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7 Myths about One Level (Curbless) Showers

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

7 Myths about Curbless One Level Showers | Innovate Building Solutions

 

Updated March 10 2018

When most people think about a one level (curbless) shower the words which come to mind are – Grandma, wheelchair, roll in, walker and handicapped. While a curbless shower certainly can be a need for grandma in a wheelchair or a person with mobility challenges to safely enjoy their shower, it’s about much more than that. From my experience a one level shower can be cool, contemporary, stylish all while providing a functional design which will work for life. Let’s take a look at 7 myths about one level showers and bust them wide open.

Myth 1 – Barrier free showers aren’t contemporary

As a person who loves a sleek, minimalist contemporary design (you’ll see a lot of these if you check out my company Pinterest account) the one level design does an excellent job breaking down the barriers between spaces in a bathroom. This is helpful because bathroom spaces are usually small and one larger room can create a sense of room, comfort and style.

In one design my remodeling business (Cleveland Design and Remodeling) installed the owners Robin and Pat Baranack specifically chose a one level shower because they wanted to create the clean design of a hip hotel room they stayed in while vacationing in San Diego California. You can see from the picture below even their dog Lucy loves the shower!

Contemporary one level curb less shower in Cleveland Ohio Broadview Heights suburb | Innovate Building Solutions

A one level shower even “Lucy” loves

 

Myth 2 – You need a big bathroom for a one level shower

I will grant you creating a one level shower in a small bathroom takes more planning than picking up a standard fiberglass pan at your local home center store. With that being said a wet room (also called a one level curbless shower) is not as mystifying as contractors make it out to be. They key is to have the right system so you’re not going through a major ordeal cutting joists and dropping the height of your subfloor.

The simplest way our company has found to make a wet room one level shower in a small space is to use a shower base former and waterproofing kit. The base former comes in sizes as small as 32” x 32” to accommodate very small showers. As Adam Droesller (National Sales Manager of ARC Inc. a supplier of these systems) says, “Actually one of the top features of curbless showers is the fact they open up the bathroom by 20-25% vs. designing with a curb.” You’ll see these designs everyone in Europe and Asia where space is tight. In the United States – we’re finally beginning to catch up.

One level wet room bathrom in a 5' x 7' small bath space using a wet room system. Love how the tile spills out onto the bathroom floor. | Innovate Building Solutions

One level shower in a 5′ x 7′ bathroom

Click here to download

Myth 3 – You can’t add a door in a curb free shower

Some people love the design aesthetic of a clean-looking doorless walk in shower, but others are passionate about having a door to keep the showering space warmer – especially during the cold winter months (and we have a few of those where I live in Ohio). You’re question might be, “Can I have the best of both worlds?” The answer is yes. For a luxurious one level shower choose either a frameless glass enclosure or a shower screen (also called a shower shield). You’ll stay warm and it’s easy to get into.

Roll in curbless shower with a frameless glass shower door. Using a shower screen which pivots inside and outside also makes a roll in shower warmer. | Innovate Building Solutions

A frameless door does not take away from the looks of this open curbless shower

Myth 4 – There is no one in my town who knows what they are doing installing a curbless shower

While this may be true there is research you can do which can provide you with a list of potential contractors who are knowledgeable and skilled at this work. The power of the Internet can help you be victorious over crotchety old-school contractors in your town.

First I’d recommend going to the National Association of Home Builders web site and look for contractors with a CAPS designation (this stands for Certified Aging in Place Specialist). Yes I personally have this CAPS certification but I have to admit I hate the name because as a 58 year old guy I have no plans to “age in place!” People with this designation have deepened their knowledge in topics like curbless showers and universal and accessible design approaches. If you can get a local expert in this product – get them. If you can’t find an experienced roll in shower supplier who can help you contractor get their arms around this type of installation when they are a ‘newbie.”

This barrier free wet room shower shows the waterproof tile wall board and shower base former during the installation process. The floor was not yet waterproofed. | Innovate Building Solutions

This in project job was installed by Cleveland Design and Remodeling (a CAPS) contractor in the Cleveland suburb of Broadview Heights.

Another recommendation to get this project done right from my good friend Rosemarie Rossetti (a nationally known speaker on universal and accessible design and owner of the Universal Design Living Laboratory) is, “Installers need to watch the manufacturers’ videos and read the instructions on curbless showers. If my husband, Mark can do it, a seasoned contractor can certainly make it happen.” I would have to tell Rosemarie – don’t cut Mark short though – ha! ha!

Myth 5 – There are not many products on the market for barrier free shower pans

As the need (healthcare advances are helping us to live longer – but not always age as gracefully as we might like) and desire (one level bathrooms provide a sleek contemporary look which is a hot trend in bath remodeling today) the products have grown consistently with demand. Here’s one option – the shower base former I discussed in Myth 2.

