doors the rollers for the doors should be of ball bearing types. The reason for this is that with a ball bearing roller there is little or no wear on the wheels. This means that with constant use they do not become elliptical and the glide of the door is always smooth.
The thickness of the frame and the wall profiles is also a contributing factor to the price. As a rule the thicker the frame and the profiles the more the cost. The profiles are the U-shaped channels that attach the cubicle to the wall.
Types of shower door:
There are seven main types of shower door: Pivot, Hinged, Saloon, Bi-fold, In-fold, Double slider and Triple slider.
The Pivot and Hinged doors:
These work in the same way, in that they open outwards as a single piece of glass. With the pivot door the hinges are at the top and bottom of the door.
The advantage of this is that it makes the door well balanced and put very little strain on the framework. The hinged door has the hinges on the side of the door.
This does mean however that when the door is open, the opening on the hinged door is wider than that of the pivot door. These types of door tend to be less expensive than any other due to the simple design.
There can be a difficulty with the water running off the door onto the floor when the door is opened after a shower.
The Saloon door:
This is less common and has two hinged doors which join in the middle. They tend to open inwards but are not as a rule very popular.
Bi-fold and In-fold doors:
These two doors both open inwards and so overcome the difficulty of water getting onto the floor by dripping water off the door. The bi-fold door is hinged in the centre and as the name suggests folds exactly in the middle.
The in-fold door swings in as a single door by means of a canter lever arrangement at the top and bottom of the door. You should be aware that if a person faints or collapses in this type of cubicle it is not possible to open the door.
Double and Triple sliding doors:
These doors work in the same way in that the doors slide on rollers back and forth to open or close. The difference between the two is the number of doors used to gain access. The double sliding door has less framework and as such has a more minimalist appearance, whereas the triple sliding door creates a wider opening when the doors are pulled back.
There are a myriad number or shower door shapes. The most common are the square, rectangle, pentangle (penta- or five-sided) and the quadrant (quad of quarter round). The most common type of shower tray size is 760mm x 760mm. This is not the smallest square tray size but is the smallest that is still usable by most people to shower.
You are able to obtain square trays of both 700mm x 700mm and 600mm x 600mm. The 600mm tray size is normally used on caravans and boats. The best square tray size if it can be fitted is the 900mm x 900mm.
Rectangular shower trays come in a variety of sizes from 700mm x 800mm to 1700mm x750mm. The most common size is 1200mm x 760mm, whereas the optimum size is 1200mm x 900mm. Tray sizes larger than this normally incorporate the ability to dry oneself in the cubicle.
A pentangle cubicle is the same as a square one but has the comer cut off. This results in the saving of floor space in the bathroom ensuite. A quadrant cubicle has a rounded front edge designed to save space as with the pentangle.
There are four main types of material used to make shower trays. These are steel, acrylic, stone resin and acrylic capped resin.
Steel is less common in domestic use and is generally used in commercial applications such as retirement homes and hotels
Acrylic trays used to be very common but received a bad reputation due to the poor build quality of trays in the past. The use of poor frameworks and minimal reinforcement meant that the trays moved when in use and often leaked. Modern acrylic trays are generally built to a very high standard and are fully reinforced. All acrylic trays are on adjustable legs and so are ideal in applications where a solid floor such a concrete is on site. The result of this higher built quality is that acrylic trays are not an inexpensive option.
Stone resin trays are by far the most common trays available. The low cost of producing the moulds for the trays makes then the most versatile in size. They are available in both legged and un-legged format (the most common being without legs). The two most common problems with resin trays relate to the quality of installation. The first is that if the un-legged tray is not bedded in properly it can cause the base of the tray to crack when in use. The second is that the colour of the tray is applied as a thin spray finish. The result of this is that if you scratch the tray when installing it, it is extremely difficult to repair.
Acrylic capped resin trays are becoming more popular. They combine the rigidity of the stone resin tray, but have the added advantage of being capped in acrylic. This produces a surface which is more resistant to impact and can be polished if scratched. They are however more costly to produce and as such are not available in the same number of sizes as the stone resin.
There are four main types of shower, electric, manual mixer, thermostatic mixer and pumped which can be either thermostatic or manual.
This type of shower has a small kettle type chamber within it through which the cold water passes and is heated electrically. The amount of water that can be heated is limited to approximately one and a half gallons a minute, although the spray is forced out of the head at approximately 1.5 bar (45 feet head).
