The Ultimate Slidebar or Hand Shower Buying Guide
There are many variations of hand-shower/slide-bar solutions available today, and finding the perfect fit for your home isn't always easy. In this site I hope to provide you with relevant and necessary information you need to make a more informed purchase you won't regret. There are a couple of different types of slide-bar/hand-shower solutions available to today's consumers. Retro-fit systems that use your existing shower rough-in or full shower wall tear down and reconfiguration. The best solution for you largely depends on what you would like to accomplish and the amount of your hard earned dollars you're willing to spend.
The most common and more expensive options when it comes to Slidebar Hand shower fixtures you will see in bathrooms across North America are multiple piece installations that require the existing shower wall to be torn down and reconfigured to accommodate a diverter valve, diverter trim, elbow and more depending on your desires. Most people will replace/upgrade their shower arm and showerheads at the same time to ensure their fixtures match the new slidebar hand shower that is being installed. These types of renovations typically cost over $1000 with a large chunk of that due to the plumbers labor costs on tearing down the wall, and re-doing/customizing the homeowner's shower rough-in. Almost every plumbing fixture manufacturer has this type of slide-bar/hand-shower available. Some manufacturers will advertise and sell theirs as "kits" which will include the hose, elbow, diverter, diverter trim etc. However most manufacturers currently force you to purchase all these components separately, which can get a little daunting if your not familiar with plumbing.
More recently the introduction of retro-fit slidebar/shower systems to the market have allowed plumbers and homeowners with the option to install these units using your existing shower rough-in. They allow you to quickly and cost effectively upgrade your bathroom shower to a more modern look. They're significant in cost savings due to the time it takes a plumber to install versus the time it would take a plumber to demolish and rebuild the shower rough-in. As they say, time is money. These systems feature a built in diverter, rather than in the wall. The units have a rainhead/shower head, a slidebar with hand shower and diverter all in one, and are shockingly easy to install. Most people will not need to call a plumber to install these units. However those who have no plumbing experience at all, should probably call a professional.
Ultimately there aren't many other options available outside of the retro-fit systems and the more traditional full renovation slide-bar/shower systems. There are many variations of these between major brands/manufacturers however when it comes to aesthetics, slide-bar length, finishes, hose length, hand-showers etc. The nice thing about shower fixtures is that the majority of them are interchangeable and compatibility between brands is a plus. If you like a certain hand-shower from brand X than the one that is advertised with the package your buying from brand Y, then you most likely can use the hand-shower from brand X with the rest of the pieces from brand Y. The only other option you realistically have is a shower panel. There are retrofit shower panels available, but are known to restrict water pressure due to their design.
If you are looking for a cost effective way to upgrade your shower and include the hand shower/slidebar, I would go with a retrofit system. Grohe, Hronn, PricePfister are examples of brands that have these type of systems available. Kohler which is a more high end brand has one as well, however it isn't exactly cost effective and they ask you to buy all of the components separately. Discuss with your local professionals what you are looking for and they should be able to let you know what's available and what it will cost you. If you are looking to build the shower of your dreams, and money is not a hindrance I would recommend making a trip to your local wholesale plumbing showroom. Typically plumbing wholesalers, or home builders have a showroom with prebuilt fully functioning showers that will allow you to get an idea of the design and number of components you'd like in your shower. They will also be able to advise you on all the additional items you may need such as doors, body sprays, soap dispensers, grab bars, LED lights and other tech features that are constantly coming to market changing the way we bathe.