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Make It Right Blogs - Feature Image - Shower vs Bathtub Which Is better

Walk-In Showers vs. Bathtubs: Which is Better?

By Mike Holmes

Mike’s Advice / Bathroom Renovation

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024 @ 4:34pm

When homeowners are considering renovating a second bathroom what should they consider a bathtub or a walk-in shower? 

There are two teams when it comes to bathing — walk-in showers vs. bathtubs. Some love baths, some like showers and some like both. If you only have one bathroom in your home, it’s always best to keep both the bathtub and shower combination. If space allows a good option would be to have a separate bathtub and a shower area. This is both practical and good for resale.

If you have the luxury of two or more full bathrooms or want to expand a power room into a full bathroom then you definitely have more options.

If you are in the market for upgrading a second bathroom there are some things you may want to consider before making the final decision on whether to have just a shower or some type of bathtub/shower combination. 


My Bathroom Renovation Story

Last year, I finally renovated my 20+ year-old bathroom. I’m not a bath guy so I ripped out the bathtub/shower combination and installed a small-lipped shower with a bench and I love it! 

A small lip makes it easy to get in and out and can still be used if you have some mobility issues. Plus, the bench provides additional support as you can sit down —it makes washing your feet so much easier. Sometimes, I even like to just sit with the steam of the shower and relax. 


Going completely curbless, also known as a walk-in shower is another option. Curbless showers provide a sleek and modern appearance and are ideal for individuals who use a wheelchair. There are both pros and cons to installing curbless showers, but I think it’s a great option depending on your needs.



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Remodeling for Accessibility and Aging


Walk-In Showers Pros And Cons

More and more I’m seeing homeowners, like myself renovating their bathrooms to include walk-in showers. I know we’ve done a lot of walk-in showers on our shows. These are a great option, especially for homeowners planning to make this their forever home.

But like anything there are also a few drawbacks. Here are some things to keep in mind.


Benefits Of Walk-In Showers

There are many benefits to including a curbless shower in your home.

Curbless showers are ideal for individuals with mobility issues or those who want to age in their homes. Stepping over the bathtub edge can be difficult and dangerous for individuals with mobility issues, and showers with a small lip are not wheelchair friendly and can be a tripping hazard.

A curbless shower will create a clean, contemporary and streamlined look to your new bathroom. They can also make a small bathroom seem much larger especially if you incorporate large-scale tiles or slabs. This can help make cleaning much easier as there are fewer or no grout lines.

Also, some curbless shower designs eliminate the shower door, which also makes cleaning easier – no more cleaning water stains and build-up on glass doors and enclosures. Having a large open space for your shower area, and having the entire floor allows ease of movement for wheelchairs, a bench or even a personal support worker if required. 

Plus, you’ll be saving on space which can allow you to add more cabinets or a wall unit for storage, keeping the space organized and clutter-free.


Frameless shower installed in small bathroom project on Holmes Family Rescue

Frameless shower installed in small bathroom project on Holmes Family Rescue



Benefits of Adding a Bathroom Shower to Your Basement

Curbing the Curb: Pros & Cons to Building a Curbless Shower


Cons to Curbless Showers

Curbless showers, however, do have some drawbacks. Without a glass door or lip water can easily splash outside the shower area. Also, to prevent pooling, moisture and water damage it is essential to have proper drainage, sloping and waterproofing installation.

Omitting the bathtub can also work against you if you have little ones to bathe or you’d like a nice relaxing bath. That’s why I’d only recommend a curbless shower as an option for a second bathroom.


Pros and Cons Of Have A Bathtub In The Bathroom

For bathtub lovers, you’re in luck because most homes still have at least one bathtub.


Pros of Having a Bathtub

Bathtubs are great for soothing aching muscles, and bathing little ones. They are even great for hand washing clothes or bathing your beloved pet if you don’t have access to a laundry sink. Plus, they are a good feature to have when selling your home. 