In order to achieve an all over spray from the shower handset the holes in the end of the handset are drilled quite small. The result of this is that the droplets of water spray produced are small and do not hold the temperature. This means that whilst the water temperature on your head is hot by the time the water runs to your knees it has gone cold. One other difficulty with the small hole size is that the handsets are prone to scale build up in hard water areas which results in the spray pattern diminishing.
In order to maximize the amount of water produced modern electric showers use on average 8.5KW to 9KW of power. This makes them three times more costly to use than the electric immersion heater in the cylinder. My own opinion is that they are best used in applications where there is no stored hot water or where a combi-boiler is used for the first shower mixer and the client needs a second shower in the house. Most electric showers are manual mixers and have a tendency to vary the water temperature when other appliances such as taps and toilets are used.
A manual mixer uses the hot and cold water supply to achieve a shower. This is done by blending the amount of hot and cold by means of a lever valve, which either uses an internal ceramic mixer cartridge or uses two separate controls to achieve the desired temperature by turning simultaneously. This simple mechanism makes the manual valve very cost effective. However this type of mixer is prone to wild variations in temperature when other appliances such as taps, washing machines, dish washers and toilets are used. Not a type of mixer to be recommended for families with small children or older people.
A thermostatic mixer works in a similar way to the manual mixer but has an extra device fitted inside the valve casing which regulates the water temperature to within plus or minus one degree centigrade. The result of this is that if another appliance is turned on the thermostat automatically adjusts the flow of water to maintain the desired temperature. If it is unable to maintain that temperature then it will temporarily turn the shower off until it is safe to allow it to function.
This type of mixer is ideal for families with small children and older people.
This is where an electric pump is fitted to the shower to increase the water pressure. This type of system can only be fitted to a gravity feed hot water system. There are two types of pumps generally used:
1. Inlet Pump (Twin Impellor)
This type of pump is by far the most common is fitted to the hot and cold water supplies before they go through the shower valve. Relatively inexpensive to purchase they provide pressure to the shower of up to 3bar (100ft head) at a flow rate of up to 3 gallons a minute. The most popular pressure is 1.5bar (45 foot head).
2. Outlet Pump (Single Impellor)
This type of pump is fitted after the valve and pumps the mixed hot and cold water. The advantage of this is that it can safely deliver a higher flow rate and higher pressure. The reason for this is that when you pump water into the valve at pressure it can create an imbalance of pressures at the valve. This is due to the fact that the valve requires more hot water than cold to achieve the correct temperature. The Outlet pump pulls the water through the valve and sets up no such imbalance.
TYPES OF MIXER VALVES:
There are three main types of mixer valve:
1. Fully exposed, where both the body of the valve and the hot and cold water pipes to it are on the surface and on full view.
2. Semi-recessed, where the body of the valve is on the surface and exposed and the pipe work is hidden in the wall.
3. Fully Recessed, where both the main body of the valve and the pipe work are concealed in the wall.
TYPES OF SHOWER HEADS:
There are three types of shower head:
1. Fixed head, where the shower head is fixed on the wall above head height by means of a shower arm. This type of head cannot normally be moved lower, but may be fitted with a ball swivel that allows you to turn it to the left or right.
2. Handset, normally supplied with a shower rail (sliding rail) which allows you to adjust the height of the shower rose and remove it if necessary to wash a child or wall.
3. Body-jet, normally fitted with the fixed head type of shower these are jets mounted on the wall below head height. They are ideal for people who do not wish to wash there hair or face.
There are three main types of shower spray:
1. Standard spray common to all types of shower the water is supplied via series of small holes distributed evenly across the shower head.
2. Pulse spray (massage spray) this can only be used on showers which have power as the water pressure is used to spin a disc located within the shower head to pulse the water spray and so produce a massage action. The greater the pressure the stronger the massage.
3. Champagne spray (aerated) can only be used on power showers with a minimum of 1.5bar (45 feet head). The water pressure is used to produce air bubbles in the water and so produce a soft foamy spray. This spray pattern is ideal for children as it introduces them to power showers in a way that is fun. Also ideal for ladies as the foam prevents the water from splashing up into the face and also expresses more water into wet hair for the removal of shampoo.