For those with mobility issues, a roll-in shower can be a wonderful asset in the home that allows them to hold onto independence longer. A roll-in shower, also known as a wheelchair-accessible shower or simply wheelchair shower, allows users to simply roll the wheelchair into the shower, transfer to the comfortable seat, and bathe as usual.
A roll-in shower can be an integral bathroom modification for aging in place. But these showers can also be used by anyone, even if they are not elderly or disabled. Similar to a walk-in shower, any member of the family can enjoy easily walking into the shower, with no worries about tripping over the lip of a tub or the edge of a typical shower stall. These showers will also open up a bathroom space since they do not feature glass doors or enclosures.
This page is for those who are curious about installing a roll-in shower in their bathroom. Is a wheelchair shower the right choice for you? Let’s take a look at wheelchair accessible showers, what it takes to install one, what it might cost, and more.
What is a Roll-in Shower?
Roll-in showers are also be known as wheelchair showers, wheelchair accessible showers, ADA showers, or even barrier-free showers. These showers are designed like a typical shower with a few significant exceptions. The biggest is that there is no shower curb, or lip, at the entryway. Most of the time, the bathroom floor is level with the floor of the shower. Sometimes the shower floor is very slightly inclined toward the drain, to prevent water from cascading into the rest of the bathroom.
This means a wheelchair can roll right into the shower with no obstruction at all. Users can enter the shower area in their wheelchair, transfer to the attached seat in the shower, and bathe under the stream of water. There is often a shower curtain to pull for privacy or to help keep water in the shower. However, larger roll-in showers might not need a curtain at all.
The seat in the shower can be a foldable one that allows others in the household to use it as a typical shower, or the seat might be fixed if you choose this option. Hand-held showerheads are a must in a roll-in shower, as are soap dishes and ADA grab bars at a lower height than usual.
Roll-In Showers vs. Walk-In Tubs
|Roll-in showers||Walk-in tubs|
|Better for daily hygiene needs||Better for relaxation and baths only|
|Entry is easier||Entry can be difficult and require assistance|
|More affordable on average||More expensive on average|
Walk-in tubs and roll-in showers are similar in that those who are using a wheelchair must transfer to a seat in the tub or shower area in order to bathe. However, they work a bit differently. In a wheelchair shower, the shower water cascades around you, while a walk-in tub requires entering the tub (or transferring into it), closing the door, and waiting for the tub to fill with water.
Walk-in tubs may not allow for ease of some hygiene needs, such as washing your hair. On the other hand, they can accommodate relaxing add-ons, such as massage jets and aromatherapy. Also, in many cases, those who use a walk-in tub might require assistance to transfer out of their wheelchair. Many times, those who use a roll-in shower might be able to handle that transfer on their own, thus maintaining even more of their independence in their day-to-day living.
Having both options can be a fantastic idea that homeowners should consider if they want the ease of a shower as well as the relaxation of a tub. When it comes down to the decision, think about your lifestyle and what bathroom features you will use most frequently.
Safety in the bathroom, especially for those who use wheelchairs or are mobility challenged, is of the utmost importance. Even those without mobility issues are still at risk in a room where water resides in conjunction with hard surfaces. This is why roll-in showers include many ADA safety features, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Roll-in showers are ADA compliant and designed to safely accommodate those who use wheelchairs. Below are the safety features you can expect to accompany all wheelchair showers:
These bars are installed on the walls of the wheelchair accessible shower, attached to the studs, so they can withstand the weight of a person holding onto them. They can be installed horizontally, vertically, or at an angle. Not only are they suitable for safety, they can also make a great way to help transferring out of or into a wheelchair.
Handheld shower heads
These are often installed on vertical bars to make it easier for anyone to use the shower, whether standing up or sitting down. Just like grab bars, a handheld shower head is a required part of an ADA-compliant roll-in shower.
Flat thresholds and trench drains
The ideal option for a walk-in shower is a flat threshold. However, one of up to ½ inch might be suitable, depending upon the situation and configuration of the bathroom. A trench drain is an even better option, as it lies flat and allows water to flow down into it rather than out onto the bathroom floor.
