What You Need To Build A Shower All Your Own: The Magic Of A Custom Shower

There are a lot of ways to go about building a custom shower, some more complicated and costly than others. But if you’ve done your homework and are fully aware of the scope of the project? The next step is to figure out exactly what components you want to go into your new shower. A custom shower should completely engulf you in water from all angles, recreating a genuine spa experience in your own home. These are the fixtures you need to make that happen:

1. Body Spray Shower Heads

A close up image of a shower body sprayer turned on, illuminated by purple LED lights.
Including body sprayers in your custom shower lets you have water spraying directly onto your body, rather than from the top-down (by holger hoos design)

These are the most ubiquitous parts of a custom shower; it almost isn’t a custom shower without at least two. Basically, these are small showerheads that you mount directly into the wall. Each has its own supply line, and sprays horizontally into the shower. They usually come in pairs or triplets, mounted in a stack or on opposing sides of the shower. And remember, you want them to supplement your other shower heads, not spray out the shower door! The tricky part? You’ll want a professional installation to ensure the sprayers work as intended. A proper pressure balance loop will ensure ensure they all produce an even amount of water.

An image of a tan stone-tiled shower with traditional style oil rubbed bronze hardware.
The biggest difference between types of body sprayers is the style and finish, the adjustability, and whether they sit flush to the tile or extend into the shower (Photo by Dallas Renovation Group)

Depending on the model, the sprayer will either be flush to the wall or protruding and swivel-able. If people of very different heights will be using the shower, opt for the adjustable variety to ensure maximum comfort. Ideally, the jets will spray at shoulder/upper back level, waist level, and thigh/knee level. But one person’s shoulder-height could be another’s water punch in the face. So make sure none of the jets will hit anyone above the shoulders or in any other uncomfortable places. If you have a very significant height difference between users, definitely opt for ones that you can adjust. As well, different types of spray heads produce different kinds of jets – from deep tissue massage to a fine mist; be aware of the number of nozzles and the type of spray they produce when you buy.  

2. Rainfall Showerhead

An image of a small, slate-gray modern shower with a dual ceiling-mounted rainfall shower head.
Rainfall shower heads have larger nozzles and rely on gravity to create a totally unique shower experience (by M|R Walls)

I’ve talked a bit about rainfall showerheads before; the big, flat, funny-looking shower heads specially designed to recreate the feeling of standing in a natural deluge. These are great for custom showers, especially when installed with their own volume control. This way, you can use them independently for a gentler experience, or with other shower heads for a stronger massage. If you do install one of these, mount it either directly in the ceiling or from it. The greater the height, the better the coverage and rain-like experience. Plus, a higher shower head will leave you room on the wall to install a regular shower head.  

3. That Regular Shower Head

For a custom shower, you can get just about any kind of shower head you want – from a high pressure head to a fancy massage shower with lots of pressure settings, or even just something fairly standard. The really important thing is that you install it so the nozzle is about six inches higher than the tallest person that will be using the shower. That ensures they won’t have to duck to get their heads wet. That said, it also shouldn’t be out of the reach of the smallest person using it, especially if it’s a shower head with a lot of settings. You want to make sure everyone who uses the shower will be able to adjust it to meet their needs.  

4. Handheld Shower

Finally a handheld shower is especially important to have in a custom shower shared with people of different heights. The most versatile hand showers come with a slide rail. They’re a little more complicated to install, but make it super easy to significantly adjust the height of the shower head – a lifesaver for short people. You can also detach hand showers from the wall, which makes them incredibly versatile. You can use one to wash hard-to-reach places, give a deep tissue massage, or rinse away soap when you’re cleaning the inside of your shower. They’re great for washing dogs, too – if you want to let Fido into your shower! Here, too, though, you want to make sure that the handheld showerhead works on a volume handle separate from the body sprayers and other shower heads. You should be able to use it independently from the other parts of the shower.

5. Shower Panel

This is one that you may or may not want to opt for. A shower panel is a nice substitute for a true custom shower if you want to avoid a big renovation. They install onto your existing plumbing, which means no demolition or plumbing work, but also lower output. Shower panels tend to have all the bits built in – the body spray, rainfall, hand, and/or regular shower head. But they aren’t always able to run them all at once, and have less coverage than a true spa shower. That said, newer shower panels often have clever ways of circumventing their shortcomings. And at a total cost that’s less than you’d pay for just the parts of a custom shower? Shower panels are a solid budget-friendly option.

6. Shower Set?

Not interested in building your shower piece by piece? Don’t worry. It’s incredibly easy to find custom shower kits or shower systems. Companies that sell all the parts individually also often bundle them together, letting you get the look you like scaled appropriately to your budget and the scope of your project. This can be a convenient way to get the hardware you want for less, and a good way to keep it all matched. But don’t let a pre-made kit limit your creativity. As I mentioned before, the sprayers tend to come in sets. But if you want more or less, don’t be afraid to supplement the set. Most designers will let you mix and match. So save some money on package deals where you can, but don’t skimp on getting what you want!

7. A Thermostatic System

Installing a thermostatic valve is crucial for controlling the temperature in a shower putting out as much water as fast as a custom shower does. A thermostatic system is a type of anti-scald device that, essentially, keeps your shower within 2-3 degrees of the temperature you want. Ever feel like you’re cracking a safe trying to get the temperature just right? Or have your shower ruined by a stray toilet flush? Thermostatic systems are the answer, maintaining the temperature you set them to regardless of external fluctuations. That means you won’t get burnt or frozen out, and all your shower heads will put out the same temperature water for as long as you’re showering (or until your water heater gives out!). Importantly, because this handle is independent from the volume controls, once you find a temperature you like, you don’t have to adjust it to turn off the shower.

Whatever components you ultimately decide to install, make sure your plumbing is adequate to supply them. Each shower head (or group of body sprays) should be on their own volume control and shutoff, but running all of them through the same thermostatic valve is okay – just make sure the temperature control is at about waist level so everyone can reach it, though most likely you’ll set it and forget it!