Move over, whirlpools. Soaking tubs, take a hike. The hottest products are called vertical spas, shower towers, performance showers and carwashes. And consumers are clamoring for them.
Ed Pell, manager of market research at the National Kitchen & Bath Association, says that although these shower systems have been in commercial spas for years and available to use in homes the past 15, the trend has exploded recently. "Consumers don't take baths as often anymore," Pell says. "People love these showers for the time saving — and the toys."Know the Players
This Moen vertical spa boasts a rainfall showerhead, a hand spray and four body sprays.
Moen, Hansgrohe, Jacuzzi, Grohe, Kohler and others offer systems to satisfy all ends of the market.
Kathy Yates, Moen's target market manager, says systems that were considered luxuries are now mainstream. "On the low end is rainshowers; mid-range, a showerhead and hand spray with three-function diverter. High-end would be a larger shower with four sprays and two showerheads or a 'head and hand,'" she says.
"A hand spray is an easy upgrade and great for families whose small children are transitioning from the tub." Moen offers the pressurized Rainshower. "Others are like a watering can — you can't rinse the shampoo out of your hair," she says.
"People recognize they can add luxury to their daily routine," says Michael Wandschneider, a senior product manager for Kohler performance showers. Kohler's ultra low—profile WaterTile has no protruding nozzles and is installed flush in the ceiling or wall. The BodySpa 10-jet tower recirculates water twice a minute from a 90- to 200-gallon basin. The DTV offers programmable temperature-based hydrotherapy and feeds up to eight showerheads, hand sprays or body sprays.
Hansgrohe's Shower Panel has four body sprays plus a hand spray and is installed in the existing shower mount.
"It's an easy upgrade for new construction because it uses existing hot and cold water connections — no plumber needed," says spokesman Jason McClain.Plan for the Unknown
Doug Santoro, president of General Plumbing in West Palm Beach, Fla., stresses that builders should keep plumbers in the loop. "Showers can take on a life of their own after the initial plans are drawn," he says.
Obstacles can include undersized water and drain lines, so Santoro recommends a minimum ¾-inch supply line with 1-inch for cold water and a 3-inch drain. Spec a heater sufficient to supply 15 gpm — the Kohler DTV uses 21 — and at least 50 psi. Look for valves with a higher gpm range. "Three to 4 gpm is not adequate," he says. "A recirculating hot water system is a must with these showers. You don't want to wait to get cold water out of the pipes." An ample wastewater system is also needed to handle the demand, especially if the home is not on a public line.
Thicker walls to accommodate plumbing and electrical lines and insulation for noise are a good idea, "but builders don't want to give up the inches," Santoro says. For steam units, "forget the 10-foot ceiling — go for 7 to 8 feet in the enclosure," he says; in air-conditioned spaces, as steam builds and heat rises, condensation beads up on the ceiling. Also consider additional ventilation.
Builders should make sure they have the right controls and components for the valves. Kohler, for example, has behind-the-wall and finished-trim packages for builders.
With all the bells and whistles, shower systems can retail for more than $6,000, plus the pump. "It's my experience that builders don't put shower spas in spec homes, only as an upgrade," says Pell.
|Jennifer Block Martin is a San Francisco-based writer.|