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5 Compelling Reasons You Need to Eliminate Your Shower Pan Threshold

Written by Mike Foti on . Posted in Bathroom Remodeling, Uncategorized

5 compelling reasons you need to eliminate your shower pan threshold | Innovate Building Solutions

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. If you want to stay safe the one level designs are increasingly important as you age.

Barrier free shower base wet room system | Innovate Building Solutions

Zero clearance shower pans look nice and are safer

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.

One level waterproof showers save space in small bathrooms | Innovate Building Solutions

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 mounted cabinetry and open and airy designs. Curbless showers are a perfect contemporary fit with this design trend.

Minimalist bathroom with a one level shower floor pan | Innovate Building Solutions

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 your subfloor, then cutting your joists and reframing the area so they could pour concrete into the new “hole” which 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).

Bathroom remodeling project with one level shower pan for a wheelchair accessible bathroom | Innovate Building Solutions

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!

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?

Roll in shower base using a wet room waterproofing kit | Innovate Building Solutions

Conclusion

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 bathrooms aren’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 the various wall panels and shower bases mentioned above call The Bath Doctor in Cleveland (216-531-6085), Columbus (614-252-7294) or for nationwide supply Innovate Building Solutions (877-668-5888).

Connect with the author on Twitter @Mike_Foti 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 (22)

  • Mike Foti

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    Mirian – there are a number of ways you can do that. You can either use a shower door system (even if you don’t have a shower pan threshold). You can also use a product called a ‘shower screen’ which can pivot inside the opening , yet also provides a design for a walk in space. Lastly you could use curtains (although I have to admit I think in many cases they look ugly – but sometimes looks are not as important as function). Let me know if I can assist you further. Mike 877-668-5888

    Reply

  • Mirian Hernandez

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    How can I avoid the water going everywhere outside the shower area?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Inger – I will send you an email with some details and also include a link to our web page on this item (in the ‘videos’ tab you’ll find some install information). Yes – this product can be set directly on the joists so you usually will just run your cement board or tile underlayment right up to it. Feel free to call me and we can discuss in greater detail – Mike (877-668-5888).

    Reply

  • Inger

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    I have a small bathroom that I am going to completely remodel. Your one level wet room is perfect. I am planning on doing the remodel myself as I have quite a bit of construction experience. Do you have instructions and or a step by step video to follow? Also, the shower pan will go right over framing. Will the rest of the room be elevated then? I am trying to figure out if there will be a transition from the bathroom to the hallway.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Mary – thanks for your question. In this first picture the product which was used was not a solid surface shower pan, but our wet room system. This system uses a product called a ‘shower base former’ which is either set directly on the wood joists of a home – or is set inside concrete (if you have a concrete floor). After the shower base former is set in place a waterproofing kit is used to make the entire installation a waterproof ‘wet room.’ It is sleek and contemporary. I’ve included a link here if you want to learn more about this product. Call me with any questions at 877-668-5888. Mike
    http://innovatebuildingsolutions.com/products/bathrooms/roll-in-handicapped-shower

    Reply

  • Mary Phillips

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    In a previous master bath remodel, we did a true walk in shower. We had the cement floor under the old tub ripped up and our tile guy replaced it with a very slight slope going towards the long (pool style) drain next to the far wall. It came out beautiful.

    We want to do something similar to replace our bathtub in our current master bath. My question is, the first picture in this article (that has the title overlaid onto it) has just the right look. Is that done with your solid surface products or is it just tile?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Anne – I’m glad your system has worked out for you. Yes – in the United we now have what we call ‘linear drain’ – maybe you’re calling it a slot drain. They are sleek and allow someone to use larger tiles in a one level shower system. Thanks for your input. Mike

