A walk-in shower, also known as a roll-in shower, is a type of bathing area without any doors or curtains enclosing it. Unlike a typical tub shower combo, a walk-in shower does not have any barriers to step over or around. This open concept makes walk-in showers much more accessible and easier to use for those with mobility challenges or disabilities. In our guide, we will explore what defines a walk-in shower, the different types available, their pros and cons, costs, and tips for choosing the right model.
Defining Key Features Of Walk-In Showers
There are a few key features that distinguish a walk-in shower from other bathing spaces:
- Open entry: The entryway into a walk-in shower has no door or curtain. You simply walk right in without impediment.
- Level entry: A walk-in shower may be flush with the floor or have a very low threshold of 1-2 inches. Either way, there is no significant step up into the shower.
- Wheelchair accessible: With their spacious open layouts and barrier-free entries, walk-in showers accommodate wheelchairs and mobility devices with ease.
- Grab bars & seats: Most walk-in shower models have built-in grab bars, benches, and non-slip floors for added accessibility and safety.
Essentially, the hallmarks of a walk-in shower design are the ease of entry/exit and accommodation of wheelchairs and limited mobility. Showers with high thresholds or doors would not qualify as true walk-in showers.
Types Of Walk-In Showers
There are a few different configurations when it comes to walk-in shower designs:
Wheelchair Roll-In Showers
Wheelchair accessible showers meet ADA standards for accommodation of wheelchairs and mobility aids. Key features include:
- Wide entry of at least 32 inches for wheelchair access
- Fold down seat and grab bars for resting/assistance
- Non-slip flooring
- ADA compliant controls within reach
Roll-in showers offer complete accessibility for wheelchair users to bathe independently and safely. The spacious open layout allows straight on wheelchair entry instead of sideways maneuvering through a narrow space.
Curbless Walk-In Showers
As the name suggests, curbless walk-in showers have no raised curb at the entryway. This allows for completely level and barrier-free access from the floor into the shower space.
Removing the curb reduces the fall risk and makes access easier for those with mobility limitations. Curbless designs work well for walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and individuals who struggle with high steps.
Open Walk-In Showers
The most spacious and versatile of walk-in shower designs is the open concept. As there are no containing walls, the shower area flows seamlessly from the rest of the bathroom.
Open showers accommodate multiple users at once and also allow for easy transfer from wheelchairs. The lack of containment does mean more water splashing though. Good drainage and floor slopes are a must.
Benefits Of Walk-In Showers
Why select a walk-in shower instead of a bathtub or tub shower combo? There are several advantages that make them an ideal choice in many circumstances:
Accessibility – The low/zero entry threshold and open layout accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and mobility limitations. This allows aging in place more safely.
Independence – For those with disabilities, a walk-in shower provides the ability to bathe without assistance. Seats and grab bars offer support as needed.
Comfort – The spacious design reduces feelings of confinement or claustrophobia that can occur in enclosed tub showers.
Safety – Walk-in showers eliminate the hazardous high step over a tub wall. Non-slip floors also reduce fall risks.
Hygiene – Walk-ins allow rinsing the entire body with ease compared to cramped tub showers or sponge baths.
Space Savings – Without a tub taking up space, walk-in showers can fit into small bathrooms and offer a more open feel.
For many homeowners, the accessibility and safety of walk-in showers outweigh the appeal of a relaxing bath in a tub. The ability to bathe independently is a major factor as we age.
Disadvantages Of Walk-In Showers
Of course, there are some potential downsides to choosing a walk-in shower instead of a tub shower:
- Limited space for bathing if sharing with others
- Less ability to soak and relax in warm water
- Open design leads to more splashing onto the floor
- Loss of resale value compared to homes with tubs
- More difficult for parents to bathe small children
For those who love leisurely soaks in the tub or need to bathe their kids, a walk-in shower may not meet all their bathing needs. Homeowners will also want to weigh resale value if considering removing a tub.
Walk-In Shower Materials
Walk-in showers can be customized with a wide selection of design options. Choosing the appropriate materials is key to both form and function.
Types of Surfaces
Common surfaces used in walk-in showers include:
- Porcelain tile – Beautiful, affordable option that is easy to clean. Can be slippery.
- Cultured marble – Warm, natural look that is seamless. Requires resealing to prevent stains.