The seats in a roll-in shower can be either a fixed seat, which does not move at all, or a folding seat that allows for more room in the shower for someone who is standing up. In most cases, these seats are L-shaped. Grab bars are carefully situated near the seat. It should be able to hold at least 250 pounds.
Types of Roll-in Showers
There are two types of roll-in showers. The standard roll-in shower is one that has three walls, including two side walls and one back wall. The entrance is long and open. It ideally has no threshold, but if it does, the threshold must comply with the ADA rules of no more than ½ inch in height. It has grab bars on all the walls that do not have a seat. The roll-in shower must have ample room in the bathroom, outside the shower, to allow for easy maneuvering of a wheelchair.
The alternate roll-in shower has a short wall at the entrance of the shower. Behind that wall is the seat. They have no threshold (unless it is ADA compliant) and are about six inches deeper than the standard shower to accommodate the entrance wall. These showers also have strategically-placed grab bars for safety and the same requirements for clearance outside the shower.
How Much Do Roll-in Showers Cost?
In most cases, a roll-in shower can be a prefabricated unit. The cost of the unit itself can run between $750 and $3,000, on average. The cost of installation can run just as much, depending on costs of labor in you area. All in all, you will be looking at a price of between $1,500 and $6,000 for an installed roll-in shower. Keep in mind this is based on a prefabricated unit that is relatively easy for a professional to assemble.
A custom roll-in shower is much more expensive. In this case, you will choose exactly what you want it to look like, what features you want to incorporate, and its size (assuming, of course, it meets the minimum ADA requirements). A custom roll-in shower can easily run upwards of $15,000 for parts and labor.
Unfortunately, Medicare will pay only for certain modifications in the home, and roll-in showers are likely not on that list. However, talk with your contractor about the options, as the rules for Medicare and insurance companies could change by the time installation occurs.
Remember that roll-in showers are an investment in your long-term health, good hygiene, and safety of those in your home, especially the elderly or those with mobility issues. Peace of mind can be worth much more than any price paid for a roll-in shower.
Dimensions and Sizes
The dimensions and sizes of a roll-in shower are not hard and fast rules. However, you will want to know about dimensions if intend to sell your home in the future.
Having an ADA-compliant shower or bathtub in your home can be a significant selling point for those who might want to move into a home with mobility aids. Besides that, following the ADA guidelines will help ensure your own comfort and safety.
For even more space you can opt for a custom shower, as long as there is enough clearance in front of it to move a wheelchair around as needed.
Other Bathroom Accessibility Modifications
A roll-in shower is a strong investment in health and safety, but there are other bathroom modifications that can improve the quality of life for all family members as well.
- Grab bars, which are standard in the shower, do not have to be limited to that area. They can also be used around the toilet, near the sink, and anywhere else that someone might need a little help.
- Toilets can be raised to a more comfortable height for those in wheelchairs, so there is not as much difficulty with transferring from the chair to the toilet seat.
- Walk-in tubs are also a great option if the bathroom has enough space for both the tub and the roll-in shower.
Other great accessibility options for around the house include stairlifts, which helps those who have mobility concerns who still want full access to all floors of the home. You can also add grab bars in other rooms, non-slip flooring, excellent lighting along hallways and other walkways, and countertops and sinks that are of a good height for anyone to use.
Medical alert systems, from fall detection bracelets to whole-house systems, can help ensure safety and independent living for even longer. For more ideas on how to make your home safer, visit our home accessibility checklist.
Finding a Roll-in Shower Professional
When it’s time to find a professional to help you choose and install a roll-in shower, Modernize can help. We provide an easy way to connect you with the contractors in your area who have the expertise you need to get the job started.
When choosing a contractor, vet them carefully. Ask how much experience they have with ADA compliance and installing accessible home modifications. Your contractor might be able to install more than one modification at once, thus saving you even more money. Use Modernize today for a safer home tomorrow.