IMO showering as a function is poorly explored and I've never read any
book which discusses the issues and comes up with recommendations.
Most simply deal with aesthetics, impermeability of surfaces, or cost
and difficulty of installation.
To give you an idea of what I'm talking about just take the handles of
the average shower faucet: short lever, long lever, cross, ball, ...
Should it turn right or left? What level of sensitivity should the
faucet have? This is not opinion! There is a right answer although the
right answer may not be implementable because of costs or aesthetics.
Does anyone know of a book or website that discusses bathroom design
considerations from a perspective of functionality and ergonomics?
Just visited a friends bathroom remodel in a San Francisco Victorian.
I couldn't believe how much bad design was put in the name of fashion.
The claw foot tubs were riding high and difficult to step into, the
surrounding shower curtain is icky to touch and gives a feeling of
claustrophobia. The diverter valve required a full 360 turn to turn
on the shower. Single handle faucets are much easier to control flow
and temperature, but these were nowhere to be found. She had a
portable shower nozzle on a hose, but it weighed a ton and was awkward
and difficult to aim and adjust.
Not one bathroom vanity had a single handled valve. Just the inferior
hot and cold mixing valves. I longed for my simple design 1991
molded tub shower combo and solid and functional Moen Faucets.
Now I can't agree with your desire for single handle
controls. I very much prefer double handles. The past
few years I have been redoing the fixtures all over the
house and putting in double handles, except in the
shower. I find that I can much more precisely control
everything by having the double handle controls.
By the way the shower has a single handle control only
because that is the way pressure balancing controls
come, unless you want to spend quite a bit more money.
What's worse is she probably paid a huge sum of money for that nonsense.
When they sell the house someday, the buyers will probably want to subtract
$15 thousand from the selling price to make the room normal again. :-)
Not opinion? Right answer? I don't agree. Can the ergonomics be improved?
Here is where I agree.
Here is how I would approach your design, form follows function.
Is this a straight shower or a shower bath combination? In a straight
shower I would put the valves at a convenient height. Consider who is going
to usually use the shower. I prefer not to bend over to adjust the valves
so somewhere around elbow height is good, but if you have kids lower might
be a compromise position.
I also like either a single handle or a dual handle with easy and shower
actuation. Specifically I like those ceramic disk valves. they give you
1/4 turn from full on drip-less shut off.
If you have a tub/shower combination then you need to set the valves lower
so they can be operated from sitting in the tub or put in two sets of
I find the valve placement to be the least of my complaints with showers
however, it is the height of the shower head. When I redid the shower
valves in my house I set the shower head a little above 6 feet and got one
of those swing arms. This allows the user to put the spray where he/she
About the time I had mastered getting the toothpaste back in the tube, then
Aaagh! The Chicago School, I believe. Ratbag architects who announced
that principle and then immediately put gargoyles on their buildings.
(Alright warding off demons IS a function but they can't be serious.)
If they actually followed this principle all our buildings would be
Stalinesque. Personally I think that would be a great development; I
have no patience with the architect as "artiste". Death to I.M. Pei
for his Louvre glass monstrosity; to Joen Utzon for the Sydney Opera
House; to Frank Lloyd Wright for the Johnson Wax stupidity and Falling
Water; and to whoever did the Guggenheim. (If they're already dead, go
desecrate their graves.)
(Sorry I got carried away there. <g>)
You can't (put them at a convenient height). Too many! Consider the
following showering functions:
- bucket filling (not quite showering but a convenient place for it
and also performs the function of bringing full heat hot water to the
- full pressure wall- and floor-washing hose
- general full body shower
- intimate area washing shower (hand held)
- hair washing shower
- feet soaking tub (not quite showering but has to go on concurrently)
Each of these has to have a valve(s) plus drainage diverter valves to
empty the pipes so that next time you use each of them you won't have
a head of cold water. In total I count 16 valves or at least handles.
