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When you want to give your walk-in shower the ultimate upgrade, a shower panel is the way to go. Follow along with this all-in-one guide to learn how to remove your current shower fitting and how to install a shower panel.
What Is a Shower Panel?
In essence, the best shower panel is a really, really big collection of shower heads. They replace your standard shower head with a panel of dials, heads, and sprayers.
A shower panel is a spa-like upgrade to your normal shower head. The body is a long and slender bar. It runs from about where your current shower head is to midway down the wall.
On the shower panel you will see different water openings and buttons. How many you see will depend on how basic or luxurious your chosen shower panel is. The more expensive the panel, the more features you will get.
Shower panels are perfect for a rainfall or waterfall shower head that arcs away from the shower panel and down over you. Or, you can use them when you have a nice dual shower head, for switching between the multiple functions.
The additional options and openings shoot out water from a little lower down the shower panel. These are meant to massage you as you shower and offer an extra immersion feeling.
Some of the more expensive shower panels will also offer a shower wand attachment which can hang, or be directed down towards you. This allows you to grab a shower head with a soaking function and install it if you’d like.
Before You Install
Make sure to take the time to figure out which features are important to you, before you buy. That way, you can choose the best shower panel to fit your bathroom and routine.
Just as an added tip, some shower panels already have a smart function and can be connected to security systems you already have at home.
Once you’ve selected the right panel for your needs, here is how to install it in your shower.
While it can look like a daunting task, learning how to install shower panels is much easier than it looks. This is because shower panels come already wired and set up. All you do is anchor it to the wall and attach the plumbing hookup to where your shower head used to be.
The tools you will want to have handy for this DIY project are as follows. While you’re at it, consider adding a second shower head, since you’ll be pulling your old shower head off the wall anyways.
Every home needs this versatile and handy power tool laying around. For this project you will need the correct drill bit to pre-drill the holes for mounting. Read the included instruction booklet to see the screw size. Then, choose the appropriate drill bit size.
If you are installing a shower panel on a tile shower wall, you will want to use the glass and tile drill bit. Also make sure you lower the speed on your drill, so you don’t risk cracking or breaking your tile as you drill the hole.
You’ll want to have a vacuum on hand to pick up the tile debris and dust, and follow it up with a thorough mopping of your tile floor.
Your new shower panel should come with everything you need as far as mounting pieces and screws. Before you begin the removal process, open your package and make sure everything is included so you aren’t wasting any time.
If, for some reason, you are missing some of the hardware or a piece was damaged, you can do one of two things. You can return the entire shower panel. Or, you should be able to pick up the same screws or mounted pieces at your local DIY store.
A wrench is just as handy as the power drill. You will use the wrench to take off the original shower head. Then you will use it again to install the new shower panel’s water directing pipes as well as to tighten all the new connectors.
You can use your hands to screw on almost all of the parts. However, using a wrench will give you extra leverage to make that final turn to ensure leaks don’t happen. This goes the same way for when you are installing a shower arm for your new shower head.
Along with a wrench you will want to grab a standard pair of pliers. These will help you grip and turn small and hard to reach connectors. The pliers can also work as an additional leverage and gripping point when you are using a wrench.
This simple yet effective tape is a must have on any plumbing jobs. When you wrap the connecting threads of your shower pipes with plumber’s tape, it creates a hard-to-bypass seal on each of the rungs. This keeps water from spewing out and making a mess when you shower.
You will want to wrap each thread about four times around. If you notice any leaks, you can increase the wrapping to six times around to give it a better seal.
Pick up a small tube and applicator gun from your home improvement store. The sealer is a silicone putty. Trace the outline of the shower panel with the sealer to close any cracks between it and the shower wall.
This sealer prevents any water from getting behind the shower panel and causing rot to the wall behind the shower.
Keep a damp cloth or rag close by as you install a shower panel. You can use it to wipe away any and all dust that comes from making new drill holes.
Also, place the rag over your hardware where you are using a wrench or pliers. This will protect the visible finish from being scratched as you tighten the plumbing parts.
How to Install a Shower Panel
When you are ready to install your shower panel, begin by turning the water off to the shower. Doing a main water shut off can seem like a hassle. But, it is a precautionary step that can save you time and keep you dry in case of an accident while you are installing.
1. Remove Your Old Hardware
Follow these steps to remove your original shower head and valves.
- Use a wrench and pliers to grip and begin unscrewing the shower head.
- Once loosened you can turn the shower head by hand to finish getting it off.
- Next, use the pliers to start turning and loosening the shower arm.
- Finish unscrewing the arm by hand.
- If your shower valves are being replaced (some basic model shower panels do not have their own valves), you will want to remove the original hardware.
- Look for the hidden screw holes in your water valve handles to remove them one piece at a time until everything is off and you have access to the hot and cold water pipes.
If you plan to keep or reuse the shower arm and head, take time to clean them up and allow to fully dry before storing them away.
Take a little time to clean up the shower parts you plan on reusing. Tackle any rust that might have formed, and scrub down the shower head and arm.
If you’re up for it, you can also clean the shower floor and drain trap.
2. Install the Shower Panel
Now that your shower is bare, you may begin to install a shower panel. Depending on your purchased shower panel, some of these instructions will be vary with what you will need to do depending on the connectors.
- Start by lining up the panel in place so you can see where the mounts will go. Use a pencil to mark the holes.
- If you have a level and an extra set of hands, have someone place the level over the shower head to make sure it is centered and not lopsided before you begin drilling.
- Use the drill to make the outlined holes. If you are not lining the holes up with studs, you will want to use any included wall anchors. You may need to stop by your local home improvement store to pick up some.
- Place the mounting brackets aligned with the holes. Use the drill again to place the screws into the wall.
- Begin to attach the connectors and pipes that will run from where the shower head was and where the hot and cold pipes are for the valves.
- Make sure you are taking the time to wrap each connector with plumber’s tape and tighten the connectors to avoid having any leaks.
- Use the damp cloth to cover any visible finished parts like a shower head or arm as you are connecting the pieces and tightening.
- Make sure the connectors from the wall are connected to the right parts of the panel and that everything is secure and lined up before the final step.
- Before you attach the panel, take this time to turn on the water and check for any leaks.
- Finally, attach the full shower panel to the wall by attaching it to the mounting brackets via more screws or snap in connecting (remember different shower panels have different mounting types).
Once you finish attaching the shower panel to the wall, give it a firm shake and tug. You want to make sure it is secured tightly to the wall and does not wiggle or show any signs of being loose. You can now re-install your shower head.
Now, you need to test it again. Make sure all the water openings and shower heads are working correctly and the water temperature is responding to the settings. Let the water flow through each opening for 60 seconds to give it time to show signs of leaks.
Finish by using a silicone sealer to run around the edges and the top of the shower panel. You will want to avoid sealing the bottom of the shower panel in case any water does become trapped behind it. This way it can flow out of the bottom.
How Much Does it Cost to Install a Shower Panel?
Shower panels range in price, depending on a variety of factors. For starters, the type of material that you select will have a big impact. Plastic paneling, otherwise known as fiberglass reinforced plastic, is significantly cheaper than laminated or quartz panels.
Size is also a determining factor in the cost. Smaller panels that are roughly 60″ high will be a lot cheaper than middle of the road sizes (74″), with 80″-90″ options costing the most.
At the end of the day, the cheapest of options might cost you a few hundred dollars. You can easily get to several thousand dollars by opting for a larger size or a premium material.
Installing the shower panel yourself will save a lot of money as well.
Now that you know the ins and outs of how to install a shower panel, you can give your shower or bathtub the upgrade it’s been waiting for.