These days you have a number of choices when it comes to new shower units. There are custom designed systems that can easily stand alone as the centerpiece of any bathroom and there are a number of off-the-shelf designs that can be installed by ambitious DIY homeowners. If you do choose the custom unit, a bathroom designer or specialist contractor is your best bet, as they will be most familiar with the details of any custom piece. For the DIY’er, fiberglass or acrylic enclosures are specially designed to make installation relatively simple.
The floor space you have and the features you desire in your unit are going to determine the size and shape you will be working with. Plenty of room can be had in a large space meant to serve as a master bath (such as this Santa Monica master bathroom), where a separate shower and tub is an attainable goal. Smaller rooms (example bathroom from Culver City) pose more of a challenge and will require you to set firm priorities for your needs, as a small corner unit, called a neo-angle, might be the only option you have. Begin the process of determining the potential of your bath by taking exact measurements of your space.
Most of the bigger shower manufacturers make it easy to find the sizes and specs of their products by making them readily available on the Web. It’s a great benefit that you can use this information as your starting point, as it can help you save time when you are ready to actually go out and test units in person. When you are ready to go to some showrooms, take the time to step into the various units and move around to see how they fit for you. Remember, the more time you spend feeling your way around the various units available to you, the more likely it is that you will make a great choice that serves you well for years to come.
You can find most types of shower surround in fiberglass or acrylic enclosures that are assembled in one to three pieces. A floor pan is usually included also, but if you do have to add one yourself the added expense is relatively minimal. The great thing about these multi-piece units is that a single person can move them into the space section by section. Then they are simply fitted in place an sealed with caulk. Certain tongue an groove systems are also available which minimize or eliminate the need for caulk, further adding to the simplicity of the installation.
One piece units fit in one shot and need no caulking to seal up joints, but getting them in place will require you to have a bit more help on hand. For these, you will not be able to simply bring them inside in small pieces—you will have to have a very wide access to the bathroom, or even better, an open wall through which to move the piece in place. Bear this is mind, as the lack of sufficient entry space may make your single piece install far more complicated than you bargained for.
In either case, these enclosures can be your standalone shower sitting in a wall recess or be freestanding as a centerpiece of the room. If an additional tub is in the plan, remember to take heed the need for plumbing lines to serve both units. Choosing a configuration where both can be back to back is best as this will allow the plumbing lines to run side by side.