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 (some days) 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.
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 tip 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.
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.
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 sub-floor, 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 home modification provider) can cut the sub-floor 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.
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?