A practical guide to installing a shower

November 22, 2016

Whether you’re updating an existing bathroom or creating a new one, installing a shower can present you with a DIY challenge. But there’s no need to fear this generally straightforward plumbing project. Follow these five key steps for shower installation success.

A practical guide to installing a shower

Time: 1-2 days
Frequency: N/A
Difficulty: Moderate
Tools: Drill, drill bits, hammer, level, tape measure, wrenches, screwdriver, caulking

Step 1: Choose a new shower

When selecting your new shower, take time to consider the type of install that best suits your bathroom, your budget and the needs of your family. There are two main categories to consider: shower inserts and tiled showers.

  • Shower inserts are one-piece or multi-piece prefabricated shower stalls. This style of shower is generally quick and easy to install and the most cost-effective option. Shower inserts are available in a wide range of colours, sizes and styles.
  • Tiled showers are highly customizable, offer more variety of sizes and styles and tend to have greater resale value. They’re also costlier, and tiling a shower is a much more difficult DIY job than installing an insert.

Good to know!
Measure your shower area’s depth and width to ensure the dimensions match your new shower. If you purchase a one-piece shower insert, make sure it can fit through doorways, especially in older homes.

Step 2: Prepare the shower area

Now that you’ve decided to go with a prefabricated shower insert, it’s time to prepare the shower area for installation.

  • Ensure the shower area is framed properly and the walls are plumbed and square.
  • Ensure the subfloor is level or the shower won’t drain properly.
  • If renovating an existing shower space, measure carefully and make sure the new shower is a good fit for the space and drain position.
  • For a new install, rough in the drain line so the opening of the drainpipe lines up with the drain on your shower base. Rough in the plumbing for the showerhead and control valve on one of the sidewalls. 

Good to know!
Make sure your plumbing is up to code. If you’re replacing an old shower stall, you should be fine since the drains and water-inlet pipes are already there. If you’re starting anew, have a licensed plumber set it up or the installation may not be legal.

Step 3: Install the shower pan

Now you’re ready to install the pan (base) of the shower.

  • Make sure the main water supply line is turned off.
  • Install the drain on the pan according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Position the shower pan correctly for the drain and drain pipe to align.
  • Hook up the receptor drain to the pipe drain.
  • Using the fasteners provided, attach the shower pan to the wall studs.

Good to know!
Before installing the shower pan, it’s useful to dry-fit it to ensure it’s level and that the drain opening fits correctly over the floor drain. You can apply 2.5–5 cm  (1–2 in.) of levelling compound to the subfloor (or an underpad if provided) to level it.

Step 4: Install the shower panels

Once the shower pan is in place, it’s time to move on to the panels.
Start by marking and drilling the valve hole, this is the spot on the plumbing panel where the fixtures will go:

  • Measure the distance from the edge of the back panel to the centre of the valve and the distance from the centre of the valve to the top of the shower pan.
  • Transfer these marks to the plumbing panel.
  • Place the plumbing panel on a flat surface and drill the valve hole with a hole saw.
  • Ensure the cover plate will be large enough to cover the hole.

Now you’re ready to begin installation:

  • Install the back panel first, carefully inserting the tabs into the slots in the shower pan and click into place (follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
  • Follow with the side panel and then the plumbing panel.
  • Make sure the drilled valve holes on the plumbing panel line up properly with the plumbing fixtures.

Step 5: Complete the finishing touches

Once you’ve completed the basic install, follow up with these finishing details:

  • Cover any exposed walls with water-resistant drywall.
  • Install all shower fixtures according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Seal all seams that will be exposed to water with caulking.
  • Install the shower doors, if applicable.
  • Turn the water supply on and test for any leaks.

Shower installation may seem a little intimidating, but with proper planning and the right tools, it’s a DIY challenge you can meet with confidence. Research your options, measure carefully and you’ll be singing in your new shower in no time.

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