- Fiberglass – Budget-friendly choice. Can fade over time and scratch.
- Acrylic – Durable, shiny surface that resists scratches. Can lack natural warmth.
- Natural stone – Elegant look, but very heavy. Requires sealing for water resistance.
- Glass block – Provides light and privacy. Not ideal for wheelchair use due to ribs.
Non-slip shower flooring is a must for safety. Mosaic tile, textured porcelain, pebble floors, and etched surfaces provide traction. Linear drains also prevent pooling water.
For wheelchair access, a wide entry with no doors is best. For contained showers, glass doors work well. Certain metals like brass or zinc can react with water over time.
Handheld showerheads on slide bars allow adjusting the height and direction as needed. Recessed shelves provide space for bath accessories and make installing grab bars easier.
Costs Of Installing Walk-In Showers
What’s the price tag for installing a walk-in shower? Several factors affect the overall costs:
- Size of the shower – Larger equals higher material costs
- Custom vs prefab – Custom building is pricier than installing manufactured showers
- Materials selected – Tile, stone, and glass are more expensive
- Accessibility features – Seats, grab bars, and non-slip floors add cost
- Plumbing work needed – Moving drainage lines incurs plumbing labor fees
- Electrical and lighting – Heated floors, lights, and waterproofing add expense
- Removal of existing tub/shower – Demolition work and repairs needed
For a basic 5×3 walk-in shower with tile walls, expect costs between $3,000-$7,000. High-end custom showers with stone can reach $15,000-$30,000. Walk-in tub/shower combos usually range from $4,000-$10,000.
Tips For Choosing A Walk-In Shower
If you’re planning a walk-in shower installation, keep these tips in mind:
- Evaluate your mobility needs and choose ADA compliant models if warranted
- Browse design pictures to find your perfect style – from modern to rustic
- Select non-slip, low-maintenance shower surfaces for safety and ease of cleaning
- Visit showrooms to test models in person – test seats, controls, sprayers
- Choose universal designs for resale value and to age in place gracefully
- Work with experienced shower contractors for proper plumbing and waterproofing
- Consider radiant heated floors for cold mornings and soothing sore muscles
- Add safety accessories like grab bars, benches, and handrails even if not needed yet
- Splurge on comfort features like body sprays or rainfall showerheads if in your budget
The right walk-in shower can greatly enhance your bathing experience and accommodate changing accessibility needs. With careful selection of both form and function, you’re sure to find a design that works for your lifestyle.
Frequently Asked Questions About Walk-In Showers
Looking into walk-in showers? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions:
Are walk-in showers really wheelchair accessible?
Yes, ADA compliant walk-in showers provide full wheelchair accessibility. Key features include a low or curbless entry, wide opening of 32″ minimum, fold down seat, grab bars, and reachable controls. Always verify ADA standards are met when shopping.
Do walk-in showers require special construction?
Walk-in showers may require relocating drain pipes and water lines, which adds construction work. The floor surface must have the right slope and waterproofing as well. Tub-to-shower conversions also need the proper structural support without the tub weight.
How big should a walk-in shower be?
Standard dimensions for accessible walk-in showers are at least 36″ x 36″, but 60″ x 36″ is better for wheelchairs. Curbless showers need 12″ of floor space outside the entry. Custom oversized models can be as large as 5′ x 5′.
Can you put a seat in any walk-in shower?
While any walk-in can have a seat added, ADA guidelines specify exact seat size, placement, and grab bars for disabled access. Seats should be fold up models 17-19 inches off the floor. Follow ADA regs for proper wheelchair accommodation.
Do walk-in showers require special maintenance?
Walk-in showers require some periodic sealing and caulking to prevent leaks and mildew buildup in crevices. Also clean shower doors regularly and squeegee to prevent mineral spots. Use daily spray cleaners to prevent soap scum.
How do you contain water in a walk-in shower?
Curtains can contain splashing water, but work best in tub/shower combos. For stand-alone walk-ins, glass doors or partitions extending from the walls help contain water. Some small contained units like shower stalls are also available.
We hope these tips help you determine if a walk-in shower is right for your bathroom needs. The barrier-free access and safety features make them a smart choice for many homeowners. With an adaptable and well-planned design, a walk-in shower can serve you comfortably for many years.