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Concealed Or Exposed Shower Valves

Selecting a shower valve can be tricky given the variety of different types available and abundance of plumbing industry jargon. But do your research first and, you will be better placed to make an informed decision about which valve is right for your bathroom and your budget.


Concealed Shower Valves

A concealed shower valve is simply a built-in valve that is concealed behind the tiling in a shower enclosure. The only visible part of a concealed shower valve is the chrome control plate and handles; the rest sits neatly out of sight within the wall. The main benefit of having this type of shower valve is that it effectively masks any ugly pipework and fittings to create a more aesthetically pleasing look.

Another advantage to choosing a concealed shower valve is the flexibility of design options that it provides, such as the choice of shaped wall plates and variety of different handle options.

Before purchasing a concealed shower valve, it’s important to think about the recess you’ll need behind your tiling in your shower enclosure.Concealed shower valves typically need a recess depth of around 100mm. If you don’t have this space available, you can build a thin stud wall at one end of your shower. Once tiled, this blends seamlessly in with the rest of your room and provides the perfect place to hide away valve and plumbing. If you don't want to do this, you will need to opt for an exposed valve instead.

We often get asked whether it is difficult to access a concealed shower valve in case anything goes wrong in the future. Luckily, concealed valves are designed with this access in mind, and the handles themselves are easily removed to uncover the cartridges just behind, which can be removed for cleaning or replacing if necessary.

Exposed Shower Valves

Unlike a concealed shower valve where the working parts are out of sight, an exposed shower valve is typically a horizontal bar that sits outside of the wall and houses all of its working parts within. It isn’t such a neat look, but it is usually cheaper to buy and cheaper to install.

Exposed shower valves are a good choice if you have solid brick walls that are unable to house a concealed shower valve. They are quicker and easier to fit as it is only the hot and cold water pipe feeds that need ‘chasing in’ within the wall, not the whole valve. This should reduce your installation costs slightly.

One more thing to note - concealed valves can be placed on a wall away from the outlet they are controlling. In other words, you could install the valve at the entrance to your shower on one wall, but then situate your shower kit (slide rail, fixed head etc) within your shower on the opposite side. You do not have the same flexibility with an exposed shower valve as you are limited by the length of the shower hose.

Manual Shower Valves

Manual shower valves are cheap and simple to use. Think of them much like a basin mono tap, where you tilt and turn a lever to set flow and temperature.  They are usually suitable for low and high pressure, although be careful to check the pressure rating as some of them have a diverter which can cause them to require high pressure to obtain a decent flow.

Typically a single lever will often operate both the temperature and flow rate of the water. The main drawback with a manually controlled shower valve is that there is no ‘thermostatic’ control. In other words, if you’re merrily having a shower and someone turns a tap on or flushes the toilet elsewhere in the house, you might just find yourself dancing around trying to get out the way of scalding hot or freezing cold water. Certainly not fun, and not ideal if you have young children.

Manual shower valves are fine if you live on your own, or if you like the thrill of never knowing just when a blast of freezing water is on its way, but not great for most showering applications. However, they come in handy when combined with a bath overflow filler and/or a pull-out handset, two applications where thermostatic control of the water isn’t particularly essential.

Thermostatic Shower Valve

The purpose of a thermostatic shower valve is to give you precise control over the water temperature of your shower.

A thermostatic shower valve is designed to maintain water temperature within a +/- 2°C range so there isn’t a noticeable variance in temperature change when you’re showering. If there is a sudden reduction in incoming flow of hot or cold, the thermostatic valve will respond to compensate and keep a constant temperature. If either hot or cold water fails, thermostatic valves will shut off to prevent scalding.

Usually, a thermostatic shower valve has 2 or 3 handles depending on how many outlets you want to control. One of the handles will be the independent temperature control. Once you’ve found the perfect temperature position, this can then be left, meaning you can have your perfect temperature shower every day of the week. Because there’s no longer a need to mess around with water temperatures or spend time fiddling with the levers you can save time, water and energy.

Thermostatic shower valves can also be digitally controlled for a more precise temperature. A remote control panel can be placed within or outside your shower enclosure so you need not have to step into a running shower to get that perfect temperature before you hop in.

At A Glance:

Concealed Shower Valves:

  • Hide away working parts – looks neater
  • More expensive to fit and often more expensive to buy
  • More flexibility with placement of valve and outlets
  • More design options, shapes and styles to match taps and rest of bathroom


Exposed Shower Valves:

  • Whole valve is exposed – Not as neat
  • Quicker and therefore cheaper to install and often cheaper to buy
  • Shower kit must be placed with valve due to shower hose
  • More limited design options


Manual Shower Valve

  • Lack of thermostatic control means sudden changes in water temperature
  • Manually controlled only
  • Not suitable for young children
  • Good for use with overflow bath filler & pullout handset
  • Cheap


Thermostatic Shower Valve

  • Precise thermostatic control will automatically adjust to keep a constant temperature
  • Digitally or manually controlled
  • Suitable for young children
  • Use with any outlet you want precise control of temperature
  • Slightly pricier than manual valve


Ready to start shopping? Visit our Shower Valves category.

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