So How Do Walk In Showers Work?
You’ve probably been seeing “walk in showers” and “curbless showers” posts popping up more and more recently. You’re also probably wondering why. Walk in showers are growing in popularity because of their unique style and ease of use.
Homeowners enjoy having a spacious bathroom, especially in their master baths. Walk in showers are a great way to open up a bathroom space while still maintaining functionality. We covered them briefly in our bathroom design trends of 2019 post, but we think they deserve a more in depth look. From our team at Trade Winds Imports, we’ve put together everything you need to know about walk in showers.
Table Of Contents
A walk in shower is, by definition, a shower that you can walk right into. Yes, you can walk into almost any shower, but it doesn’t qualify as a walk in shower if you have to step over a curb or into a tub to get into the shower. Another thing to note, curbless showers and walk in showers are the exact same thing. Why is there two names for the same type of shower? Who really knows, but they’re completely interchangeable.
In most cases, a curbless shower will have an entrance that is either completely open, or have a partial wall in place of a door. If there is a door, curtains, or any other method to block the opening, it’s not technically a walk in shower. A majority of curbless showers you’ll see will have glass walls, but not all. There are plenty of design decisions you can make to ensure that your curbless shower is unique to your bathroom. Walk in showers provide a sense of luxury and a modern feel to almost any bathroom. Modern bathroom vanities are a great compliment to this unique style of shower.
It’s worth considering the pros and cons of a curbless shower before committing to one for your bathroom. It might not be the right fit for your space, or it might just not be your style. We’ll give you a quick rundown of what you should expect if you choose to pursue a walk in shower.
- Easy to use for all ages
- Easier to clean than standard showers
- Make your bathroom feel spacious
- Adds a sense of luxury
- Customization options
Having a shower that works for all ages is something that most people don’t consider when they’re designing a bathroom. With the popularity of “aging in place” growing, it’s important for elderly members of your family to have easy access to the shower. Stepping in and out of a slippery bathtub can be a little dicey for people of all ages, not just old.
Almost everyone has had to deal with the hassle of cleaning a shower/bathtub combo. It seems like there are endless nooks and crannies that need to be scrubbed down. Another perk of curbless showers is that they are often easier to clean. This is simply because there are less moving parts. You’re basically just dealing with 3 walls and a floor, it doesn’t get much easier than that.
One of the main reasons homeowners choose to go with a walk in shower is that it opens up the bathroom and offers a feeling of luxury. They’re not as common as standard showers so it’s a fun and luxurious novelty when you get to use one. A curbless shower as an everyday amenity is an easy way to improve your bathroom experience. Shower curtains and doors have a way of making bathrooms feel smaller.
Finally, there are some amazing customization options you have with a walk in shower that you just won’t find in other types of showers. The materials often used are tile and glass and there are many different ways you can utilize those two materials. You also have a wide range of options when it comes to shower heads, shower panels, and shower pans. It’s easy to mix and match to create the exact style that you want.
- Less privacy
- A little chilly
- Water leakage
As you might expect, privacy isn’t quite as good with a curbless shower. There’s no door and no curtain, so you might feel a little exposed. If you’re living in a home with roommates and you’re sharing a bathroom, it might feel a little weird. However, if you’re not worried about the privacy factor, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Another issue you’ll likely encounter when it comes to walk in showers is warmth in the shower. There’s no door or curtain trapping in all the steam/heat that most people are used to. It might feel a little drafty since the warm air will be circulating throughout the entire bathroom. However, this could be a blessing in disguise. Sometimes it’s really hard to get out of a hot shower!
This last disadvantage is one of the more serious possible issues that needs to be addressed. Since there is no door, no tub wall, and no curb, there is a chance that water could leak out into the rest of your bathroom. If your curbless shower is properly designed, this won’t be an issue. Walk in showers have floors that are designed to slightly slope towards the drain, removing the possibility of water leaking out of the shower.
Additionally, many walk in showers have rain shower heads. Most shower heads in standard showers are placed at a 45 degree angle and spray water towards your body. The rain shower heads are directly above you, so the water is spraying straight down. This lessens the chance of water spraying outside of the shower. Here are some shower fixture options for you to check out if you’re curious.
This is an example of a minimalist industrial walk in shower. The natural wood vanity with the vessel sink in copper compliments the fixture of the shower head. The natural wood and gray tile is a pairing that you’ll see a lot in 2019. This is an example with very little privacy that might not be realistic for some walk in shower enthusiasts.
In this photo of a walk in shower, we can see that it still has an industrial vibe, but it’s not quite as intense. Rather than the gray concrete look, there is simple white tile with black grout that compliments to black tile floor. There is a nice splash of green from the hanging plant as well. For more tips on decorating your bathroom with plants, check out our quick guide.
