Showers

Showers are seen as a quick, no-nonsense way to clean your whole body. They waste lots of fresh running water while we soap and scrub, but do an excellent job rinsing skin and hair. With luck, you get a nice invigorating massage on your back, but a real soak is impossible. If you drop the soap, you may slip and fall retrieving it. It is safer to sit when scrubbing, especially the legs and feet, so an integral seat is a good idea.

Some showerheads encourage water waste. A flow of 23 liters (6 gallons) per minute is typical, and as much as 45 liters (12 gallons) per minute was once common, using 22 liters (60 gallons) for a five-minute shower. Most codes require limited showerhead flow, with 9.5 liters (2.5 gallons) per minute being common. These low-flow showerheads can be designed in new showers or retrofitted, and save up to 70 percent when compared with standard models. Smaller pipes and heads increase the pressure, to give a satisfying shower with less water. The cost of installing low-flow faucets or showerheads results in savings of water, lower water bills, and energy savings for hot water. Domestic hot water accounts for 40 percent of U.S. energy use. An extra minute in the shower puts another 0.23 kg (y lb) of carbon dioxide in the air.

When helping children bathe, you should be able into reach the controls from the outside without wetting your arm. Even with soap in your eyes, you should be able to manipulate controls from inside without seeing them. Adjustable handheld shower wall bars allow each person to adjust the showerhead to the perfect height. Shower controls and heads are available grouped together into a cleanly designed panel. Some showers feature multiple shower sprays and a steam generator. Systems that allow the sprays to be moved accommodate people of different sizes, and some systems come with programmable showerheads.

Where there is more than one shower in a public facility, the ADA requires that at least one must be accessible. There are two types of accessible showers: transfer showers and roll-in showers. Accessible showers have specified sizes, seats, grab bars, controls, curb heights, shower enclosures, and shower spray units. How the bather with disabilities will enter the shower is an important design issue, particularly if a person is in a wheelchair. For the bather who can physically transfer from a wheelchair to a shower seat, the seat and grab bars must be positioned to facilitate that entry. For those who must shower in a wheelchair, the threshold cannot be more than 25 mm (4 in.) high to permit roll in, and the shower floor must be sloped to contain the water.

Moderately priced shower stalls are made of fiberglass or acrylic. More upscale options include marble and other stones, larger sized ceramic tile with borders, glass block, and solid surfacing materials. Pre-plumbed, all-in-one shower enclosures that include a steam generator are also available. Shower pans are typically made of terrazzo or enameled steel and are available in solid surfacing materials as well. Barrier-free shower pans are available. Grab bars, seats, anti-scald valves, nonslip bases, and adjustable shower arms all add to safety.

Different kinds of shower seats are available— adjustable, fold-up, and stationary. Regardless of type, the seat must be installed where it will allow a seated bather to reach the showerhead, valves, and soap caddie. An adjustable showerhead can be hand-held by a seated bather or bracket-held by a standing bather.

Grab bars, positioned to help the bather enter and exit the shower, cannot extend more than 38 mm (1.5 in.) from the wall; this is to prevent a hand or arm getting caught between bar and wall. Walls behind the seat and grab bars must be reinforced to support up to 114 kg (250 lb). This is done by installing 2" X 4" or 2" X 8" blocks horizontally between framing joists. Controls should be installed above the grab bar.

Shower enclosures are usually enameled steel, stainless steel, ceramic tile, or fiberglass. Frames for shower doors come in a variety of finishes. The handle that comes with the door can be upgraded to match the bathroom decor. Etched glass doors add a design element to the bathroom. Glass panel anti-derailing mechanisms add to safety. Open, walk-in styles of showers with no doors are also an option.

Heavy glass frameless enclosures that can be joined with clear silicone are available up to 13 mm (y in.) thick, although the thinner 10 mm (f in.) is usually adequate. Body sprays with lots of jets pounding right at a frameless door will inevitably leak, so pointing them against a solid wall may be a better option. A vinyl gasket can deter leaks, but may defeat the visual effect of the frameless glass, and is unlikely to be effective for very long. Totally frameless enclosures always lose a certain degree of water, and glass doors generally don't keep steam in and don't retain the heat as well as framed doors. Complete water tightness may encourage mildew growth, so a vented transom above the door may be necessary.

Prefabricated modular acrylic steam rooms are available in a variety of sizes that can comfortably fit from two to eleven people. They include seating and low-voltage lighting. An average steam bath consumes less than one gallon of water. Steam generators are usually located in a cabinet adjacent to the shower enclosure, but may be located up to 6 meters (20 ft) away. Look for equipment with minimal temperature variations, an even flow of steam, quiet operation, and steam heads that are cool enough to touch. Plumbing and electrical connections are similar to those of a common residential water heater. Controls can be mounted inside or outside the steam room.

Modular saunas combine wood and glass in sizes from 122 X 122 cm (4 X 4 ft) to 366 X 366 cm (12 X 12 ft). There are even portable and personal saunas that can be assembled in minutes. Heating units are made of rust-resistant materials and hold rocks in direct contact with the heating elements. Models are available in cedar, redwood, hemlock, and aspen.

Showers may be required by code in assembly occupancies such as gyms and health clubs, and in manufacturing plants, warehouses, foundries, and other buildings where employees are exposed to excessive heat or skin contamination. The codes specify the type of shower pan and drain required.

There are alternatives to our typical showers and tubs. Traditional Japanese baths (Fig. 13-1) have two phases. You wet, soap, and scrub yourself on a little stool over a drain, rinse with warm water from a small bucket, then (freshly cleansed) you soak in a warm tub. An updated version uses a whirlpool hot tub for the soak. Locate the hot tub in a small bathhouse with a secluded view, and you approach heaven.

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Figure 13-1 Traditional Japanese bath.
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