Advantages of Walk-In Showers

People define walk-in showers many different ways. Some people consider walk-in showers to be any shower that is a stand alone unit. Other people consider walk-in showers to be showers that allow for easy entry, have very low or curbless thresholds or showers that don't have doors.

We are going to look at the benefits of showers that allow for people of any age or ability to use. This type of walk-in shower is often also called a curbless shower. The U.S.A. has an aging population. Now many people are coming to recognize that to bathe safely and independently, people must move beyond the traditional bathroom fixtures found in most homes today. Also the growing need of the increasing number of people with disabilities has also shed light on this safety issue. This fact has increased the interest in walk-in showers.

Bathrooms are one of the most dangerous rooms in a dwelling due to the hard, slippery-when-wet surfaces. Most bathrooms have few if any grab bars or other gripping surfaces which are useful for support. Often times people rely on towel bars for support. Unfortunately, towel bars are typically not constructed to be used as a grab bars and/or are improperly mounted for support. Combine the lack of hand support, with a step and an unsteady user and the chance for a bathroom fall increases dramatically.

Often times the standard traditional fixtures do not meet the variety of individual needs that occur through-out a person's lifespan. Many manufacturers are providing beautiful Universal Design products that focus on lifetime usability. Many products available today offer style that people want, while keeping the safety of all users in mind.

A relatively new fixture design, the curbless shower, is extremely versatile and can be considered "universal". These showers feature a very low or no threshold at all so users may easily walk or roll into the unit.

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Curbless showers are most useful when they have a built-in seat, a hand-held shower, and appropriately placed grab bars for support. These showers can still be used in a traditional manner if a bather chosses to stand to shower.

The only bathing option that a curbless shower does not offer is the opportunity to soak. However, in many homes today there often is a second bathing fixture such as a bathtub or walk-in bathtub.

Sometimes people have specific reasons that they want to use a bathtub. Some people prefer the bathing experience, while others need the therapeutic properties of a bath. Often people need to explore and understand the differences between air spas and whirlpool baths.

POTENTIAL INSTALLATION ISSUES

In single-family housing, with a few exceptions, bathrooms are not required to meet the ADA design requirements. However, in occupancies which require a specific number of "fully accessible" units, such as multifamily housing, if curbless showers are installed they must comply with the design requirements.

Both the NC State Accessibility Code and the ADA Standards for Accessible Design prohibit thresholds at curbless (or roll-in) showers. Thus, containing water so it does not seep into the subfloor or splash out of the unit can be a key design challenge.

Curbless showers have water containment concerns that should be recognized before the installation of a shower. There are two main factors that impact water containment.

If attention is paid to a few critical details, curbless showers will meet building codes, are highly usable by most people, present few if any installation difficulties, and do not leak or present maintenance problems. It is hoped that the information provided will increase both the quantity and quality of curbless showers available so more people may independently and safely bathe and remain in their residence of choice for as long as they wish.