This glass reinforced pan (the same material aircrafts are made with is a shower base former which is used in a one level wet room or roll in shower. It is simple to install and makes it possible to create a one floor bathroom without dropping the floor or cutting joists. | Innovate Building Solutions

A popular one level curbless shower base former system makes a simple to install one level bathroom without cutting into floor joists

A second option is an expanded polystyrene ready for tile shower pan. With this pan you simply place it on your subfloor and then tile over it and you have a barrier free shower.

 

Finally a third option – if you absolutely HATE tile (and the scrub brush which goes with it) is to use a ramped solid surface shower pan. They come in 51 colors and both smooth and matte finish. Once you’ve got this shower pan down you can – as the New Yorker’s say – “fuggaboutit!”

Myth 6 – You can’t have a lot of water sources in an open shower

Definitely not true! If you use a wet room system – where you waterproof the entire bathroom floor – you can create a spa-like environment like something out of the Jetsons cartoon from the 70’s and spray yourself into the next galaxy.

Multiple jets can be used for a spa like experience in a one level shower. The use of the linear drain with larger floor tiles in this one level system is also nice to minimize the number of grout joints in the tile floor. | Innovate Building Solutions

Like something out of the Jetsons!

While lots of water may be fun it’s also not the most environmentally responsible way to go. As aging in place specialist Rosemarie Rossetti commented to me, “We put in a single hand held shower in our bathroom. This unit was a WaterSense faucet (meeting the EPA criterion) which saves water and is forceful enough to get the shampoo out of your hair quickly as well.”

Click here to download

Myth 7 – A bath and shower design must be simple for a one level shower –

In many ways I think it is easier to create a more elaborate tile design with an open shower because the bathroom and shower are one “continuous” space without having to “enclose” the shower. Check out this design below – does it look simple to you? I love how the tile patterns flows through the room. This hot design is not compartmentalized by separate spaces in the room.

This exotic pebble tile shower design flows into and out of the shower enclosure. It's also nice it incorporates a one level design so it's simple for people of any ages or abilities to get into or out of the shower. | Innovate Building Solutions

The pebble tile shower and bathroom wall design demands to be seen!

Did this article dispel any of the myths you had about a one level shower? Please comment or call one of the numbers below for additional input or a quote on products for a one level shower. I love hearing your comments and questions!

For nationwide supply of one level showers and other unique bathroom products call Innovate Building Solutions (877-668-5888). For regional installation service from Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) contact The Bath Doctor in Cleveland (216-531-6085) or Columbus (614-252-7294).

Thanks for reading this article. I am a passionate (that’s a nice word for over the top at times) remodeling and national construction supply entrepreneur who loves learning and writing about remodeling, design and bathroom project. If you’re a Twitter fan follow me @Mike_Foti and his company @InnovateBuild.

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Mike Foti

President of Innovate Building Solutions a nationwide supplier and regional (Cleveland and Columbus) remodeling contractors. Some of our product lines include glass counters, floors, backsplashes, glass blocks and grout free shower and tub wall panels

Comments (25)

  • Mike Foti

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    Mary – you do not have to have a tile shower to do a walk in shower. The key with a walk in shower is having enough room for it and having a shower system which keeps the water inside. It’s nice in smaller walk in showers to either have a pivoting door or a curved glass (or glass block) shower wall which directs the water back towards the drain. Thanks for your excellent question! Mike 877-668-5888.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Michael – with the wet room systems today you don’t have to ‘drop the floor’ in order to have a wet room system. With a ‘shower base former’ – which is 7/8″ thick you can cut the subfloor, put the base former directly on the joists, then bring your tile underlayment (cement board etc) and waterproof the room. We would be happy to help you and your contractor learn more about this system. They are very popular in Europe and getting more popular in the United States – but it still is taking more education. I will email you to see if I can help further. Mike

    Reply

  • Michael Spivey

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    I have a 10′ x 5.5′ shower in my new construction home. We are going to be dried in next week so we are meeting with the tile guy about the bathroom tile and shower tiles. He is telling me there is no way to do a curbless shower without dropping the subfloor. All of the linear drains he shows me sit on top of the subfloor so he is telling the the shower floor must be at least 2 inches above the bathroom floor to achieve any drainage. I am so frustrated, he uses schulter systems , I am going to show him this s”wetroom stuff and see if I can get him to use it. THanks for the article and links!

