Updated January 12, 2019
Figuring out the right shower pan to use can be a pain. Do you get a traditional shower base with a 4 to 5” step over curb? Would a low-profile curb (which is 1 ½” tall) be the ticket or would it allow water to spill out onto the bathroom floor? Could you ditch the shower curb entirely and choose a ramped entry or one level wet room?
I’ve talked to thousands of homeowners over the last 20 years (wow – has it been that long?) about shower pan options, and I’ll tell you the case for blowing up the shower curb (having no threshold at all) has never been stronger! In this article I’m determined to lay out 5 compelling reasons you should seriously consider going with a curbless shower for your next bathroom remodeling project. Let me know at the end of the article whether you agree with these reasons or whether I’m all wet (OK – that’s a bad attempt at bathroom humor).
Compelling reason #1 to ditch the shower curb. You’re getting older
Duh, you’re probably saying…. aren’t we all getting older? Yes, that is true. I would add the good news is we are living longer, but the bad news is (somedays) we’re living longer. The aches and pains in the morning do stack up as those gray hairs (if you’re lucky enough to get them without becoming “bulbed” as my daughter used to call bald people when she was young) start to mount. While growing older is a blessing, on some days it can also feel like a curse. I know I’ve asked myself why my body has “wear” parts? Why can’t I look as lean as my 18 and 22-year-old sons who don’t have to watch what they eat (but I digress).
When we age, the unfortunate fact is our mobility goes the wrong direction. Stepping over a shower curb can be a dangerous thing. It is the cause of many expensive and challenging hospital stays. When you have a one level shower entry there is no curb to trip over. These zero clearance shower base designs are growing rapidly in the remodeling market -even though few new home builders (even construction companies who build in 55+ lifestyle communities) incorporate them in new home designs. A zero threshold shower can be made with either a tile floor or with a durable acrylic pan with a linear drain you see below. If you want to stay safe the one level designs are increasingly important as you age.
Compelling reason #2 to ditch the shower curb. You’ll save space.
For most people this tips doesn’t seem logical but if you’ve ever visited Europe or Asia and stayed in a hotel room (or a friend or relatives house) you’ll see lots of examples of one level bathrooms with open showers in small spaces. The reason curbless showers save space is they break down the barriers of the traditional “shower enclosure” where the space is defined by the shower pan and glass enclosure. With a waterproof curbless shower the shower and the bathroom are one continuous space. If you’ve got a small bathroom (possibly in an apartment, loft, tiny home, or micro-home) this can be a space-efficient way to get ‘er done (as Larry the Cable guy) would say. Small spaces and curbless designs go perfectly together.
Compelling reason #3 to ditch the shower curb. You’ll show your cool, sleek and minimalist good taste.
Design trends have changed a ton from the super-sized mega-mansions of the 1990’s with expansive soaking tubs and ornate tile designs. What’s hot today is a contemporary, clean, sleek and minimalist bathroom. These spaces use large format tiles (or sleek grout free shower panels) and often have wall hung vanities and open and airy designs. Curbless showers are a perfect contemporary fit with this design trend.
Compelling reason #4 to ditch the shower curb. It’s never been easier to create a one level bathroom.
In the old days making a one level bathroom was a pain in the butt. Most contractors would scratch their heads trying to figure out what to do. In most cases, they would “drop the floor” of the bathroom. What this meant was cutting into your subfloor, then cutting your joists and reframing the area so they could pour concrete into the new “hole.” Then they would level by hand (imagine how much you’re going to like have concrete poured inside your bathroom – it’s not like you’re doing a driveway and the concrete truck is going to have the material come down the chute!). This process is not only laborious and time-consuming to build– it’s not a great system because it can compromise the structural integrity of your home.
Thank goodness there are new simple options. Today you can get a wet room kit. With these kits, you (or your contractor) cut the subfloor and install a product called a “shower base former” directly on your existing joists (no cutting of the joists and messing up the integrity of your framing anymore – see the in process image below).
Once the base former is in and plumbing hooked up, cement board will be brought to the height of the base former. Finally, the bathroom floor will be waterproofed and tile installed on the finished surface. When the entire shower is done, it will look like the image above– cool, sleek, waterproof and safe!
A second option is to use a ramped cultured stone shower pan. These pans can be set directly on the subfloor and come in multiple color and design options. The project below had 2 ramps.
A third option is to use an acrylic shower pan with a built in linear drain. It’s the most cost effective of the 3 – but it does have size limitations.
Compelling reason #5 to ditch the shower curb. You’ll have more flexibility.
I wish I could tell you getting rid of your shower with a threshold would give you more flexibility to climb stairs or jump as high as your cat (isn’t it amazing how high they can jump?). You’ll just have to enroll with your spouse in a few yoga classes (OK maybe more than a few) to make this happen. Where I do think one level wet room can help your flexibility is you will no longer have to have your space be “defined” by the shower pan and glass enclosure. So, if you decide you want to change out the glass enclosure to make the shower bigger, smaller or change its shape you can do it. How cool is that?
The reality is the times are ‘a changing.’ Construction methods are ‘a changing’ and your thoughts about bathroom remodeling (and what type of shower base to use) should be ‘a changing’ with them. If you’re dealing with an old (or young) stuck-in-the-mud contractor using outdated installation methods, don’t put up with it anymore (I’m guessing you’re not using the same computer, you used 20 years ago. Your contractor shouldn’t be using the same approach to creating one level showers they did 20 years ago.
If you’re having a tough time making this project a reality call us at the number below or add your questions or comments to this post. We are looking forward to helping you! One level bathroomsaren’t as difficult as some contractors make them out to be.
What questions or comments do you have about trims and borders for DIY shower and tub wall panels? Comment or call the numbers below for more information.
If you’re looking for more information or an estimate on remodeling a shower or nationwide material supply for shower wall panels and one level wet rooms, ramped cultured marble shower bases or acrylic pans with linear drains discussed above call The Bath Doctor in Cleveland (216-531-6085), Columbus (614-252-7294) or for nationwide supply Innovate Building Solutions (877-668-5888).
Tags: 55+, accessible bathroom, acrylic pan with a linear drain, acrylic pan with no threshold, ada shower base, ada shower pan, ada shower stall, aging in place, linear drain, one level wet room, roll in acrylic pan, roll in shower, roll-in shower base, shower base, shower curb, shower pan, wet room, wheelchair accessible shower base, wheelchair accessible shower pans, zero clearance shower base, zero entry shower base, zero threshold acrylic pan, zero threshold shower base
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