Retrofit Shower Panels: Bathroom Remodeling on a Budget

Updated on September 29, 2017
wilderness profile image

Dan has been a homeowner for some 40 years and has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks. He is a licensed electrician.

Adding a shower panel to a tub or old shower stall can make a huge difference in appearance and function
Adding a shower panel to a tub or old shower stall can make a huge difference in appearance and function | Source

What Is A Shower Panel?

These devices are relatively new on the market and many haven't seen or heard of them, so just what is a shower panel, and why a retrofit panel in particular.

Shower panels are devices designed to replace the shower head in your tub or shower. An attractive panel, usually of stainless steel aluminum or glass, is hung in the tub or shower enclosure and will typically have several spray heads spread over it. The photo above is fairly typical of shower panels in general. Adding a shower panel is ideal for those doing a bathroom remodel on a budget; they are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

Most shower panels, however, are designed to be installed during the construction phase of the bathroom and are difficult (though not impossible as we will see) to install years down the road. A retrofit panel, then, is one designed to be easily installed long after the home is occupied. Take a glance over the small selection (there are dozens more available) below from Amazon as well as the photos following them for a better understanding of what the panels can look like, and how they might operate.

Shower Panel Installation

Installing one of these great panels is very easy, at least if it is of the retrofit type. The next section will detail what was necessary to install one that wasn't, and it was considerably more difficult.

Although manufacturers will always vary some, the typical panel will be hung on small brackets fixed to the wall, either by fastening to a stud if there is one available in the right spot or by the use of anchors. The panel shown below is installed over ceramic tile, which made it necessary to drill ¼" holes in the tile and a special drill bit had to be purchased, but that was the only difficult part of hanging it.

Plumbing a retrofit panel usually means removing the existing shower head and replacing it with a hose or pipe that will feed water to the panel. This means that existing valves will still be used to turn the water on and adjust the temperature, but in exchange it is very easy to do.

After connecting the water supply the panel is simply fitted over the previously installed brackets, and the job is complete with no further installation necessary. Total time should be under half an hour. You will probably need a good pair of pliers or a pipe wrench, a drill and bit, a tape measure and a screwdriver - all tools you likely already have in your tool kit. Teflon plumbers tape is advisable for sealing pipe joints, but most hoses won't need it.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mounting brackets are hidden behind the center section and the panel simply rests on them.First option for spray - six heads at higher pressure.Second option - a hand held wand.Third option - a normal shower head, although a nice one.
Mounting brackets are hidden behind the center section and the panel simply rests on them.
Mounting brackets are hidden behind the center section and the panel simply rests on them. | Source
First option for spray - six heads at higher pressure.
First option for spray - six heads at higher pressure. | Source
Second option - a hand held wand.
Second option - a hand held wand. | Source
Third option - a normal shower head, although a nice one.
Third option - a normal shower head, although a nice one. | Source

Many tubs and showers have ceramic tile on the walls. A special diamond drill bit must be used to drill the mounting holes for your new panel as a regular bit will at best do nothing and will more likely crack the tile and ruin it.

The most common size necessary is ¼", but some manufacturers panels may require a different size bit. Unless you know what size will be needed it might be better to buy a small selection.

Installing a Non Retrofit Panel

The shower panel shown here was purchased as a Christmas gift by someone with no knowledge of installation, and was not a retrofit panel. Nevertheless it was decided to modify the connections somewhat and see if it couldn't be used rather than returning it and choosing something in a retrofit style. It came with hot and cold water hoses that were supposed to replace the existing valve, but it would have meant tearing out the ceramic tile and replacing the wall - some other method of providing water to it had to be found.

The old shower head was removed and a special PVC plastic water pipe fitting was installed in its place. The fitting was a Y, with one part of the Y screwing into the place the old shower head was and with the other two legs pointing down at an angle. Additional PVC pipe was added to lengthen it to the point that the hoses in the shower panel would reach, whereupon each hose was attached to the plastic pipe.

The end result was some extra piping that allowed water to enter the panel through the old shower head that was all hidden behind the panel so as not to be visible. This means that the main water valve in the panel must be left on but is otherwise useless; water is turned on and temperature adjusted via the old faucet and tub diverter.

It wasn't the best arrangement possible as the old faucets and tub spout are still in use, and visitors sometimes have a little difficulty with it, but it works and isn't unsightly.

Any non retrofit panel that you might use will need to be modified in some way unless you have access to the piping inside the wall as that's where they are designed to hook up. Jury rigs, such as was used here, are often possible but of course there is no guarantee of that. If you don't want to open the wall, a retrofit shower panel should be purchased if possible.

If your bath remodelling project is on a limited budget hiring someone to open the wall and restore it while also hooking up the plumbing may be out of reach, but the retrofit shower panel may not be. Or if you are handy at home repair, you may able to modify the hookups similar to what was done here.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Dan Harmon

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Anthony 

        3 years ago

        What brand of manifold do i need to install a blue ocean 52" spa392m

      • wilderness profile imageAUTHOR

        Dan Harmon 

        6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

        Glad you enjoyed it and you are more than welcome.

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 

        6 years ago from Wales

        So well informed and interesting so thank you for sharing and enjoy your day.

        Eddy.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)