The Pros and Cons of a Doorless Walk-In Shower Design When Remodeling

Are Doorless Walk-In Showers Good For a Bathroom Remodel?

One of the significant trends of the past several years among homeowners is remodeling the bathroom to create a spa-like en-suite. When it comes to shower design, the most recent trend has been for a doorless or walk-in shower. While this design element has been around for centuries, recently it's experiencing a renaissance thanks to its incredible functionality, as well as it's beautiful look.

As more boomers are choosing aging-in-place as a lifestyle choice, a walk-in shower with no or a low-threshold is an excellent option for older homeowners. If you're considering a bathroom remodeling and one of your must-have options is a walk-in shower, read on and learn the advantages, disadvantages, tips and style ideas for this luxurious design choice.

Accessible Shower

This doorless walk-in shower was designed with accessibility and aging-in-place in mind. It has no curb, it is outfitted with grab bars, it has multiple shower heads including a handheld shower, and the bench seat is integrated into the design.

What Is A Walk-In Shower?

A doorless shower is known by many names including a walk-in shower, a roman shower or a roll-in shower (to name just a few) is a shower that has been architecturally designed not to require a door or curtain. Typically it's designed to isolate the shower head around a corner, or behind a wall, and grade the shower pan to drain water away from the opening.

Because it does not have a threshold, flooring can run unobstructed throughout the bathroom giving it a clean, modern look. A walk-in shower is a universal design element that can make it safe for homeowners to remain in their homes as they age.

From a design standpoint, a walk-in shower keeps the bathroom as open as spacious as possible. Because there is no threshold or shower door, it allows your tile work to shine. Without a door to clean, maintenance is quick and easy.

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Some FactsTo Keep in Mind

A doorless, walk-in shower offers many advantages over a traditional shower stall. However, before you decide, here are some facts to consider.

They Are Almost Always Custom Designed

They can be installed in a corner, or replace an existing bathtub or shower. However because they are open to the rest of the bathroom, the walls and flooring must be designed to contain the water. The design often involves custom drainage and tile work, depending on your needs and preferences. Tiled or waterproof walls can be floor to ceiling, or at a minimum, higher than the shower head. The to meet the minimum standard for universal design principals is 36x36 inches. The optimal size is at least 42x60 inches.

When Selecting A Base, Consider All Your Options

There are many pre-fab showers and pans available; however, most will not work well for a walk-in, doorless shower. Water needs to drain easily and not puddle. You have three primary decisions to make when choosing a shower base:

  • Standard or custom

  • Threshold height – can range from 0 to 4-inches

  • Surface materials

Door or Doorless

This oversized, ADA-accessible shower can work as a a doorless shower or the door can glide closed. The door need not be closed in most circumstances, but if the accessible shower bench is used or if a chair is wheeled in, then the glass door can slide closed for more flexible positioning in the shower without overspray going out.

A custom base made from a material like onyx or custom tiled is your best choice. To eliminate the threshold a sloped floor is necessary in the shower which both of these choices allow.

Shower Head Placement is Key

Water needs to be directed away from fixtures and lighting in the room. The spray radius should be considered when choosing your fixture. Using an overhead “rain” type shower head can help to contain water flow. Adjustable handheld shower heads are also a good choice, but consider that a handheld tends to spray water all around.

Special Ventilation is Not Required

Walk-in showers do not require special venting, but lighting is always a desirable feature. If your space is large enough, ventilation and lighting can be installed within the area, however, with proper ventilation within the bathroom, it is not required. Because there are typically walls around a doorless walk-in shower, dedicated lighting is almost always necessary.

Accessories Can Be Custom Configured

When planning your shower, consider the height and location of any wall niches for soaps and shampoo, shower seats and grab bars. Each can be custom configured for the height of the primary users and any special needs for aging homeowners.

The Pros Of A Walk-In Shower

Doorless showers offer homeowners many benefits, here are some to consider:

Walk-In Showers are a Luxury Bathroom Feature

A doorless shower is a luxurious addition to any bathroom. It offers a beautiful, elegant, look and can increase the value of your home when it's time to sell

ADA Accessible Shower

This doorless shower is fully ADA accessible and was retrofit into the space of a standard bathtub. A linear drain was installed on the floor, and the whole bathroom floor is waterproofed to prevent damage from any incidental overspray that makes it past the shower drain.

Easy Accessibility

Aging-in-place is a growing trend among older homeowners. A walk-in shower without a glass barrier, or a threshold, makes the bathroom more accessible for people of all ages, and with all levels of mobility. Consider making the entrance wide enough for wheelchair or walker access. Easy accessibility is also a great selling point down the road.

Easier Cleaning and Maintenance

This is a big selling point for homeowners! With no glass, there's no longer a need to keep a spray bottle or squeegee handy. Simply wipe down the walls periodically.

It's Often A Less Expensive Option

Leaving off the glass door can significantly reduce the cost of installation, as long as you don't increase the size of the shower and the amount of tilework in the design process.

The Cons of A Doorless Shower

While there are many benefits to including a walk-in shower in your remodeling plans, there are a few cons you need to be aware of before making your decision, they include:

Your Bathroom Just Isn't Big Enough

Even with correctly oriented shower heads, a sloped floor, and perfectly designed drainage, there's still going to be a little splashing. A proper doorless shower requires a larger bathroom space to ensure that water doesn't end up where you don't want it to be.

Lack of Privacy

Even with a clear glass door or shield can provide some privacy because the water drops obstruct the view. Choosing a frosted or designer option can take it a step further. Since the point of a doorless shower is to keep things open, you will be too, every time you take a shower.

You Might Get A Little Chilly

One of the benefits of a shower enclosure is that they block airflow and trap warmth in the shower. Open showers don't offer these benefits. Pairing an open shower with radiant floor heating can keep your bathroom comfortable, but if you're susceptible to chills, you may want to reconsider your choice.

A walk-in shower offers homeowners many benefits like easy accessibility and lower maintenance making it a perfect choice if you're planning on aging-in-place. While there are some drawbacks, they're minor when weighed against the benefits. With the exception of not having a large enough space, using frosted glass, and installing a radiant floor heating system can go a long way towards making an open shower the perfect choice.

If you're considering a bathroom remodeling project, would like to learn more about the benefits and beauty of adding a walk-in shower and live in the Madison, Wisconsin area, give the experts at Degnan Design Build Remodel a call at (608) 846-5963. We can help you to design the perfect spa-like bathroom to meet your needs now and in the future!

Want to learn more? Read about Choosing a Shower Head Style For A Master Bathroom Remodel.

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 7/30/2018.