How Do You Install a Shower? Follow This Guide

by Team HomeServe
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Installing a Shower at a Glance

  • Tools & Materials: Level, electric drill, caulk, hole saw, cedar shims, shower unit
  • Step 1: Drill pilot holes
  • Step 2: Prep fixture holes
  • Step 3: Move unit into place
  • Step 4: Caulk corners and base
  • Step 5: Attach door
  • Step 6: Install shower pan

Whenever plumbing is involved in a DIY project, people worry about what might go wrong. The truth is that installing a shower isn’t that complicated, and you can save a lot of money by doing it yourself. You shouldn’t need to make any alterations to your plumbing to complete the job, and most of the tools you need will be provided in your new shower kit.

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Before you dive in, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the process. Here’s everything you need to know about shower installation — including a handy step-by-step guide.

Can I Install a Shower Myself?

Even if you’ve never installed a shower before, you’ll find this to be a project that is perfectly suited for DIYers with a moderate level of experience. Whether you're doing a bathtub conversion or installing a new stall, most of what you need comes in shower kits that you can purchase from a hardware store. The first thing you need to do is determine what type of shower stall you want.

Single-panel stalls are the easiest to install because they come preassembled. All you need to do is put them in place. Multi-panel showers require a few additional steps, but you’ve got more control over the appearance of your unit. Multi-panel units are also much easier to handle if you’re going to do the installation without any help.

Be sure to take all appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing eye protection and gloves. When you’re removing or installing a shower unit, you might kick up debris that could hurt your eyes. You’ll also need to work with equipment that will get extremely hot, so be sure to have safety gloves handy.

Tools and Materials

Now that you’ve picked out your new shower, you’re ready to install it. You’ll need the following tools and equipment. All of the screws, nails and fasteners you’ll need should come in the kit you purchased.

  • 2- to 4-foot level
  • Electric drill with a 1/8-inch drill bit
  • Caulk
  • 2-inch hole saw
  • Cedar shims
  • The unit itself

Before You Begin: Prep the Space

It’s highly important to measure your space accurately before putting the stall in. Measuring from the floor upward and from each corner outward will ensure you’ve got the right measurements. What you’re looking for is where the plumbing apparatuses are going to come through the stall. Transfer these measurements over to the back of your unit by drawing the locations of these holes using a pencil or marker.

Pull out your old shower and make sure to scrape off all the old caulking. Be thorough because you want to work with smooth surfaces for the best installation. Once you’ve pulled out your existing shower, you need to make sure that the floor is clean and dry. The best way to clean debris is with a shop vacuum, as it’ll soak up water and dirt together.

If you’re experiencing any plumbing issues, such as low water pressure, this is a perfect opportunity to solve them. Make sure that the pipes themselves are not in need of patching and clean your showerhead. When you turn the water back on after your project, check the pipes for signs of wear or disrepair. Anything beyond minor repairs should be handled by a plumber, and this is the best time to bring in a professional.

If the floor has any moisture at all, don’t proceed until it’s completely dry. The last thing you need is for the floor to rot or invite mold and mildew into your base. Once everything is dry, apply waterproof wallboard to the walls. This can be attached with screws or nails, then sealed with caulk so that water doesn’t seep into any crevices.

How to Install a Shower With Single Panel Installation

Now that you’ve prepared your space, here’s how to install your shower:

Step 1: Drill Pilot Holes

The markings you made on the back of your unit will be your guide. You always want to drill from the back of the unit to make it easier to use the hole saw. Don’t rush this process; working hastily could damage the finish.

Step 2: Prepare the Fixture Holes

Take your time because the hole saw will get extremely hot during this step. Don’t force it and allow the hole saw to do the work for you while it cuts. Make sure to drill from the inside, and don’t be surprised if you see or smell smoke. It’s important to wear eye protection during this step.

Step 3: Move the Unit Into Place

Now that you’ve gotten this far, all you need to do is place the unit into its spot against the walls. Your kit will come with all the screws or nails you need, as well as a set of instructions on how to attach the unit to the wall. Items such as handles and flanges are often designed to snap into place but defer to the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure.

Step 4: Caulk the Corners and Base

It’s important to make your shower watertight before allowing any water to contact the walls or floor. Use caulk to seal every single crevice and then wait at least 24 hours before running water. If you want to be extra cautious, you can wait up to 72 hours to ensure the caulk is fully cured.

Step 5: Attach the Shower Doors

Read the instructions carefully to determine if your shower doors snap into the unit or require screws or fasteners. Make sure that the doors are level and that they open and close without any resistance.

Step 6: Fit the Shower Pan

Make sure to line the drain hole up with the drainpipe. Use your level to ensure the shower pan is fitted properly. You can usually screw the drain cover into the shower pan and then relevel it with cedar shims before applying the caulk to the base. If you don’t level your shower pan, it’ll leak on you. Let the caulk dry, and you’re good to go.

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How to Install a Multi-Panel Shower

Installing a multi-panel shower is a similar process, but you’ll need to go through a few extra steps. You’ll need to mark each panel beforehand and read the instructions to determine in what order they need to be installed. Test fit all your panels before securing them to the walls. You may need to use adhesive for some kits, but others come with fasteners to mount the panels to the walls. Simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions and work slowly. To prevent leaks, make sure that each piece is level before you install the next one.

What Do You Put Under the Shower Base?

Unless you’re a fan of mold and wood rot, you’ll want to consider what rests underneath your shower pan. Waterproofing your floor is important, and many people make the mistake of skipping this step when they install a new shower. Most shower bases are waterproofed using mortar, which provides a layer between the floor and your shower pan.

In addition to waterproofing your floor, mortar will help you level the shower pan itself. If you’ve purchased a DIY shower kit, chances are it came with the type of mortar you need. The best practice is to apply the mortar beneath the shower pan. If you wish to tile your shower floor, install the tiles on top of the pan instead of directly to the shower base.