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Advantages and Disadvantages of a Curbless Walk in Shower

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling

Advantages and Disadvantages of Curbless Walk in Showers

Curbless walk in showers are becoming all the rage in bathroom remodeling today but the real question should be, “Is a curbless shower the best option for your bathroom?” While some clothing products are marketed as “one size fits all,” this is not the right strategy for choosing a shower. From my experience as an owner of a remodeling and national construction products supply company I have lived the debate of a curbless vs. a standard shower pan with a curb countless times.

My goal with this article is to not only provide you with the advantages and disadvantages of a curbless shower, but also to offer some product selection tips to make a long-lasting shower you’ll enjoy using and looking at. Now – let’s take a look at the pros and cons of barrier free showers.

Advantages of Curbless Walk in Showers

Functionality for everyone from grandkids to grandparents – As health care costs continue to skyrocket and multiple generations living under the same roof is a growing reality for many American families, it is more important now than ever before to have a bathroom which will work for all members of the family. A 4” tall shower curb which is a cinch for a teenager to step over can be a mountaintop for their grandmother. Eliminating a curb makes the shower an “equal opportunity” space.
Product selection tip – An easy (and waterproof) way to make a one level shower possible is by using a shower base former and wet room system. This system can be installed directly on the joists of the home.

Waterproof shower base for a one level curbless walk in shower

Easier to clean than a shower enclosure – Cleaning a small corner or alcove shower enclosure can be a difficult elbow-bruising experience. After eliminating a curb the shower space is effectively opened up to the bathroom making it easier to reach in and clean.
Product selection tip – A hand held shower with a hose can make cleaning easier and reduce the need to bend over as well.

Hand held shower in a one level curbless walk in shower

Hand held shower in a one level curbless walk in shower

Show off your cool looking shower – A shower enclosure with a curb and a door physically cuts off the view to intricate stone, tile or decorative wall panels. An open barrier free shower provides sight lines into the wet area which can show off a luxury shower.

One level barrier free shower provides views to tile work

Maximize every square inch – My wife’s grandfather in Italy had a curbless one level shower in a bathroom which only measured 4’ x 6’. This utilitarian space did not have a separate space for a shower. The room simply had mounted to the walls a shower head, vanity and a toilet. While your shower doesn’t need to be this basic – it’s nice to know in small bathrooms you can increase the effective use of space by eliminating the barrier of an enclosure and a curbed shower base.

Eliminates the cost and hassle of a shower door – Cleaning shower doors can be time-consuming and the cost of shower doors is not cheap. A curbless walk in shower gets rid of the need (and cost) of the shower door.

Doorless walk in tile shower

Disadvantages of a Curbless Walk in Shower

Too little privacy – Since a curbless shower is open it does not offer as much privacy as a shower enclosure. It is possible to minimize this problem by using obscure glass, glass blocks or curtains.

Water can get out – A challenge with a curbless shower is there is no curb to hold the water into the wet area. This problem can be lessened by finding the right product(s) to make an open shower work.

Product selection tips – Here are 3 products which can help to keep the water in:

1. A curved glass block shower wall – The bend in the glass block wall will move water back to the drain.

Curved glass block wall keeps the water in for a walk in shower

2. Pivoting shower screen – A shower screen can have a door which pivots both inside and outside the wet area. This pivoting door can be slightly tilted to the inside to keep water in while showering and can be pivoted outside when getting out.

shower screen for a walk in shower

3. Rain head – The rain head keeps the water in a more concentrated spot vs. a wall-mounted shower head (note- the pressure on rain heads has improved vastly since they were first introduced).

rain shower heads work well for curbless walk in showers
Heat will escape the shower making it colder – This is certainly a drawback since there is an opening in a shower without a door. A way to keep the space warmer is to use heated flooring.

Given these advantages and disadvantages what do you think about a curbless shower for your home? Are you a friend of foe of this type of project? Please comment below or call for a free design consultation or for information about products to make a curbless shower a reality.

Nationwide supply on shower wall panel systems is available through Innovate Building Solutions (877-668-5888) or regional installation The Bath Doctor in Cleveland (216-531-6085) or Columbus (614-252-7294).

Follow the author on Twitter @Mike_Foti or 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 (7)

  • Mike Foti

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    Tommy and Barbara – I’m sorry to hear you’re having problems with your builder. Yes with a one level wet room system it is possible to put a product called a “shower base former” directly on the joists (the builder would simply cut out the subfloor and put this product directly on the joists). I will include a link to the web page for this product (along with the waterproofing kit which is part of this system below). Let me know if I can help you further.
    http://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/roll-in-handicapped-shower

    Mike

    Reply

  • tommy and barbara h

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    Help , first floor bath needs curb less for a wheelchair , it’s a small shower but builder says you can’t put one on joists on the first floor ( basement below) without cutting joists…it’s the only thing we told him up front we had to have and walked in this week to see a 4: inch pan….. already he screwed up entry and it has a step, that can’t be changed, so we are making a landing, sort of, to lessen the size of step. ..sounds like it can be done…tell us what we need, please. Thanks barbara and Tommy hardwick

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Lou – I’m glad this project worked out so well for you. We have also seen the popularity of curbless one level showers grow dramatically. They look cooler, more contemporary and they are safer.

    Reply

  • Lou Vaughn

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    My first curbless designed shower I completed a little over 2 years ago was a hit with the homeowner! I just recently received an email from them and they said that it was the best money they had ever spent!

    Reply

  • Rachaelle

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    The exect same thing happened to me in Europe Mary. I soon found out why the room smelt musty. I turned around after my shower to find the bedroom carpet was saturated.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Mary – I’m sorry you had a bad experience with curbless showers. They are not for everyone…but with that being said I would guess whoever designed the space did not think through where to place the drain so you didn’t have this problem.

    Reply

  • Mary Turzillo

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    We stayed in several upscale hotels in Europe with curbless showers. Boy, did we get tired of water flowing all over the bathroom floor and into the bedroom. We had to use all the towels they gave us to mop up the mess. One time, I slipped on the wet floor and barely escaped serious injury. This is a cheapo-solution that I would walk away from if I found it in a house I was thinking of buying.

    Reply

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