7 Things to Remember When Planning Your Custom Shower (2022 Guide)

In this guide, we'll highlight the key points to remember when planning your shower. Whether you're remodeling or building, it's important to understand the basics of a custom shower. You want to get this right the first time! We will explore shower faucets, types of shower valves, and their pros and cons. Wiseway Supply has over 50 years of experience of selling custom shower products. Stepping into a showroom can be overwhelming to say the least. Who knew there were so many types of shower systems? No worries. We'll make it simple! 

Let's dive right in.


1. The Shower Space

How large will your shower be? Every cubic foot will be considered if you're thinking about a steam shower. How the shower is laid out will determine where you'll put your shower controls. Drawing out your shower on paper can help visualize the space. Consider where you'd like to turn on your shower. Or better yet, turn your shower on from your phone with a digital showering system. 

Does your space allow for multiple faucets? Is your dream to have two showerheads and a handheld shower? Map out how those will fit into your shower space.

Our best advice for pre-planning your custom shower in a nicely bulleted list ๐Ÿ˜‰:

  • Sketch the space! A simple aerial view, or if you're artistic, sketch it in 3D!
  • Search for some shower system images online for some inspiration
  • Know how many functions you want in your shower - this will help understand the type of shower valve(s) you will need!
  • Visualize using your shower - Where will you turn it on? Do you want a bench?
  • You may have to consult with your builder or remodeler to know what is possible in your space beforehand
     Kohler digital shower system

2. Shower Faucet Types

  1. Shower head - Your standard shower head from the wall. We're all familiar with this. We'll spare a photo. 
  2. Handheld Shower (Fixed) - It's a removable handheld shower, but once placed on the wall, it doesn't move. It stays put! It might have the ability to angle slightly.
    fixed handheld shower
  3. Handheld Slide Bar Shower - In our professional opinion, the better option. Once this handheld shower is put in its holster, it has the ability to slide up and down. It's great for shared showers with users of different heights! 
    slide bar hand shower
  4. Body sprays - A shower faucet that is simply named! Body sprays occasionally have some adjustability, but are generally flat on the wall. They hold the same GPM as a regular shower head, and should be planned with the plumber when locating on the wall. If you put it in the wrong spot after tile is installed, you'll be kicking yourself.
    body spray on tile chrome
  5. Rain Shower - A shower head that is installed in the ceiling. Check with your plumber on the possibility of installing into the ceiling. There may be some extra insulation requirements if there is attic space above your shower.

    kohler rain shower head
  6. Shower Rail System - A shower system that incorporates a diverter valve (we'll cover that soon) into the rail itself. This system is great for a simple remodel when you'd like to add a hand shower and slide bar without ripping out tile.
    shower rail system


3. Pressure Balancing Shower Systems

This is the most common shower valve type. It's simple. It gets the job done. A typical pressure balance valve can handle about 5 gallons per minute (GPM). With one or two functions like a showerhead and hand shower that produce between 1.75-2.0GPM each, this valve is all you require.

kohler pressure balance shower 2


All you need to know is that hot and cold lines are hooked up on the sides and that thing in the middle (mixer valve) mixes your water to your desired temperature and then sends it through that top outlet!

Ta-da! That's how a shower is born! 

kohler pressure balance shower valve


The pros/cons of a pressure balance shower system:

  • ๐Ÿ‘Pros: An affordable custom shower experience. 
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽCons: Adding a diverter means one more control to keep clean in the shower. Only has the ability to  run two shower functions simultaneously. (*Depends on your state's water usage restrictions.)

Diverter Valve

If your pressure balance shower has more than 1 function like the example below, then you'll require a diverter. This simply tells the water where to go. It accepts all that perfect-temperature water from the main on/off pressure balance valve and tells it to either go to the showerhead or the handheld shower. If you live in a state with water restrictions, you won't have the ability to operate both functions at the same time. 


Kohler Shower with Diverter


Fine Print

Keep in mind that once you turn the handle to "on" in a typical pressure balance shower, you don't have the ability to control the water volume - how much water is produced. You only have the ability to adjust water temperature. 

***We cover what we call a "true" thermostatic shower in the next section, but it should be mentioned here as well. For brands like Delta and Moen, they have incorporated the ability to control both temperature and water volume into their higher-end valves. They will call it thermostatic, too. It sounds confusing, but we'll explain how we handle the difference! Keep reading!

    • Delta's "T17" trims - They'll give you both temperature control and volume control separated by two different handles:
      delta shower valve
  • Moen's M-Core trims - They offer the ability to control temperature and water volume in one handle that rotates for temperature and rocks up and down for volume:
    moen mcore shower valve trim

Here's how we separate the confusion between the above thermostatic systems and what we've named "true" thermostatic: the amount of water the valve can handle behind the wall. ๐Ÿ‘ If you recall, a typical valve can handle about 5 gallons per minute. A "true" thermostatic valve can handle a lot more! 