Even if you are short on space, there is a wide variety of styles, shapes and sizes of bathtubs to choose from – just be practical in your decision.


Small bathroom renovated by Saldan Built, Holmes Approved Homes Builder

Small bathroom renovated by Saldan Built, Holmes Approved Homes Builder


However, like any reno project, it’s important to make sure that it’s done right and that it’s watertight, by picking the right bathtub surrounds!



BATHTUB BUYING GUIDE: What You Need to Know About Bathtub Surrounds


Cons to Having a Bathtub

However, there are some cons to having a bathtub. Bathtubs can take up more space than a curbless shower, the smaller the bathroom, the more limitations you will have when it comes to layout and features.

Also, as we age or develop mobility issues getting in and out of a bathtub may be challenging and will cause a safety hazard for tripping or falling compared to a curbless shower.

Plus, we all know how difficult it is to clean a bathtub properly – there is no easy way and requires a lot of bending and scrubbing no matter how fit and mobile you are.


Is the Shower/Bathtub Combination the best choice?

The simple answer is yes. That’s why it is the standard in home construction – at least for the main bathroom. Condominium dwellers typically have a shower/bath combination in one. 

Some homeowners who are lucky enough to have a very large bathroom can accommodate a walk-in shower and stand-alone bathtub – but that is definitely not the norm.


Pros for Shower/Bathtub Combos

So of course, having the option to have a shower or a bath is the ideal situation as it accommodates everyone’s preferences. When you feel like a shower you have a shower and when you feel like a bath, you have a good soak!

Providing as many needs as possible for a potential buyer is key and will ultimately increase the resale of your home.

As I mentioned earlier, with a bit of creativity, you can turn a bathtub into your very own spa. Add some candles, dim the lights and some bubble bath and wash all your stress of the day away. Alternatively, bathtubs make bathing and playtime easy and fun for young children and parents.


Cons to a Shower/Bathtub Combos

Bathtub and shower combinations can be used in a standard-size bathroom, however, when you decide to make these separate units you will require more space, which will increase your budget. Also, the bigger the bathroom, the more there will be to clean.


The Importance of Waterproofing Your Shower and Bathtub Area

You know I always talk about this important topic but you’d be surprised how many bathrooms I see that still are not done correctly. You must waterproof your bathroom to keep your house safe from structural problems, mould growth, and water damage. Doesn’t matter if you decide to install a shower or a bathtub —ALWAYS waterproof your bathroom.

Water leaks in bathrooms can cause mould and mildew to grow, which can then cause or worsen respiratory problems like coughing and wheezing, eye infections, skin irritation, and breathing problems.

The most effective way to create a watertight bathroom is to install a continuous layer of moisture protection. I use Schluter Systems for all of my bathroom renovation projects. To me, it’s the best, most comprehensive system, and they’re constantly adding additional accessories to make my job easier. 

Schluter KERDI-BOARD is lightweight, easy to cut, watertight, and vapour-resistant. It’s a great substrate and building panel for walls, ceilings and floors. I use it for every wall tile installation. KERDI-BOARD is so versatile and strong that it can be used to build nearly anything, including shower benches, curbs, knee walls, shower niches, shelving, and floating shelves. 



How To Make Your Bathroom Watertight

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Waterproofing Your Walk-In Shower

A recessed shower floor allows for the installation of a prefabricated shower tray that is flush with the rest of the bathroom floor. 

Designed specifically for curbless showers, the KERDI-SHOWER-TT thin shower tray features a low perimeter height and can be installed over a recessed subfloor to create an even transition from the bathroom floor tile right into the shower. Plus all of the Schluter shower trays now include KERDI waterproofing on top of the trays making the installation process a bit quicker by eliminating the KERDI membrane application.


Schluter Shower KERDI-BOARD LineDrain BarrierFree DITRA

Schluter®-Systems offers two ways of waterproofing your shower: KERDI-BOARD and KERDI. Both of these systems allow you to integrate the KERDI-LINE linear drain for a seamless shower design.


