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Consider a “Curbless” Shower for Your Accessible Bathroom Remodel

| Owen Barclay |

Here’s a fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Those of us who live in North American really enjoy taking our showers. People who study these things say we take as many, if not more, showers than almost any other place in the world (Only Brazil and Columbia, where several showers a day are the norm, far exceed our average). So we know that many of our aging in place and mobility challenged clients are looking for solutions that allow them to continue showering in ways that are safe and convenient.

Fortunately, we can offer a great solution. It’s called a curbless or walk-in shower, and we like it because it’s barrier-free and embraces lots of universal design principles. Moreover, it’s very cutting edge and stylish. Want some more info?

First, what do we mean by curbless?  Simply this: the shower is on the same level as the bathroom floor with no lip or threshold to step over. This “one level” entry is perfect if you’re using a wheelchair, a walker, or just have decreased lower body strength.

But the audience for a curbless shower is much bigger. As we consistently preach, a basic universal design principle is removing as many barriers in your home as possible, and we think that certainly includes getting rid of the shower curb. The benefit is obvious. Doing so makes entering the shower easier now and will certainly be helpful down the road when aging challenges begin to appear. Other family members will also appreciate the ease of walking(instead of stepping) into the shower.

Isn’t the purpose of the curb to keep the water in the shower and not all over the bathroom floor? If you’re talking about a standard shower installation, the answer is yes. But in a well- designed curbless shower, that big lip you need to step over can be eliminated. Experienced planners and contractors know how to slope the floor, use integrated shower pans, linear trench drains, and other splash and sealing mechanisms to keep water from escaping out of the shower area. Shower heads that better direct water flow can also be employed to keep the bathroom floor dry. Used in combination, these techniques allow for showers that are open or feature a shower door or curtain, depending on your design and privacy choices.

Here’s another question? Do you need an extra-large bathroom to install a curbless shower? The answer is no. In fact, many designers actually recommend a curbless shower to give smaller bathrooms a larger more open look. Removing the curb allows the bathroom flooring to flow directly into the shower space, which makes the room feel bigger. Carefully chosen tile and flooring patterns can enhance this effect.

When installing these showers, we often suggest additional features that bolster safety and convenience. Removable, handheld showerheads placed on a vertical sliding bar are easy to reach, and are very useful for washing hair and accessing “hard to get to” areas of the body. We also like shower benches or chair for those who have difficulty standing. And of course, most importantly, we always recommend the installation of grab bars (that come in many shapes, sizes, and styles).

There’s lots more to learn about curbless or walk-in showers. If you’re planning an aging in place renovation, are dealing with existing physical challenges or are simply doing some homework and want some fresh ideas, please give us a call or send an email. We’re always happy to provide input on ways to create a safe and more accessible home.