Curbless shower: how do you pass code?

thepondJanuary 5, 2009

Our last house remodel, we wanted a curbless shower so bad, but we were told you can't do it, must have a curb. That was in 2005, Oregon. City told us no, inspector said no, tile guy said he didn't do it. We ended up doorless, but not curbless. (Loved doorless shower!)

We tour plenty of homes that have them here. The showers are large. Here's our future shower. Can it be curbless?

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I think this is from the Frank Betz Summerlake plan (we are building it) and I have seen it built with a curbless shower. We are planning on curbless as well.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 8:15PM
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We wanted to before, but it was not allowed.
Was our bathroom too small? Is there a size needed?
Sloped part of floor a certain size?
Do you have to lower the shower floor?
What do you have to do to make it pass codes?
How do they make showers handicap accessable?
Does the entire room need to slope towards shower?
Is this new technology?

If we could just leave the curb out, we would have done that on our last house.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 2:35AM
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Our downstairs guestroom will become our master suite if and when we need a wheelchair accessible bathroom in the future. This is our forever house, God willing, so we wanted to plan for this contingency.

Our curbless shower is 5' from front to back and 4'4" wide. The tile man put a small, I mean very small raised line of cut stone of the same type we have on the bathroom and shower floor along a line where the center of a raised curb would be if we had one. It is probably no more than 3/8" high. We will put french glass doors along this line. The shower floor slopes from this point to the drain which is 30" in from the raised bump but I can't remember the amount of slope. It is so slight that it appears almost flat although you can "feel" the tilt when standing on it. I'm assuming the inspector already signed off on this since he has always made comments and insisted on changes on other things when they haven't met local code. Sorry I don't have pictures (everything is all taped and plasticked while the painters are there) but they probably wouldn't help anyway since you can't see the slope. I don't think it slopes more than an inch and a half to the drain.

There is an ADA code for making this type of shower completely compliant but I can't find my copy this morning. You should be able to find it on-line. In any event, I'm not sure that our shower is ADA compliant since it is the "forever" house and I don't intend to advertise it for sale as ADA compliant. We just wanted something that would pass code and work for us. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2009 at 8:03AM
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If you lower the shower floor and add a grate it should be allowed.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 5:02PM
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We have no curb at all in super-picky Washington state. It all was dependent on the slope from door opening to drain. It isn't especially steep in our fairly small shower. Is there code covering it that you can check out? Our builder was way off & thought it would be a precipitous slope; the shower builder went & talked to the county & there was no problem. Check before you decide against it.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 9:51PM
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Okay, my next move: go to the county and see what the restrictions are.

Still appreciate any advice or tips.

Thanks so very, very much!!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 1:28AM
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Please, anyone have photos of their curbless shower...we're considering same and would love to see your designs! Thanks.

thePond..let us know how you make out!!

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 10:38AM
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We have a roll-in shower for a wheelchair bound family member. It's curbless and we use a shower curtain. The important thing is to place your showerhead right, have the shower the right dimensions and the floor sloped correctly to the drain. We do live in the country, but I don't see how they can "not" allow it because of the ADA.
You can obtain a copy of the ADA guidelines and try to find a contractor who is familiar with the guidelines who has done that type of work and is experienced with it. The floor of the shower needs to be sloped for drainage. I believe the guidelines say 1/4 inch per foot. If you are going for wheelchair accessibility the shower should be a minimum 5 X 5 and have a handheld shower mounted low enough on the wall (probably around 30 to 40 inches) with a hose (they come 5 to 8') that would be long enough for a person sitting to use. There are pre-made shower units you can buy or you can have the slab done, or do a mud bed, backerboard, use a waterproof membrane (there are different ones Schluter Kerdi system is one)and tile. There are some very knowledgable people on the bathroom forum I'm sure could help you with info on that. Our shower is in one corner of the bathroom. It has 3 walls and one open end with a shower curtain. The showerhead is on a side wall of the shower. The concrete slab was sloped and no water runs out because of the way they poured the slab. We asked them to continue the slope outside the shower, about 1/8" per foot, but there was no need in our case. You could also use something like Ditra on the outside of your shower. Or I think Noble Seal is another that makes products for that, and tile over that. This type of shower won't hurt the value of a home. They are very nice even if you don't need them for H/C use:) Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 8:27AM
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i have no idea why the inspector said that..
here is a direct quote from my ada book
4.21.7 curbs if provided, curbs in shower stalls 36 in x 36 in shall be in higher than 1/2". shower stalls that are 30" x 60" minimum shall not have curbs.
if i were you, i would have a talk with the head of the building inspectors.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 10:14AM
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"here is a direct quote from my ada book "