In any remodel, proper drainage is essential. By sloping your floors gently in the direction of the drain, you can ensure effective water flow, reducing your risk of slips. Linear drains can be used to create a stylish and practical curbless shower design. Linear drains, like the KERDI-LINE, can be used with large format tiles creating a seamless transition in showers, and wet rooms.


Waterproofing Your Bathtub

The Schluter®-KERDI-TUBKIT is the perfect system that provides all the parts required to assemble a completely waterproof and vapour-tight enclosure tiled bathtub surround. The kit includes sealing and bonding compounds, pipe seals, mixing valve seals, waterproofing membranes, and waterproofing strips.



Waterproofing Your Bathroom Floors

Waterproofing your bathroom floor is another critical step in making your bathroom watertight —once you’ve made sure your subfloor is in good condition and level. Apply a layer of unmodified thin-set mortar to your substrate, followed by an uncoupling membrane such as Schluter®-DITRA or DITRA-XL.


HFR - Season 2_TV Shows_Episode 2

Waterproofing your floor is another important step in making your bathroom watertight. Assuming your subfloor is in good shape and level, your next step is waterproofing.


All flooring, including the substrate or subfloor, expands and contracts with moisture, and as a result, your tiles and grout can crack. The uncoupling membrane is important because it allows the substrate to expand and contract, keeping your new tile and grout from cracking. You do not want to skip this step. Material selection is critical for achieving a watertight bathroom, but it must also be installed correctly.



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Additional Features that Will Make Your Bathroom Shine!

Whether you end up deciding to have a bathtub, walk-in shower or a combination —some bathroom features will help elevate your space making it more functional. 



How To Make A Statement With Matte Black Fixtures In Your Bathroom


Bathroom Lighting

It’s essential that your home is well lit and this is particularly true in functional spaces like kitchens and bathrooms. There’s nothing worse than being in a bathroom that doesn’t have sufficient lighting sources.

The best way to upgrade the lighting in your bathroom is by layering. Layers of light controlled by dimmers and unique circuits allow you to choose between intense light for cleaning and softer levels for a comfortable atmosphere.


Bathroom Renovation Completed By Vicky's Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Bathroom Renovation Completed By Vicky’s Homes, Holmes Approved Builder


Accent lights can draw attention to a particular region, but ambient lighting serves as the room’s general lighting. Task lighting is necessary for everyday tasks like shaving and makeup application.

Since the vanity area is where you will require the most light for daily tasks like hair styling, face washing, getting ready, and even checking for cuts and splinters, task lighting frequently revolves around this area. To add both functionality and style, use vertical lights in place of mirrored cabinets or ceiling lights.


Bathroom Renovation Completed by Hasler Homes, Holmes Approved Builder

Styling Pendant Lighting in Bathroom Renovation Completed by Hasler Homes, Holmes Approved Builder


Recessed lighting might be beneficial for the space surrounding the bathtub or shower. Light the wall surrounding the shower or bath to create the illusion of more room rather than placing the lights in the centre of the room.


You can also use smart lighting to set the mood for a relaxing spa experience and control different scenes and colours all from your phone.


Remember, proper electrical installation is very important, particularly in bathrooms where proximity to water occurs and requires special attention.  



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Add Mirrors And Glass Enclosures

Mirror, glass and lighting are essential for a functional bathroom. Mirrors help to reflect light and create the illusion that the room is bigger. Great for smaller bathrooms.


Bathroom renovation on Holmes Family Rescue.

Clear glass shower enclosures or doors will also give the room a bigger appearance. Plus, they can also serve as the room’s main focal point.


Wall Niches

Wall niches are a great add-on that will help keep your shower and bathtub organized with toiletries, leaving the edge of the bathtub or shower floor clutter-free. They are also great if you are short on space. 


Schluter Shower Niche installed on Mike Holmes bathroom project.

We installed a longer shower niche in this basement bathroom renovation to give the homeowners more space to store all their items.