4. Thermostatic Shower Systems

Sounds fancy, right? It is! The benefit of a thermostatic shower valve is that you can control and maintain your shower temperature precisely. That, and you have the ability to run multiple functions at the same time without sacrificing water pressure. This type of shower valve can accept between 9-17 GPM. It will depend on the pipe size in your home. Usually, the pipe running to your shower is 1/2". If you're building and want that car wash experience, then ask for a larger, 3/4" pipe, to be run to your shower! Once you start adding body sprays, or more than 2 functions in your shower, you'll want to consider a "true" thermostatic shower valve. 


kohler thermostatic shower system

In the photo above, the largest control at the bottom is what we call a "thermo control". This does what you'd think. It controls the water temperature. It does not turn the shower on like you'd expect from a pressure balance shower system. Those two smaller controls pictured are called "volume controls". These turn your shower on! Each volume control functions independently. Here's where the custom shower experience happens. Those volume controls can turn your water on to the desired volume while the thermo control can be set to your favorite temperature. The next time you take a shower, your temperature is pre-set from the last use.

When planning your custom shower, we may need to do some math. (Boo hiss.)

Let's say you'd like 3 body sprays, two shower heads, and 2 handheld showers.

  • Body sprays - 2.0GPMx3 = 6.0GPM
  • Shower heads - 1.75x2 = 3.5GPM
  • Handheld showers - 1.75x2 = 3.5GPM

You'll need at least 13GPM in your shower! 

  • ๐Ÿ‘Pros: You can control the temperature and volume of water precisely. You can add more than 2 functions in your shower and run them simultaneously.
  • ๐Ÿ‘ŽCons: There are a lot of handles to clean! Thermostatic shower valves come with a higher price tag.


5. Digital Shower Systems

This is the epitome of a custom shower. This is a conversation starter. Your friends are going to want to see this shower. You can even start your shower from your phone with some digital shower systems. You can add all the bells and whistles! You'll be the envy of the neighborhood. 


kohler anthem digital shower system

A digital shower sounds a little intimidating at first.

Haven't we already successfully made smart kitchen faucets? Doesn't everyone use some kind of smart home product like a thermostat or lighting control? Why not your shower, too?

A digital shower system like Kohler's Anthem (new!) product line allows all of your shower functions to operate with one interface. It combines the customization of a thermostatic shower and simplifies the usage. You'll get a high-flow shower without all of the confusing handles.

This customizable shower system will require some extra planning. You and your installer will need to map out where you'll place the digital valve to access for future maintenance. No worries! We can help you communicate any specifics with your plumber.


This video by Popular Mechanics demonstrates a Kohler digital shower system and what it looks like behind the wall. Kohler launched this in 2019, but the plumbing method remains the same for a lot of digital shower valves on the market.


  • ๐Ÿ‘Pros: You can create whatever kind of custom shower experience you'd like. You can put your controls wherever you'd like. This is the ultimate shower experience.
  • ๐Ÿ‘Ž Cons: It comes with a price tag, but not necessarily always more expensive than a thermostatic shower. This system requires a little more pre-planning for the components.


6.  Steam Showers

A steam shower is becoming a more frequent request in our showrooms. There are many benefits of steam for the mind and body.

kohler steam shower

Some things to keep in mind when planning for a steam shower:

  • Where will you be storing the steam generator? 
  • What is the cubic square foot of your shower? (For proper steam generator sizing.)
  • A specific type of shower door will be needed to keep steam in and allow proper venting once your shower is complete.
  • Is aromatherapy appealing to pair with your steam shower?
  • Consider a new exhaust fan when purchasing a steam shower to properly remove moisture from your bathroom

7. Custom Shower Systems & Water Heaters

Something that is often overlooked is a home's water heater.

If you're planning on a thermostatic or digital showering experience, you'll want to make sure that your water heater can withstand the gallons per minute that your shower will demand of it!

Rheem's tankless water heaters are a great solution. Just make sure to discuss with your plumber beforehand! They'll understand exactly what size you'll need for the shower you want.

rheem tankless water heater



Bonus Tips!

Communication with your plumber, remodeler, and/or builder is very important. They are the experts that can help further guide your custom shower decisions. Throughout the process of creating your shower, make sure to communicate any questions or changes with your plumber! This isn't their first rodeo!
Your first move should be consulting with your builder, remodeler, or plumber before purchasing any material. This will help you avoid any mistakes or headaches down the road. 
Your plumber will encourage you to purchase your shower faucets somewhere reputable like Wiseway! Let's face it - they don't want to deal with a faulty faucet or have to order parts from and have to wait for months! They'd prefer to give you the shower of your dreams and move on to the next job.
For more information on this topic, read this.

When budgeting for your new shower, make sure to consider items beyond shower faucets:
  • Tile
  • Shower pan
  • Shower door
  • Safety accessories like grab bars
  • Decorative accessories like towel bars or hooks
  • Shower drain
  • Shower storage like a tile niche or shelving


If you're interested in some expert help when planning your custom shower, just reach out! Click "Shop Now" to check out our showroom page and hit "Schedule a Consultation" or "Contact". We'll help you create the shower of your dreams!

Our team at Wiseway are trained experts. When purchasing a custom shower, there are miscellaneous parts and pieces that we make sure to include. Let our staff make sure you have everything you need for your shower! 



We'd love to hear from you! Leave us a note in the comment section below.

What are some challenges you've faced in planning a custom shower? 


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