Looking for some advice in planning out my shower remodel

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New Jersey
Hi, I am new here and looking for some advice. I am DIYing a shower remodel and need some help planning out what products to get. This is going to be a walk in shower and I want a rain shower head and separate handheld shower head. My goal is to not spend top dollar because this is for a townhouse and I won't get the return for spending top dollar on high end products. Pardon my lack of knowledge as I am learning as I go.

That said, I came across the Hansgrohe iBox universal rough in. What purpose does this serve? What are the benefits of this product? If I get this, what other parts do I need? Obvious things that I can think of are the two shower heads; some kind of knob to turn on the water and direct it either to the overhead or handheld shower head (or both simultaneously), control the temperature, pressure, volume, etc. What other major components would I need that would go behind the wall/tiles?

Looking at rain showerheads, this Hansgrohe Raindance AIR showerhead seems to be very well reviewed, and I realize Hansgrohe is a high end brand, so it must be a quality product. But I am a little wary about spending $300+ on a showerhead alone. Is there something similar on the market that is at a lower pricepoint? How are some cheaper ones like this AKDY or this Delta ones?

I also came across thermostatic shower valves, but doing some research into what function it serves, I think it might be overkill for a townhouse. Correct me if I am wrong, but all it does extra is that is maintains optimal temperature and prevents burns in case cold water flow is cut. I've never had temperature change problem when flushing toilet or turning on faucet while the shower is on. So I don't think I need this. Or do I? I would like to be able to regulate the volume of water diverted to either head though. What type of control system would I need?

Finally, I was initially thinking about building a tiled shower floor and even did some research into it. But talking to a plumber he cautioned me that grouts always discolor with a shower floor and it is lot harder to keep clean than a premade shower base. Does anyone know anything about the DreamLine shower pans? Or is better to go with a name brand like this Kohler one?

Thanks much in advance!
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Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx
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New England
Re the thermostatically controlled valves; every valve you can legally install in a shower has a means to prevent scalding. Most of them use what is called a pressure balance valve inside to provide that feature - doesn't matter if you want it or not, it's required by code. Most of the valves do not control volume (don't confuse this with pressure, which is determined by what comes into your house), but only control the mix of hot/cold. A thermostatically controlled valve lets you set the desired temperature, and then, even if your WH started to run out of hot, it would automatically adjust the hot/cold mix to try to keep the temperature the same until there was not enough hot. As the seasons change, without the thermostatically controlled valve, you have to adjust where your sweet spot is since the cold getting into the mix will be getting colder, and the outlet temp is going to drop unless you do something about it. A good thermostatically controlled valve, you can set the desired sweet spot on temp, and then just turn the water on/off. Personally, I like it, but it is a luxury that does cost more.

Grout color changes naturally when it gets wet, but yes, it can also be stained. A sealer can help, but won't stop either the moisture nor staining completely. Mold on the grout is more of a cleanliness and construction issue. There are epoxy grouts that do not change color when wet, and are pretty immune to mold, at least anything that penetrates.

A conventional showerpan has around an inch of porous deckmud beneath the tile that can become damp. Normally, it drains (the tile is NOT the waterproof layer, the liner is, and some moisture will get beneath the tile) and there isn't any standing water in the pan beneath the tile, but there can be if things aren't done properly. When this is not installed well, there can be standing water beneath the tile, and this will promote mold and darker grout, since it is literally constantly wet. My preference is to use a surface waterproofing system, so that no moisture ever gets into a thick layer beneath the tile, so the entire shower dries out faster. There are numerous vendors that make systems to do this, the one I like is from www.schluter.com. If you go to that site and look at Kerdi showers, they have some videos and documentation you can watch/read to educate yourself on this type of shower build. FWIW, Schluter has been around in the USA for 25-years now, and in Germany, longer. A conventional shower, done right, does work, and is reliable, but there are advantages to a surface applied membrane system.

There are lots of details on layout that affect the overall appearance and utility of the shower, but deciding on the construction method of the guts is the first major decision. Decide if you want some niches to store stuff, or a bench, or other features. Doing them with some techniques is easier than with others - you have to look at the whole picture. Even a simple shower still needs some thought to optimize it's function and appearance.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of precast shower pans. Some are better than others, but they don't give you much flexibility in design, and, some are just plain flimsy. If they aren't installed properly, they can flex, and eventually stress cracks show up...ending in failure in the end. You have little flexibility on where the drain goes, and adding features like a bench may not be easy, if possible at all (although there are some floating, wall mounted benches from Innova (sp?) that work well - google 'betterbench').
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