The Pros & Cons of a Walk Through Shower

From Better Homes & Gardens to the New York Times, one trend has been making a huge splash in modern bathroom designs: the unobstructed shower. Otherwise known as the wet room, walk-in or walk-through shower, these units are distinguished by the lack of a curb or conventional shower rise, and often the absence of a full door. In all cases, the shower basin is flush with the bathroom floor, creating a seamless, step-free entrance. 

Here are the three open-air shower designs:

  • Walk-through: A separate entrance and exit on opposite ends, creating an unimpeded channel.
  • Walk-in: Often contained within 3 frameless glass or stone walls. May have a single entrance that extends halfway out the length of the unit, a knee wall topped in frosted glass, or no door at all.
  • Wet room: No door or frame. Fixtures are mounted directly to the bathroom wall to create a fully integrated shower system.

While the design world continues to sing its praises, every homeowner should carefully consider the advantages, and disadvantages of getting their feet wet in the unobstructed shower trend.

Advantages  

Wow Factor

The walk-in, walk-through shower or wet room is the epitome of sleek, modern luxury, a requisite feature of high-end hotels and modern new home builds. The absence of a full-length door allows visual access into the entire washing area. This gives designers full rein to transform the once ordinary shower outline into a work of art with mosaic, decorative ceramic tiles, marble, quartz, river rocks, stone, and glass in every imaginable pattern. Door-less showers can also be customized into any shape, from round, rectangular, half-moon, even star, providing more dynamism and dimension to the “naked” eye.

Buyer beware: If you only have one bathroom, consider passing on this design upgrade. It’s important to have at least one tub in your home for resale purposes.

Accommodates Small Spaces

Without the bulk of an ordinary, 36-inch cubed unit, the door-and-curbless shower is an ideal design option for tiny spaces. Simply install a single glass divider between the toilet and showerhead, or mount the fixtures directly to the wall for a completely integrated bathing area.

Low Maintenance

There are few chores worse than cleaning the conventional four-walled, curbed shower unit where mold, mildew and grime settle into tiny nooks and corners, not to mention the impossible to get streak-free glass shower door.

Walk-ins and walk-through showers contain fewer pieces, which means fewer crannies to try and contort yourself into. These designs provide a slick, uniform surface that’s easy to wipe clean.

Age & Able Friendly

Traditional trey-step showers can be an impediment for small children, elderly, or people with physical disabilities or impairments. The curbless shower is universally designed to accommodate grandchildren, grandparents, and everyone in between.

Disadvantages 

Lack of Privacy

The door-less walk-in, walk-through or wet room may not be the optimal choice for modest homeowners. Most designs allow a full, 180-degree view of the shower interior, however there are modifications around this issue, such as using obscured glass, glass bricks, curtains, knee wall, or track-style entrance.

Must Meet Building Code Requirements

Installation of these showers may violate certain building codes or homeowners association rules regarding minimum distance between shower fixtures and toilets, overhead clearance, and space-per-person.  Always check with these officials in advance.

Cost-Prohibitive

Most traditional bathroom layouts can’t be retrofitted to a walk-through/walk-in design as is. This means extensive remodeling may be required, including gutting walls to access pipes, relocating plumbing, waterproofing the walls and floor, drain installation, laying the underlying shower pan, tilework, and other upgrades. A base range for a totally customized, built from scratch unit is between $5000-$15000

The more affordable option is to pick a prefabricated walk-through shower kit, which still demand a certain level of plumbing experience. 

Splashes Water

Without a properly installed frame, base, showerhead and layout, these showers are known to spray water into the rest of the bathroom area. Common solutions include a pivoted shower screen or half-door, and ceiling mount shower heads, which downwardly concentrate the flow of water.

Heat Loss

The absence of a sealed door does enable heat to escape, creating a cold washing experience within and humid environment without. Solutions to this particular issue do run high, including installing an electric water unit, heated floors, and a fully-optimized exhaust fan system.

Slippery When Wet

The sleek surfaces of walk-in and walk-through showers can make it difficult to establish foot traction. But there are several easy ways to resolve this issue, including the installation of grab bars, sophisticated benches, hand-held shower wands, and slip-resistant flooring. The most luxurious choice for the base is porcelain mosaic tiles, however cutting-edge vinyl design presents stiff competition for real stones and wood. Whatever your style choice, this more affordable material is made to imitate the look and feel of slate, travertine, marble, quartz, and river rocks, and laid over a mortar base with a waterproof membrane.


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