Depending on the lighting design, you may find you need some additional light in the niche areas and our friends at Schluter have introduced a series of prefabricated shower niches with a light feature. This is a really great idea, plus the lighted niches can add ambiance to your bathroom.

The new Schluter Shower Niche with LED Lighting (or Schluter®-KERDI-BOARD-SNLT), is a prefabricated KERDI-BOARD shower niche with integrated LIPROTEC LED lighting.  The light strip can create a spa-like experience with a warm and evenly diffused light along the entire length of the strip and is a perfect addition to your shower or bath or shower area. I also like the idea that you can add a shelf to the niche which provides you with more storage options.

If wall niches aren’t your thing there are other options, like corner and rectangular shelves that can be installed at the tiling stage. They have the appearance of a floating shelf which is also a nice design feature and the Schuler line offers a wide range of finishes and styles.


Don’t Forget! When installing anything electrical, especially in a wet zone, like a bathroom or shower area, always have an LEC perform any of the installations. They will ensure that the work is done correctly and to code so it is safe for you and your family.


How to Pick a Shower Drain and Shelf Combination

5 Benefits of a Shower Niche


Don’t Forget About Water Conservation and Ventilation

Upgrading your fixtures to newer ones can help you save money and water. Aerators for your faucets, water-saving showerheads and low-flow toilets will all contribute to a more efficient bathroom. 


Picking A Ventilation Fan

The most essential feature to have in your bathroom is to install a high-quality ventilation fan. Odour removal isn’t the only use for bathroom fans. Poor ventilation in the bathroom could lead to major problems. This is especially important in a bathroom without a window. Mould growth and poor indoor air quality can result from insufficient bathroom ventilation.


I’ve been installing Panasonic ventilation fans on my projects for years. They are built right with high-performing motors. And you can expect a long life from your Panasonic ventilation fan. They have several different models, including the Panasonic Whisper Value DC which is very quiet you’ll barely know it’s on. I also like the WhisperFit DC fan, which comes with a single 10W dimmable LED chip panel. 


Bathroom renovation on Holmes Family Rescue Season 2 including Schluter Shower Niche and Panasonic Ventilation Fan

We renovated this bathroom on one of our projects and made sure to install a Panasonic ventilation fan.



How To Choose The Right Bathroom Exhaust Fan


BONUS TIP: Consider A Tankless Water Heater

Installing a tankless water heater can offer significant advantages when it comes to water conservation, energy efficiency and convenience.

Unlike traditional water heaters that store and constantly reheat a large volume of water, tankless units function on-demand. This means water is heated only when needed, eliminating standby heat loss and significantly reducing energy consumption. This translates to lower utility bills and a smaller environmental footprint – a win for both your wallet and the planet.

While the initial investment for a tankless water heater may be higher, the are potential long-term savings on energy costs. Additionally, tankless units typically have a longer lifespan and require minimal maintenance compared to traditional models. Their compact size also makes them ideal for smaller spaces.

Remember that installing a water tank is NOT a do-it-yourself task. To do the job right, you’ll need a qualified technician plus possibly a licenced electrician and plumber. A gas fitter might also be required, depending on the unit’s power supply.


The Bosch Greentherm 9000 is among the best tankless water heaters I’ve ever used. It has been installed on a number of our projects. Because of its compact size and energy-efficient design, the Bosch Greentherm tankless water heater is well-known for its ability to provide hot water on demand with little electricity usage, which means lower utility bills for you.




How to Choose the Right Tankless Water Heater for Your Home

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The choice between curbless showers, bathtubs, or a combination of both ultimately depends on your individual preferences, lifestyle, and the specific needs of your household. Consider factors such as accessibility, space availability, maintenance requirements, and resale value when deciding. Consulting with a professional bathroom designer or contractor can help you create a bathroom that meets your needs and reflects your style. 

Ultimately, whether you opt for a curbless shower, a bathtub, or both, the goal is to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing bathroom space that enhances your daily routine and adds value to your home.



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