Walk In Shower InstallationWalk-in showers are installed as safety and space-creating solutions. Learn about the benefits a walk-in shower installation provides for your home.
Walk-in showers are manufactured without tub walls for ease of entry purposes. Prefabricated (prefab) and custom models are available to suit almost any size space and need. Some homeowners choose a walk in shower installation as a safety-based solution due to a disability or other limited mobility issues. Others simply prefer the streamlined and more spacious look they provide.
This type of installation requires some research pursuant to available models, contractors and costs. Information to help you prepare for the installation process is also necessary. Continue reading to learn about the many benefits a walk-in shower installation provides for your home.
Brief Definition of the Walk-In Shower
Technically, most showers are walked into in some way by homeowners not in wheelchairs. The significant difference between a walk-in shower and standard type of shower is the lack of elevated bathtub wall. Standard showers are typically conjoined with a bathtub. A walk-in shower has no elevated tub wall or even a bathtub at all. Some walk-in showers are equipped with small benches or handicapped-accessible seating areas. Many have handrails and anti-slip surfaces on their floors for additional safety measures as well.
Multiple different interchangeable terms are used by consumers and professionals alike when referencing walk-in showers. For example, some walk-in showers are referred to as zero-barrier showers. Walk-in showers compliant with regulations as set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 are referred to as ADA or ADA-compliant showers. A few more interchangeable terms used to refer to walk-in showers include:
Guide to the Walk-In Shower Installation Process
Multiple important steps are involved when converting a standard bathtub and shower into a walk-in shower. The first step is to recognize the reasons you want and/or need to have one installed. The next steps include choosing your brand, model, contractor and features. The actual installation process involves numerous other steps and choices for which you must also be prepared.
Reasons to Choose a Walk-In Shower
Some homeowners need a walk-in shower but wish to keep the walls and tiles they already have. Removing the bathtub and keeping the walls the same is not likely possible, however. Bathtubs are manufactured as one sizable piece. Your tub is installed before any drywall and tile are added. This essentially results in your walls and tiling trapping your bathtub in place. To remove your old tub, you must therefore also remove all applicable tiles and walls.
Choosing Your Brand and Model
Choosing the best brand and model of walk-in shower for your needs goes beyond matching aesthetics to your pre-existing bathroom décor. For example, each U.S. state and municipality has its own building and plumbing code regulations. Before installing a new walk-in shower, it is necessary to schedule a consultation with local bath designers and/or building officials to ensure your installation is compliant with applicable codes. Pre-fabricated (prefab) walk-in showers are typically between forty-eight and sixty inches wide, with a depth of thirty-two inches. Your bathroom might need a larger size and therefore a customized installation. Please note: Larger walk-in shower sizes are typically better at preventing water leaks onto the bathroom floor.
Multiple design shapes and styles are also available. While rectangular are the most common shape purchased, rounded, squared, and angled walk-in showers are also available. Choose the style and shape best suited for your bathroom aesthetics and spacing, while prioritizing the safety of all users.
Special ADA-Compliant Considerations
The recommended size for ADA-compliant showers with an included bench is at least thirty-six by thirty-six inches. These specifications are in place to allow for wheelchair accessibility and accommodations. A thirty-six by sixty inch shower is strongly recommended, however. If the person in need of the shower also requires assistance from an aide to safely enter and exit the unit, even larger dimensions are suggested.
Sometimes the plumbing you already have in your bathroom is usable as-is for your new walk-in shower. Sometimes it is not, however. Prior to having a new shower installed you (and/or your contractor) need to assess all plumbing-related logistics. The most important aspect is the reconfiguration of your existing plumbing to match the needs of the newly-installed shower pan. This allows the water to properly drain without flooding, leaks, or additional types of plumbing problems.
Shower Valve and Wall Blocking
Once your new walk-in shower is installed, your previous tub spigot and shower valve location will be rendered unusable. Both the spigot and valve must be relocated to the position most suitable for your comfort and needs. Please note: Your shower head will likely also be relocated at this time.
Wall blocking is performed for shower grab bar mounting purposes. This procedure is typically done whether you have grab bars mounted during the initial installation or not. This prevents the need to remove and reinstall your walk-in shower should you need grab bars in the future.
Shower Pan and Walls
The shower pan and shower walls are installed next. These procedures involve securing the units and their components. They also involve ensuring proper alignment of these parts for both safety and aesthetics purposes.
Benefits of Walk-In Shower Installations
Once installed, your new walk-in shower requires fewer accessory items to use than a standard shower. For example, walk-in showers do not need shower curtains or doors to prevent water from spraying onto your bathroom floor and walls. This means a walk-in shower provides a more spacious appearance, even if your bathroom was not renovated to add more square footage. A multi-nozzle spray, which is a common feature in most walk-in showers, provides up to ten different nozzles dispersing water from multiple angles toward your body. This convenient feature reduces the amount of time you must spend to get clean. Please note: If you intend to sell your home at some point, it is important to leave at least one full bathtub installed. A full bathtub is required for home appraisers to consider a bathroom as a “full bathroom.” The presence of at least one full bathroom increases the real market value of your home.
Choosing Your Accessories
Customizing your new walk-in shower is the best way to ensure your enjoyability, comfort and safety. A foldable bench provides a place to sit safely but more room to stand when you need it. Wet-room flooring styles are typically accompanied by a solitary sheet of glass on one side of the shower and no shower door. Shower doors, curtains and curtain rods are available options if you choose to add them, however. Additional accessories include shelving (for soaps, shampoos, etc.) and adjustable shower wands for better bodily access.