Showering is incompatible with a bathtub. Tubs are for small children
OK but I suspect that you haven't investigated Chicago Faucet's
Quarturn valves, or the Grobe, or some of the English faucets using
Has it leaked yet?
The principle though (of height of shower outlet) is of maximum
importance. It's amazing what even an inch up or down can do. For
children the answer is multiple level shower heads with the desired
one chosen by opening and closing tile stops. (More valves! <g>)
Why not just buy a European style slide bar, with the shower nozzle on the
end of a 5 foot hose? The slide bar allows the head to be infinitely
adjusted over a 2-3 foot height range, and the hose allows you to use it
directly on your pet dog (or the bottom of your feet :-).
There are woodworking tools that perform the function of table saw,
shaper, jointer, plane, etc and probably make coffee when not
otherwise occupied but most of us don't use them. We have dedicated
function machines mostly because the set up time and effort each time
you want to change the job of the multi-function tool is too much. So
it goes here.
Imagine a six year old struggling to re-position that shower head;
even I'd have a problem and I'm sure my wife would just throw up her
hands in horror and insist on an immediate change. Maybe those sliding
showers are OK where the users are all young adults but not for kids
or those of us who require instruction manuals for single lever
faucets (see my other post).
As to the other items these require different heads and to be in
operation concurrently with the main shower (maybe the dog doesn't but
I don't think he's even a candidate for my shower due to his claws).
For ex: the intimate area washing head should produce a stream similar
to a kitchen faucet (this is the sort of stream bidets produce) and
needs to be at a lower temperature than the main shower. Your
shoulders can take a lot more heat than your...er, unmentionables.
The feet washer isn't exactly for washing and isn't really a shower.
The purpose is to soak your toenails preparatory to cutting them,
something shower-only people give short shrift too. I don't really
know how to do this but someone must have figured it out (wishful
I can't agree with you here. The slide bar with a handset on a hose is
easy to use, infinitely adjustable, and requires no effort to switch from
one use to another. You can get slidebars that are usable (and adjustable)
by anyone old enough to take a shower by themselves. Match this with a
faucet that allows fast and precise temperature (and volume) changes, and
you have a very nice system indeed.
I did something similiar when I built my bathroom; I have separate
calves for shower and tub, both placed on the SIDE where you can adjust
temperature without getting scalded. The tub spout has a diverter and a
shower head on a hose for tub cleaning, kids, etc.
Free men own guns, slaves don't
Personally, I liked the "Perfect Guy Bathroom" on an episode of "Home
Improvement" years ago:
-Seamless stainless steel wall & floors, and a floor drain so the whole room
could be hosed down like a butcher shop
-Large TV behind sealed glass, with a windshield wiper, visible from toilet
Other stuff, too, but I don't recall them all. Too funny, though. :-)
Wouldn't this have expansion and contraction problems? Further
seamless SS the size of a bathroom would be impossible. Maybe welded
seams. The central floor drain however is a great idea but you know
what you're probably going to end up with: institutional showers as in
a gym. Monolithic concrete walls and floor and indeed a high pressure
hose for cleaning.
Of course - welding would be the only way. That works, though.
Why concrete? Regular studs would support the metal. And, I like the idea of
the hose! Think of the typical bathroom - you need two or three approaches
for cleaning the various materials (tile, painted wall, or wallpaper, if
you're insane). Stainless steel - one approach.
I don't think you will find a book describing the ergonomics of faucet
handles, and some of your questions won't have any "right answer". Faucet
handles should be easy to grasp, obvious in function, consistent in their
actions, and require low force levels to move. Everything else is style.
If it worries you, you can put in automatic sensors that turn the water on
whenever you get near the shower nozzle -- no faucet handles at all.
For a book that describes human body sizes, movements, and the required
Human Dimensions & Interior Space
Juliues Panero and MArtin Zelnik
If you want recommendations for your shower, just ask. I am certainly
happy with my latest shower, including the faucet handles.
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