Restoration February 22, 2022

A Smart 1901 Shower

Old home preservationists follow the following principle: If the home’s original fiber exists do everything possible to preserve it. If the original fiber no longer exists, find a vintage substitute that reflects the style of your home, made during the period your home was built. If you can’t source a vintage substitution, use a reproduction that most closely mimics what your home originally had.

Sometimes that simple principle is difficult to implement. I wanted to preserve my vintage tub/shower faucets but couldn’t keep them from leaking. They aren’t the original faucets (the originals didn’t exist), they are period-correct antique faucets. I couldn’t find other antique faucets that weren’t equally likely to leak. I searched for Victorian style reproduction faucets. They exist, but not with the weird centers I was dealing with. I admit to being a momentary jealous of those who have modern showers. Showers that don’t require dialing in the 1/64” sweet spot to bring in just enough cold water to achieve something between frigid and scalding.

Could there be a solution that provided all modern conveniences while bypassing the existing vintage works and keeping them as ornament? I searched and found that there is! U by Moen is a smart shower that lives within the wall, only the control panel is visible. If you want to rely on voice command or the phone app you can forgo the control panel and have no visible clue that the shower isn’t 100 years old. The equipment plus professional installation (by Field Club neighbor owned Red D Plumbing) totaled about $1,700. Moen also sells a $50 battery back-up in case of power outages. I took a pass on the battery back-up figuring that if I need to bathe during a power outage, I could just use the tub or shower in the other bathrooms.

The retired original faucets remain, but for show only. Best oof all, I didn’t need to disturb any of the 120-year-old subway tile. Now I start my morning with, “Alexa, start my shower.” I walk straight into perfect 130-degree water and, if I like, I can change the temp one degree at a time using the controller. Now if I could just stop trying to shut off the shower by reaching for old faucets…