    Reply

  • Anne

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    We added a bathroom on our master bedroom and made a shower space that is big enough for a small wheel chair we also had a slot drain installed along one wall to drain the water faster . We had to get the drain from Australia They may now be available in the USA. We also had a seat put in one corne plus a bar put along one wall. We were in our seventies when we did thid are now in our eighties.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Chris – while we don’t have a location in Cincinnati we do have our Innovate Building Solutions (Columbus Glass Block) location at 3091 East 14th Ave. in Columbus Ohio. It’s not too far from Cincy. MIke

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Elaine – thanks for your question about zero clearance shower base systems. Our system is actually on 7/8″ thick – so you wouldn’t be going down very far into the slab. I do think your project will work (whether it’s with our 7/8″ thick or a 2″ system) but with that being said my grandfather used to say, “You can’t fight city hall.” So you’ll need to ‘sell’ the building inspector on your approach -otherwise you’ll have a hard time making it happen. If I can help further feel free to call us at 877-668-5888. Mike

    Reply

  • Elaine

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    We are wanting to put in a zero clearance shower. The BI is concerned that cutting into the 7” slab to place the two inch pan would compromise the slab and could result in the slab and/or tile cracking. However, in my mind, the rebar is down towards the bottom, they had to cut the slab for the drain so I’m not sure if it would cause a bigger headache down the road. What do you think?

    Reply

  • Chris

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    Hi , wondering if you have suppliers in Cincinnati I could visit.?

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Diane – good question. You can either make a zero threshold happen by cutting into the concrete floor – which is obviously dusty and time consuming. Another option is to use a pan (like a solid surface or ready for tile pan) which is set onto the floor and meets the floor – with no curb- as you get in and then ramps up and then ramps down to the drain. With both the solid surface and the ready for tile bases you can choose your drain location so if you have plumbing there now you won’t have to spend the money to move it (which can be significant). I hope this helps you! Mike

    Reply

  • Diane

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    Same question as Joyce…home on slab…how do I achieve zero entry?

    Reply

  • Bonnie

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    I’m planning to convert the master bath in my condo to a wet room. I notice in most of the curbless showers that the tile in the shower area is different from the rest of the flooring. I would like to have the same flooring tile throughout. Is that doable or is their some safety issue being addressed by having the shower flooring in a different tile? Many thanks in advance for your feedback!

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Bill – In general I would recommend a 60″ width minimum for a walk in shower to keep the water in place. Using products like curved glass block shower walls and/or shower screens (where you can pivot part of the shower door) will keep the water inside the shower in a small space. Let me know if you need anything else. Mike

    Reply

  • Bill

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    how much room is necessary for a walk in shower to prevent having water everywhere? we are gutting to the studs and are wondering if we have enough room for a walk in with no curb.

    Reply

  • Joyce

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    I have a question. I live in Goose Creek, SC. I’m trying to made my very large bathroom an aging place bathroom. There are no certified aging in place contractors here. My question to you is: my house in on a slab. Will the slab have to be cut into, removed and repoured to accommodate a zero barrier shower? Thank you for any information you have.

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Jim – with a waterproof wet room system you are waterproofing beyond the confines of the “shower enclosure” so it really doesn’t matter if water spills out into the area beyond the glass enclosure. Regarding cost – it would be cheaper to use a fiberglass or acrylic shower pan system vs. the one level wet room system with tile – but you don’t have the safety and style benefits of this type of project (basically you get a better looking project which will stand up over time – but it will cost you more). Mike

    Reply

  • Mike Foti

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    Jim – we sell direct across the country so we can ship it directly to you. Mike

    Reply

  • jim

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    Who handles your products in St. Louis Mo.

    Thanks Jim

    Reply

  • jim pitlyk

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    Thanks Mike ,I like what you said. The pan wasn’t really an issue however you did get thinking in a different direction. Will the cost of job be higher due to the tiling of walls and floor prep. What about water running under shower door? Thanks Jim

    P.S. I am 83 and when I tell my wife I am thinking of out of the box that is going to scare her. Just kidding

    Reply

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