Making the bathroom safer should be a top priority for homeowners who plan to age in place, or want to protect an elderly or mobility-challenged loved one from harm. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), three million older adults are treated in emergency rooms for falls each year. 800,000 of those wind up hospitalized, most with a head injury or hip fracture. And in many cases, those falls happened in the bathroom.
In addition to grab bars and non-slip floors, a walk-in shower is a great addition to any accessible home. Walk-in showers can also be a great choice for a shower remodel for any homeowner for a variety of other reasons.
What is a Walk-in Shower?
A walk-in shower is exactly what it sounds like: a shower that you can simply walk into. There are no doors, curtains, or curbs. Many walk-in showers are designed with just a gentle slope at the entryway, making it easy for people with mobility challenges to access the shower area. For this reason, these showers can provide the utmost in comfort and safety for anyone of any age.
In addition to providing home accessibility, walk-in showers are popular choices for bathroom remodels because they are often spacious, modern, and easy to clean.
The Advantages of Walk-In Showers
One of the biggest advantages of walk-in showers is the safety aspect. Those who have mobility issues might have trouble lifting their legs enough to step over the lip or curb of a typical shower, which could lead to a dangerous fall. Walk-in showers allow the user to enter safely into the space without any hindrances. Adding grab bars, non-slip flooring, and a bench to your shower are all excellent ways to make the bathroom even safer.
Depending on the size of the shower, the gently sloping floor makes it easy to accommodate a standard wheelchair. For this reason, walk-in showers (also known as roll-in showers) are great additions to homes where homeowners plan to age in place and live independently.
In addition to their safety and accessibility, many homeowners prefer walk-in showers due to their added level of comfort. Multi-nozzles are an option, which can help with bathing and provide a more relaxing experience. Walk-in showers are also open and spacious, which can create a more comfortable bathing experience and offer a nice design boost for smaller spaces.
Easy to clean
Since there is no curtain or door, cleaning your shower will likely be much easier than it would be with a framed or semi-frameless shower. Walk-in showers are also typically installed with moisture-resistant tile rather than porcelain, making cleaning mold and mildew even less of a hassle.
Walk-in showers are seen as attractive to many modern home buyers. Because of their spaciousness, they can allow for more natural light and make your bathroom look larger and more open. Additionally, since walk-in showers often use tile flooring, you will have the opportunity to use the same tile as other places in your bathroom, unifying the room.
What are the Cons to Walk-in Showers?
Despite the advantages of walk-in showers, there are a few potential disadvantages to consider. Though adding this type of shower in every bathroom in the home might seem like a wonderful idea, your real estate agent might not agree with you. In order to qualify as a “full bath,” a bathroom must have a bathtub. For resale purposes, it is helpful to ensure at least one bathroom in the home has a tub; otherwise, it is considered a “three quarter bath.”
There are a few other reasons why walk-in showers might not be right for you:
If you have small children, it can be tough to bathe them in a shower.
The open concept can feel too cold and drafty during use.
The lack of a door or curtain means less privacy.
Going with a prefab shower kit might mean a small curb at the entry, which defeats the purpose of creating the safest environment.
Installation and Size Factors to Consider
Prefabricated vs. Custom Installations
There are two options for walk-in showers: a prefabricated unit or a custom job. Many prefabricated units can be installed by someone who is rather handy with plumbing and construction. However, to ensure all building codes are met, hiring a contractor is the best idea. When creating a custom walk-in shower, a professional is a must.
The size of your walk-in shower will be limited by the size of your bathroom. Most can be placed in the existing footprint of the bathtub. Installing the shower in a smaller space might not allow for proper slope for water drainage.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recommends a minimum of 36 by 36 inches for a walk-in shower, as well as a bench attached to one wall. If you need a walk-in shower that will accommodate a shower chair, the minimum is 30 by 60 inches. Grab bars in the shower are also highly recommended.
Understanding the Cost of Walk-In Showers
$800 – $2,500
$6,500 – $15,000
As you might imagine, prefabricated walk-in shower kits are the cheaper option. These can cost between $800 and $2,500, depending upon features and quality. Professional installation might double that cost, but it can be worth the price for peace of mind.
With a custom walk-in shower or walk-in tub, professionals will build the space from the ground up, adding in extra plumbing where needed, installing the tile and ensuring the shower pan is properly sloped, among other responsibilities. A custom walk-in shower can cost between $6,500 and $15,000, or even more, depending upon how luxurious you want to get.
Other Points to Consider
There have long been some misconceptions about walk-in showers. One of those is that without a door or curtain, water will get all over the floor. If the shower is not designed well, that may happen. Good design, however, should include a gently sloping floor that directs water toward the drain, as well as showerheads placed in the proper areas.
Many opt for a rainshower-style showerhead, as it not only directs water straight down, but it also allows that water to cover more of the body, thus cutting down on the second misconception: that all walk-in showers are drafty.
Some walk-in showers may be slightly drafty, simply due to the shape and size of the room, the air flow throughout, and other factors. To alleviate this, a glass block shower wall or other style of wall can keep the shower open but give it enough “protection” from the outside elements that the draft issue subsides.
In short, good design matters. For proper design and installation, turn to the pros.
Getting Started and Choosing the Best Contractor
If you are considering a walk-in shower or other home accessibility improvements, explore Modernize’s helpful Home Accessibility Checklist before getting started.
When choosing a contractor to make your bathroom safer, look for someone who has a good reputation, plenty of references and a solid estimate. Let Modernize help with this contractor checklist.
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Here are the top articles that homeowners found useful when planning their shower remodel project and navigating the contractor hiring process.