A Glossary of Shower Terms for Bathroom Renovations


During a bathroom renovation, most people have some idea of what they want (french country, massive bathtub, rectangular showerhead, brass fixtures) but may not be initiated in some of the product terminology. While any seasoned architect can help you wade through the fog, why not learn a few glossary terms so you can navigate logistics with ease and get to the good stuff!

The bathroom renovation is one of the most intensive and meticulous rehab projects for both you and your design team because fixtures need to be built into floors and walls, and water needs to be kept separate from electrical components (not to mention avoid costly leaks). Sometimes, additional water lines need to be installed. Additionally heavy materials like ceramic, porcelain, cast-iron or brass tend to be more costly to move, install and repair. This is not to discourage anyone from trying to fulfill their domestic dreams, rather it’s to emphasize that the bathroom in particular requires a lot of care and well, a lot of decision making that’s more permanent than a new dresser or paint color. A quick and simple guide to some of the product terms that you may come across during your research or schematic design phase for your modern bathroom update (today’s focus: showers!) follows. And look out for our tub and sink terminology glossaries, coming next week. Happy rehabbing!

Shower Terms

A trendy word in the bathroom design world these days is curbless. All that means is there is no step or ‘curb’ between the floor and the shower. This is a popular option for opulent shower rooms where there are multiple fixtures, for households with one or more persons with restricted mobility, and for households that like the clean, open look of a curbless shower. These showers MUST be configured so that the water can drain into the floor (there are no curbs or walls to keep the water into the drainage area) otherwise you will have one slippery bathroom. Surprisingly, although it does bring to mind a fabulously luxurious spa bathroom, a curbless shower can be a great choice for bathrooms on the smaller side since it really does maximize space. A partial glass or tile wall may also be installed to contain the “splash zone” in spaces with less real estate.You just need enough clearance to ensure proper drainage. You can also install a door in a curbless shower, but you will still need a sloped floor.

You’ll Definitely Need: A sloping floor, if you don’t have one already. Enough real estate so shower and toilet don’t share too much space for obvious reasons. You might also want to consider your climate and the quality of your insulation. A drafty house + an open shower might result in a more chilly shower experience than you’re accustomed to.

This fancy shower head got its name because it releases water pressure from above so it feels like rain (but not the kind in a really windy rain storm). While replacing your average shower head is easy, installing a rain shower head may require the addition of another water line that comes from the ceiling, requiring the work and acumen of a pro.

You’ll Definitely Need : A water line in your ceiling and someone to check for it. Enough tub, stall, or flooring (if you’re going curbless) real estate to accommodate the different flow direction/footprint.

This luxurious shower feature is pretty self explanatory. It fills a shower stall with a thick steam, perfect for a stuffy nose or sore muscles—and all without having the run the hot water wastefully until it fogs up the bathroom. However, this bathroom upgrade is best planned before any major remodeling takes place, as a generator will need to be installed and it’s quite an invasive process. If you want to go full-featured, there is the option of internal speakers, and even aromatherapy steam.

You’ll Definitely Need: To assess which upgrades/aesthetics are most appealing to you. A higher ceiling for the shower area may require a larger generator to fill the area with dense steam (Mr. Steam recommends eight feet). Likewise, a curbless or open shower is not going to work in conjunction with a steam shower, as air will be able to escape too quickly and you’ll run up a hefty electric bill before getting to enjoy your steam shower. If you do go the steam shower route, a seat is nice to have to fully relax in.

I’m always struck by how confusing it can be to use an unfamiliar shower, a device that should theoretically be simple to operate (especially on older homes). A too long rotation can scald; a flush from an adjacent bathroom can chill; and suddenly a nice relaxing shower is compromised. Enter the thermostatic mixer, which features the ability to set a maximum temperature for shower water. This is not only nice for children getting used to taking shower independently, but for adults who’d rather not be scalded before their first cup of coffee (or ever). Why do scalds occur? Most hot water boilers keep water at 140 F to discourage waterborne bacterial growth. However this temperature can cause third-degree burns in a matter of seconds. Thermostatic valves have separate controls for water volume and temperature, so you can enjoy a pleasant temperature without blasting the water. The result is a more customizable and comfortable experience that is safer for children and the elderly.

You’ll Definitely Need: To agree on the shower temperature if you share your home with multiple people. A thermostatic mixing valve can be left on one temp independently of the water on/off. Really though, this type of valve is up to modern building code and very pleasant to have, although it costs slightly more than a pressure-balancing valve.

At moss we love redoing bathrooms to let in more light, up the luxury quotient, and save water. But all of that’s just an excuse—an excuse to add in a recessed shower shelf (kidding! mostly). We love this type of shelf because it’s a way of simplifying bathroom storage and making surfaces easier to clean. Like any artisan guitar maker worth his salt, here at moss we love when we can craft something out of one material, and the recessed shower shelf is just one example. This little slice of storage genius involves a recessed pocket built into a shower tile wall, perfect for stacking up soaps and saving shampoos. And instead of building up layers of soap scum in metal crevices or on wire storage caddies, it requires a simple swipe of a washcloth and the shower is sparkling clean!

You’ll Definitely need: to let your architect know about this before tearing into any walls or retiling anything. And to make sure the recessed area is super sealed to prevent water from getting into the wall.

Make sure to check out our primer on plumbing too! And if you’re ever curious what type of shower is best for your home and needs, feel free to contact us.