As a contractor, I can't help it, but when I walk into a home, I...
Curbing the Curb: Pros & Cons to Building a Curbless Shower
By Sherry Holmes
Friday, May 24th, 2019 @ 3:17pm
When we talk about open concept, usually the focus is on kitchens or living and dining rooms. When it comes to bathrooms, where space is at a premium, an open concept bathroom can help make a small space feel big. But how do we get this effect? Knocking down walls isn’t going to work for privacy’s sake, so we need to find space within those four walls to open up. Where do we focus those efforts?
Start with your shower. Open-concept, or curbless showers are a concept that’s growing in popularity – and for good reason. They offer accessibility – and lots of flexibility in design. And when we remove the barriers for our shower, we can also create a seamless look in the bathroom, making it look and feel bigger.
My dad is working on a bathroom renovation project right now for a family with a child who will have mobility issues in the near future. Removing their tub and putting in a barrier free shower was the first thing that popped in my head. Now the kid will be able to use his bathroom fairly independently.
Pros and Cons of Going Curbless
There are reasons for and against installing curbless showers. While I believe that the pros outweigh the cons – here are a few things you should think about if you’re considering a curbless shower for your next bathroom project.
My dad likes to talk about building your forever home. Forever home, meaning a house that ages with you and your changing needs. A curbless shower offers improved accessibility to everyone from the very young to the very old.
A main floor bathroom with a curbless shower offers a lot of advantages to homeowners who have trouble making the step into the tub or shower as they slow down with age. My house has an office space on the main floor with an attached bathroom with a curbless shower. So if we stay in this house for decades, we will have the option of converting this office space into a bedroom, and using this bathroom as our main hub for bathing. We plan to stay put for awhile, so this makes a lot of sense for us.
Con: Water Can Get Everywhere
Installed properly, you’ll be fine – but if you don’t plan it well, you could have some pretty big problems with water and your curbless shower. Without a curb, the shower water isn’t contained in the tub area and can get EVERYWHERE.
There are a few ways you can alleviate this. A rain head fixture keeps the water in a more contained area. A curved shower wall can help direct the water to the drain as well. The most important consideration is to make sure to slope the shower floor away from the shower entrance.
Pro: Easier to Clean
This is a big advantage for me. Who actually likes cleaning the bathroom? A curbless shower creates a much more open, maneuverable space, making those areas easier to reach in and clean.
Con: Lack of Privacy
If you grew up with a big family with no shame, you may be used to people just walking in while you’re in the bathroom. Many curbless showers are pretty open – and without an obscuring curtain or door, well, you better start locking that bathroom door.
Pro: Luxury, Spa-like Showers
Curbless showers give you lots of flexibility when it comes to design. Additions like benches, in-set shelves, niches, and even heated floors are all possible in your curbless shower.
Building a Curbless Shower
Your shower needs to properly direct water to the drain. That makes sense, right? So how do we make this happen? It’s all about the way we build it.
Step One: Laying Your Sloped Shower Tray
Step Two: Adding Waterproofing
That may come as a shock to you, so what do you do to protect your bathroom from moisture penetration? KERDI waterproofing membranes offer protection behind your shower walls that keep your shower protected against mold and mildew penetration.
Step Three: Building Walls
If you’ve seen us work on a bathroom before, you’ll probably be familiar with KERDI-BOARD.
Cement backer boards are water-resistant, but KERDI-BOARD is waterproof and offers an extra line of protection against moisture.
Step Four: Draining Water
Finally, it’s time to install your drain. Linear drains let the shower floor pitch in one direction (where the drain can be installed almost anywhere in the shower) vs a point drain, which requires the floor to be sloped in four directions.
Check out this curbless bathroom from Holmes+Holmes Season 1.
Read my blog about choosing the right drain for your shower here.