The ADA book is not a building/plumbing code.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2009 at 4:36PM
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I really enjoy this website. I've spent alot of time reading here. I love to look at the pictures and have learned alot from others. I found another great website a couple years ago and visit it often too. If you go there and do a search for curbless showers you'll find alot of info and pictures too. It may help with your questions about design and how to do it. It's the John Bridge tile forum. There is one in progress that looks like it's going to be beautiful when it's finished. I'll try to put a link for it if I can figure it out. Oh, and if anyone would like more info on the ADA you can go to

Here is a link that might be useful: one curbless shower in progress at JBtf

    Bookmark   January 14, 2009 at 8:20AM
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We used this to build our curbless shower. It's built over an unfinished area, so it was easy for the contractor to replace each of the existing beams with two narrower beams, necessary for the shower floor to slope towards the drain.

Here is a link that might be useful: Curbless showers: an installation guide

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 3:52PM
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Here is a picture of a curbless in the plan that you showed.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2009 at 4:05PM
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On HGTV's website, a universal design expert recommends a compressible plastic strip; it holds in the water but is easy to roll over and won't be a tripping hazard Maybe like the bottom of a garage door. That is what I hope to have.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 6:27AM
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Code states that the top of the curb or threshold must be a minimum of 2" higher than the finished elevation of the drain opening.

The floor must slope a minimum of 1/4" per foot but not more than 1/2" per foot.

That means that at 1/4" per foot there must be an 8ft distance from the curb to the drain opening. (The absolute minimum would be 4' with a 1/2" per foot pitch).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 10:29AM
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It is my understanding that ADA trumps general building codes always. Otherwise there would not be any ADA (title 24 in California) codes in the Nation.
It is my understanding from representing channel drains that if a shower is made for disabled people the code previously mentioned does rule the day. Many building inspectors are not current and are misinterpreting the newer 2" threshold to be a slope requirement when it is not.
Requiring a 2" drop for a ADA or aging in place shower creates a dangerous condition and does open the inspector to liability.
A shower can be made for ADA use for future aging, for the visit of disabled persons or for disabled persons currently in the home.

A building department does not get to choose to allow who can and who can not build an ADA shower as long as all size and ADA codes are followed.

Make an ADA shower and press forward towards curb less shower floors being an option for our houses even with out ADA needs. This can be an Aging in Place mobility issue and a beauty issue.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 6:05PM
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An ADA compliant shower can be quite small: 36 inches x36 inches will work if there is enough clear space next to it (hopefully I have successfully uploaded a diagram).

The 2" shower dam is a plumbing code requirement, and is intended to protect your house from water damage if the drain backs up. A previous post noted that there are flexible thresholds that can retain water, yet easily fold under the pressure from the wheel of a wheelchair. They do the job, but they are not the most attractive addition to a beautiful shower.

While the maximum floor slope in a shower is 1/2" per foot, this doesn't mean that the shower floor must slope for 4 feet to get 2" above the drain, because you are also allowed to have a "threshold". The California Access Compliance Reference Manual allows for:

"1134A.6 Showers
5. Thresholds. When a threshold is used, it shall be a maximum of 2 inches (50.8 mm) in height and have a beveled or sloped angle not exceeding 1 unit vertical in 2 units horizontal (26.6 degrees from the horizontal). Thresholds 1âÂÂ2 inch (12.7 mm) or less in height may have a beveled or sloped angle not exceeding 1 unit vertical in 1 unit horizontal (45 degrees from the horizontal).

So, slope the floor up from the drain at a minimum of 1/4" per foot, or as much as 1/2" per foot, then use the 1:2 threshold just before your shower door or other shower opening to get to the 2" above the drain required by plumbing code.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 4:36PM
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Mimimum ADA shower dimensions

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 4:38PM
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