Installing a shower unit takes planning and preparation.

How to Put in a Shower Unit

by Matt Smolsky

A shower unit is a great way to give your bathroom an updated appearance. They come in a variety of styles, including framed and frameless enclosures, as well as corner, angled and round models. Shower units are sold as kits, making installation easier. However, this is not a do-it-yourself job for a novice. You will likely need intermediate to advanced skills in demolition, drywalling and plumbing. You'll also need tools such as hammers, a reciprocating saw, wrenches and pipe cutters, to name a few. You may need to do some framing, insulating and drywalling, depending on the scope of the project.

Types of Shower Units

You'll have a choice between a one piece unit and a multi-piece unit. The nice thing about one-piece showers is that there aren't any wall seams, making them less prone to leaking. However, they are often difficult to fit through doorways. They're great for new construction as the unit can be moved into place before doorways are an issue. If you decide on a one-piece unit, just be sure you measure it and your doorways carefully. Multi-piece units are easier to get through doorways and around tight turns on stairways. With proper caulking and caulk maintenance, leaking seams shouldn't be a problem.

Framed and Frameless

Framed showers use the walls and framework of an existing space, such as a corner or alcove, to support the enclosure. Doors usually slide on tracks, though pivot doors are available. Frameless shower units will also rely on walls for support, but two or more sides will be clear, exposing the shower to more light. This design feature gives the bathroom the illusion of more space, and can add a touch of elegance and style. Frameless shower units use pivot doors.

Options for Installation

You can install shower units to the studs of your existing framework using nails or screws, or they can be attached to the wall with strong adhesive. Using the studs for support will require removing drywall, a significant demolition project. You'll need advanced do-it-yourself skills to use this method. Glueing the shower unit is easier, though it may require replacing drywall with water-repellant green board. Be sure you fully understand what's involved with your particular installation before proceeding.

Know the Codes

Even though the shower's in your home, you'll need to check local building codes before you start any work. Permits may be required for bathroom remodeling projects that include the replacement of a tub and shower combination or relocation of plumbing, fixtures or cabinets. Your project might require an inspection of your shower unit installation. Any bathroom remodels that aren't up to code might be discovered when selling the house.


Accurate measurements and understanding the plumbing to the shower are critical for success. The adage "measure twice and cut once" should be followed throughout the planning, preparation and installation process. Measure when the space for the shower has been prepared or completed. For corner units, measure from the corner outward along the walls. For alcove showers, measure floor-to-ceiling in addition to wall-to-wall.

Opening the Walls

Demolition will depend on whether you're taking out an old unit, removing shower panels, taking off tiles, or simply cutting through drywall. Unless you're replacing an old shower unit for a new, you'll need to open up the walls to gain access to the water line. A reciprocating saw works best for this, but be careful not to cut through water lines. If you're installing the new shower unit directly to wall studs, ensure that the wood is dry and free of debris that might compromise the seal around the shower. Plan on being without use of the shower or bath for about a week. This is a job that simply shouldn't be rushed.

Drain & Plumbing

If you're replacing an existing shower, the drain and plumbing for the faucets and shower head should stay in the same place. If you're replacing a tub unit, you may have to extend the plumbing for the faucets and shower head up to the desired height for your new unit. You may also need to extend the drain out away from the wall and to the middle of the new shower unit.

About the Author

Matt Smolsky has been writing for more than 25 years. He wrote news, sports and feature stories for the "Omaha World-Herald" and other publications and has continued on in direct marketing and general advertising. He now writes for the web as well. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and journalism from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Photo Credits

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