How to Build a Curbless Walk in Shower

A curbless walk-in shower forms a seamless line with the bathroom floor. These shower stalls allow wheelchair access and facilitate easy entrance for those unable to enter a bathtub shower or curbed shower stall with ease. The level of difficulty involved in building a curbless walk-in shower ultimately depends on how much you need to modify your bathroom to accommodate a stall.

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Consult a contractor if you’re about installing a curbless walk-in.

Shower Base

The shower base comprises the three layers of a shower stall floor. These layers, the pre-pan, the pan and the shower floor, prevent water from leaking through the shower floor to the bathroom floor. To build a curbless walk-in shower, the shower pan and pre-pan must sit below the bathroom floor, so the shower floor sits even with the bathroom floor for a seamless walk-in. Shower pans create a watertight seal beneath the shower stall. You can purchase pre-made shower pans, usually made of plastics such as PVC or create one using a sheet or PVC or liquid membrane. Pre-pan materials vary considerably and include masonry and metal.

Walls

The materials you use for a curbless walk-in shower wall ultimately come down to personal preference. Bathroom walls built from tile require no modification. Painted surfaces, however, can suffer serious damage from moisture trapped in shower stalls. Solutions include modifying walls by tiling over them and installing pre-made plastic walling designed for shower stalls. You can tile over surfaces such as wood, plaster, wallboards and masonry, though never over wallpapers or fabrics -- you must remove paper or fabric before tiling. Installing pre-made plastic shower walling may require removing part of an existing wall.

Floor

Getting the right flooring for a curbless walk-in shower stall may entail extensive changes to your bathroom. If you want the shower to create a seamless floor line with your bathroom, you should tile the entire floor of the bathroom. Even if you install a door with a waterproof seal, water can leak from a curbless shower every time you open the door. To avoid tiling the entire bathroom floor, you can install the shower floor below the level of the rest of the bathroom floor by removing a section of floor and setting the shower base deep into the floor. Or you can angle the floor so that water cannot escape through the door. Both approaches require significant modification of an area of floor.

Faucets and Doors

Purchase doors and faucets for a curbless walk-in shower stall at a bathroom supply store, hardware store, department store or from an online retailer. Curbless shower stall doors sit on the bathroom floor. You can also hire a contractor to build a customized door or surrounding wall from the ground up. If your bathroom already contained a shower and you simply need to modify it to create a curbless walk-in, leave the shower spout at its normal height and move the valve up the pipe so it sits 48 inches from the floor. Installing the valve too low can put the shower controls out of easy reach.

Wheelchair Accessible Showers

Sharon Haby-Robie, author of "Decorating without Fear," recommends shower dimensions of at least 5 feet by 5 feet to accommodate a wheel chair. A standard wheelchair requires a circle at least 60 inches in diameter to turn in a full circle. Install faucets and a grab bar at a height comfortable for the wheelchair-bound individual for whom the shower is intended. For easy wheelchair access, doorways require a width of at least 36.5 inches.