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Thanks for your interest in our one level curbless showers. Since we wholesale these across the country we can help you directly. Feel free to call at 877-668-5888. Thanks – Mike

    Reply

  • L Ringel

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    Where can we find info on this product. We’re involved in a large bathroom remodel (down to studs now) and are on a slab foundation. Would this product work for us? We’d like a curbless shower 77×40

    Reply

  • Mary Herrema

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    I want to remove a fiberglass tub with shower upstairs with a walk in shower with glass door. Can you use a glass door on a fiberglass walk in shower or do you have to use tile walk in shower?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Kevin – thanks for your question. If you are comfortable installing a shower pan – you should be just fine installing a curbless shower. There are several options – either the one level wet room system (with the waterproofing kit and the shower base former these usually run about $1,900). Another option would be the barrier free ramped solid surface shower – in a 60 x 36 size you would be looking at about $1,400. The last option would be a ready for tile shower pan (which you would still have the cost to tile over) and the price for it would be about $1,100. Let me know how we can help you next. Mike

    Reply

  • Kevin couch

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    Mike, is a curbless shower something a home owner should try on their own? We want to remodel our master bath, but want to keep the cost down? Any ideas on what a 36″ x 60″ shower would run? We are in Springfield, ohio

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    I’m glad the article was easy for you to understand – that is exactly what I’m trying to do – and maybe have you chuckle a little along the way. If I (or a member of my team) can assist you with your upstairs remodel feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Brandi – there is nothing wrong with being 43 – I wish I was – ha! ha! It’s a good idea to find someone with the CAPS (Certified Aging in Place) designation. Let me know if we can help you with any of our systems. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Alicia – I love that you are “70 years young” – please stay that way! I can send you an email to some roll in shower products and wall panels which may be of value to you. Also feel free to go to our site or call us 877-668-5888 and we can go through the specifics with you. Mike

    Reply

  • Alicia Jimenez

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    Hola Mike
    I am 70 years young and have lots of medical problems. I am in the process to remodeling my bathroom to make it handicapped accessible
    My shower is long and narrow, approximately 38” x 98”. I want two benches and a curbless entry.
    Any information will be greatly appreciated
    Alicia

    Reply

  • Brandi

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    Great article!! I am “only” 43 and have a hot tub in my yard, I am ripping out the dumb tub….does anyone use a tub anymore?, and going to hopefully add a small curbless shower. I will do some research with CAPS certified like you suggested! Yay! I am excited to get this going.

    Reply

  • D Giardelli

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    Thank you for a great article that well easy to understand for the person who “is not a contractor” I have a very small upstairs bathroom currently with a small neo angle shower, after reading you article I’m thinking this might just be perfect for our remodel 🙂 Thanks again.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Rosa – thanks for your nice comments. Yes – it is helpful to work with a CAPS certified contractor because they have more background in products and installation methods with accessible or universal showers. Let me know if we can help you further! Mike

    Reply

  • Rosa Garcia

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    Great article, thank you! Looking to have one installed and the CAPS designation is very helpful..

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Tamar – I’m glad you found this article about one level curbless showers helpful for your husband. I will plan to send you an email with some links to our site and blog posts. Let me know if we can help further. Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Thanks Erica for your comment on our post. I will get an email out to you to talk more about an accessible bathroom for your husband – Mike

    Reply

  • Tamar Haller

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    I’m wanting to have some renovations done to our existing bathroom to accommodate my husband. He had a stroke and has limited mobility. Please send me any info you have. Thanks

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Erica – we have not used your product but you could certainly feel free to follow up with me. We are seeing a lot of growth one level bathrooms and showers.

    Reply

  • Erica Greenwold Reisen

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    Mike, have you used the VIM Products Level Entry Shower System™? If not, I highly recommend getting in touch with us to learn more. We have developed a versatile Level Entry Shower System with a 10-Year Warranty. Most importantly, our system does not require you to cut into existing floor supports and offers superior waterproofing than other curbless shower products on the market. Our kit includes just about everything you will need for the job and the pan itself comes in two sizes but can also be cut to custom sizes. I would love to share more information with you if you are interested! I look forward to hearing from you!

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Jack – our company can do just the shower (or provide the one level barrier free shower pan and waterproofing kit). Give us a call and we can discuss your project in greater detail.

    Reply

  • Jack Burkhart

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    Mike I have a 32 X 48 opening in my shower. My wife has MS so I am wanting to replace this shower for a curbless one. I am pretty handy but not sure I can handle the pan project. The shower is just a standard shower with fiber glass pan and glass doors. The tile has came loose because the builder did not use concrete board behind the standard tile. I want to replace it all. Can you find a person to just do the shower? I can redo the rest. I seem to be having trouble finding that person.
    Thanks

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Tara – I’m glad you found this article of use for your grandmothers home! Let us know if we can help you further with any products or installation advice.

    Reply

  • Tara Jones

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    I love that you can use a smaller bathroom to accommodate a curbless shower. My grandmother recently was wheelchair bound and we’re planning on making improvements to her home to make it more accessible and we were scratching our heads about the shower situation because her bathrooms are all fairly small. I love the picture that you gave of the small bathroom – that is such a creative (but beautiful) use of floor space. Thanks for dispelling that myth!

    Reply

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