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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 Shower

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

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 does take 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 some 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.”

One level wet room bathrom in a 5' x 7' small bath space

One level shower in a 5′ x 7′ bathroom

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).

Roll in curbless shower with a frameless glass shower door

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 55 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.

Barrier free wet room shower and waterproof wall board during the installation process

This in process job was installed by Cleveland Design and Remodeling (a CAPS) contractor

Another recommendation from 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.”

Myth 5 – There are not many products on the market for one level showers

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. Some options include the shower base former I discussed in Myth 2 and extruded and expanded polystyrene base systems as well.

one level curbless shower base and waterproofing wet room system

A popular one level curbless shower base former system

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 for a spa like experience in a one level wet room

Like something out of the Jetsons!

While lots of water may be fun it is also environmentally responsible to be mindful of water conservation. As 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.”

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 embraces a more “continuous” space without having to “enclose” the shower. Check out this design below – does it look simple to you?

Exotic tile layout in a one level shower

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

Mike Foti is a passionate entrepreneur who happens to be in the remodeling and national construction supply business. Follow Mike on Twitter @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 (11)

  • 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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