Flooring materials for bathroom with curb less shower?

crl_March 14, 2014

I am looking ahead to a bathroom remodel that is still a few years away (kitchen is next, then hall bathroom). When we do it, I am contemplating a curb less shower for accessibility. Is tile the only flooring option?


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Realistically I would say yes.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 7:10PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Well, you could do it in a solid surface like Corian, buut you just took an expensive project into top 5% expensive.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 7:48PM
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Thank you. I figured, but thought I would ask the all-knowing gardenweb. ;)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 10:49PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

You have to treat the whole room as a 'wet' room, which is determined from height of the entry floor into the room to the drain. You don't get many choices...as they would all have to be waterproof.


    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 11:17PM
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I just want to make sure I have found all the options. I understand it becomes all part of the shower floor, but I wasn't sure if there were more options than tile that can work.

I had vaguely thought of something like soapstone, which is used for shower pans, but like the corian mentioned above, it would be cost prohibitive for me (both the slab of soapstone and the floor support work to bear that kind of weight). Similarly I had thought of terrazzo. I don't know much about that material and it seems inappropriate in my 1926 French Revival house?

I love tile on walls, but find it cold, hard, and difficult to keep clean as a flooring choice so I want I make sure I have considered allllll the options beforehand. At some point I may have to decide how important the curb less shower is vs avoiding a tile floor. . . .

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 11:29PM
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Let me expand on things a bit. I'll write some about the "technical requirements" as well as a bit about the "practical requirements".

The technical: I think it's been pretty well beaten to death over the years that code requires the shower pan has to contain water to a depth of 2" over the drain. So if you have a 2" vertical difference between the start of the sloped floor at the shower entry or threshold and the end of the sloped floor at the drain, you're good. With the 2" requirement satisfied, the entire "bathroom" floor can be flat and the floor only needs to slope within the "shower" footprint itself.

Water has surface tension, and as such it can move to areas not within the shower flood plain due to capillary action. So it makes sense to add a capillary break under the tile at the threshold to prevent water from being wicked from the wet area within the shower to the dry area in the bathroom.

Technically, you only need waterproofing within the shower and you only need an impervious material like tile on the floor within the shower's flood plain. On a practical note, it makes sense to include both a capillary break at or near the threshold and to extend the tile (or an impervious flooring material) as well as the under-floor waterproofing to an area a few feet outside of the shower.

Those few feet of protection outside of the shower will protect the floor from shower over-spray and provide a protected "drying off area", etc.

With all that written, your question was "Is tile the only flooring option?"

Inside the shower and for practical purposes the few feet outside the shower, you want a material that won't be damaged by water. That material is typically a properly rated tile or an appropriate natural stone. Man-made materials can also suffice.

Once (technically) outside the shower flood plain and (practically) a few feet away from the shower entry and on the bathroom floor, you can use whatever material you like on the remainder of the bathroom floor. Wood, cork, tile, stone, etc.

I've done a few curbless showers in that fashion: Tile or stone in the shower and extending a couple of feet out in front of the shower entry, then another flooring material (wood, cork, a different type/style of porcelain or stone tile) on the remainder fo the bathroom floor.

You specifically asked about soapstone. I've fabricated shower pans from solid soapstone slabs. I've tiled shower pans and tiled bathroom floors in soapstone. Soapstone itself is a fine choice for a shower or any other wet area.

For a remodel, yes, floor stiffness can be a concern, especially with a natural stone floor. The floor can be structurally stiffened, and membranes can also be used to decouple or isolate the tile from floor movement.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:29AM
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Thanks, mongoct! I very much appreciate your time educating and helping on this forum!

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:51AM
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