The natural stone wall in this walk in shower brings out a sense of luxury. Between the dual rain shower heads and the all grey tile and stone, this is a high end showering experience.
When I see this, I think of a tropical island. The wood slats and rain shower head give off very “beachy” vibes.
As you can see, there are a lot of different directions you can go with a walk in shower. They work great in industrial bathrooms, modern bathrooms, contemporary, etc. Based on the amount of space you have, you can make a curbless shower work for you.
We found a great list of the basic steps of a walk in shower installation and how much the approximate cost is at Promise Home Works. Of course your pricing will vary, but this should give you a rough idea of what you’re looking at.
|1. Demo||All existing walls must be removed so the tub can be taken out|
|2. Reconfigure the plumbing||The plumbing needs to be fixed so it works with the new shower pan|
|3. Sweat the new shower valve||The tub spigot and valve need to be moved to fit the new setup|
|4. Install wall blocking||Wall blocking is installed in case of shower bars needing to be eventually installed|
|5. Install shower pan and shower walls||Making sure the shower pan is correctly installed and aligned with the shower walls|
|6. Select accessories||Accessories are up to you!|
- Acrylic Walk In Shower – $6,000 – $7,000
- Onyx Walk In Shower – $7,000 – $8,500
- Custom Tiled Walls Walk In Shower – $8,500 – $10,000
As we mentioned, your price is going to vary based on the size of your bathroom, contractor, and the material that you decide to go with. The time of the year you choose to remodel can affect the price as well. If you’re wondering what the best time to remodel a bathroom is, check out our Bathroom Remodel Guide.
So far, we’ve only covered the customized walk in shower options. If you look around, there are walk in shower kits that you can buy that are almost as good as the real thing. The kits aren’t by definition, curbless/walk in showers, because most of them have glass doors. However, these are a great budget option if you don’t need a tub and are looking to maximize space in your bathroom.
Shower panels are what you want to go with if you don’t plan on using tile in your shower. They come in various thicknesses. Usually, the thicker the shower panel, the higher the quality. The three materials used are PVS, acrylic, and laminated vinyl on an MDF core. Acrylic is the thinnest material, then PVC, and the thickest and best option is the laminated vinyl. The laminated vinyl on an MDF core comes in all kinds of finishes, which is great if you’re going for a more luxurious look, but don’t want to pay for tile. You can find shower panels that look like marble or even different modern designs.
Shower panels are great because they can be applied to any surface that you would apply tile to. They’re often more forgiving when it comes to uneven surfaces as well. Overall, they’re cheaper, easier to install, and have a lower maintenance cost than most tile options.
Shower pans for curbless showers are a little tricky because of the slope that needs to be put in. Without the correct slope in your walk in shower, water will leak out into the rest of the bathroom. When designing the shower floor, there needs to be a ¼” slope per foot of shower floor. The slope has to go towards the drain and there are two main options for that as well.
You can either go with a center floor drain or a linear drain along one wall. With a center drain, you’ll have to use smaller tiles and more grout because of the shape and slope of the shower pan. With the linear drain along one side, larger tile can be used.
Another consideration that needs to be made is how much traction you’ll have in the shower. Since there will be a slope in the shower, you’ll need to use sanded grout if you’re going with smaller tiles. If you choose the large tile format, you’ll have to make sure that you choose tiles that have enough traction so you’re not sliding around.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, one of the biggest advantages of a curbless shower is the ease of maintenance. There’s no shower door, no curtain, and often only three walls that you need to worry about. Having to deal with cleaning shower doors means scrubbing glass, trying to avoid water marks, and mold and mildew building up in the cracks.
With the walk in shower, you’ll just have to make sure that your grout isn’t collecting in dirt/mold/mildew and your drain stays unclogged. Natural cleaning solutions are a great option if you are trying to stay away from big name cleaning products. You can check out some options for natural cleaning products in our Natural Cleaning Products Guide. Most of the supplies that you need can be found in your pantry!
There is a lot to cover when you asking what you need to know about walk in showers. If you didn’t feel like reading through our guide (no big deal) here’s a quick rundown of the main points.
- Curbless showers and walk in showers are the exact same thing. They are showers you can walk right into without any curb or door to stop you.
- They’re great for people of all ages (no tub or curb to step over), easy to clean, spacious, and they look amazing.
- The only downside is they can be a little pricey, a little chilly, and if not done correctly, water could leak out into your bathroom.
- There are plenty of kits and custom options available, you just need to look around!