Shower door disaster

johnc3April 24, 2012

After a six month remodel and large addition the problems come up at the end, funny.

Same bathroom that has the slanted skylight problem posted earlier, has a corner shower. Plans call for 42x42, but instead of just a glassed in enclosure we installed pony walls on both side. One pony wall parallels an inside wall, the toilet goes between them and the clearance is just at code. The other forms one side of the area where the vanity goes.

The whole thing is now tiled. When measuring for shower doors we find that the door opening is 22 inches. In California code requires a 22 inch "clear" opening, meaning must leave room for door. Even a frameless enclosure won't permit this.

The contractor says "we built this to specifications" to which I say "um the plans call for a corner shower and it is your responsibility to build it to code or, if there is a problem, alert us" They said "our showers at home have 18 inch doors" and they may have mentioned that the bathroom was a tight fit but nothing about code problems.

We aren't sure whether to require them to rip out thousands of dollars of work, including a finished tile job, and redo this, take a chance on the inspection or what. We are trying to get the project done and forsee a big issue coming. Happily, at the moment we owe them more than enough money to cover this (though they may stop work if they see a problem coming you never know).


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Annie Deighnaugh

Not kosher but who says you need a glass door? Put a shower curtain, if at some future date you decide to put a glass door, you can...can't guarantee if you'll remember about the 22"....

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 5:44PM
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This was hinted at by contractor. Though I feel like they are supposed to build the house correctly not do some half baked alternative (which would be ok under code, just not a solution for more than 5 minutes, we are not having a curtain in that room!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 6:00PM
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Do pony walls have exceptions for width? If the top has more room than the bottom, for example...

What I would do with your contractor, is make him put in what you want with the understanding that if it doesn't pass final inspection, he fix what he needs to fix to make it pass.

If you like it otherwise, and are only worried about inspection; that is what I'd do.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 6:36PM
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The building inspector said we can use a shower curtain to pass inspection. So it is up to us whether to live with an 18 inch clear opening as a shower door or to make the contractor rip out the work and redo it. The contractor is willing to do that. Of course there are many issues involved including getting more tile to replace the tile that is wrecked and weeks of mess in our newly finished house. I am not inclined to live with a very narrow shower door though--I think this could impact both usability of the bathroom and resale value of the house down the road. Anyone have a door that narrow?

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 1:37PM
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How did you lose 4"? You said the door opening is 22 inches and the clear opening is 18". Our shower door hinges only reduce the opening about 1 3/8" (3/8" glass).

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 8:47PM
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How long are you going to live in this house?

18" is too small in my opinion for long term.
If this is going to be a home for the long run, I would rip it out and nix the pony walls. I personally dont like pony walls. It always looks like you are trying to hide something. nothing like a clean clear glass shower.

Soffits, pony walls = cover up.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2012 at 8:59PM
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This is a vacation house that will likely be a retirement house. These are tight bathrooms. One pony wall is next to a vanity and the other next to a toilet. Glass walls=view of toilet from the shower. Yuck.

We agree that 18 inches is too small. Fight with contractor is coming.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 6:27PM
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I think 18" is too narrow for an opening. But I don't think this is just the contractors fault. If he is a bathroom DESIGNER then yes, his fault. If he is the GC then while it would have been great that he noticed your shower door plan would make the shower not pass code, I don't think it's his job to check that every option you choose is within code.

Here's what I would do - offer to pay for the materials to adjust the pony wall width if he will pay for the labor.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 9:06PM
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Interesting. Actually, we did not choose the opening size. The bathrooms were drawn by the architect without pony walls but the contractor said they would be the right thing to do. In effect, there wasn't a designer at all. No one told us they were building openings of a particular size, just that the bathrooms were "tight." The contractor apparently measured his own shower door at home but didn't tell us how large it would be.

Our bad that we didn't have a bathroom designer.

I wonder though, in this circumstance why it would not be the contractor's job to know what is code and what is not. The drawings have a 30 inch opening because there is no pony wall on the drawing. AS owner should I have said "how will these affect the opening and code?" I certainly didn't do that for other elements of the job.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 6:17PM
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Lynne Reno

It was up to the GC to make sure that what he did met code. It sounds like he took it upon himself to alter the architect's plan so it's on him..I wouldn't offer to pay for materials or labor.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 6:57PM
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Did you approve the pony walls?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 8:28PM
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I don't understand this now. You have a 42x42" shower that was going to have a 30" wide opening. After agreeing to pony walls that has shrunk to 22" and with a door it will drop to 18"?

Maybe it is a neo-angle shower? But I don't see how pony walls would change the opening of a neo-angle shower by that much.

If it is a square shower & you planned to have a 30" opening on one of the 42" sides, then how did adding pony walls shrink that by so much?

I'm still not sure I would have agreed to a 22" wide opening, but I think part of the problem is that you did not notice & bring it up until after it was tiled. I would think this is something you'd notice when it was framed (when it would be cheaper & easier to modify).

Maybe there is another solution besides tearing out both pony walls - can you post a sketch of the shower & opening?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 5:36AM
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We aren't the best owners in a construction project. We "saw" the pony walls but we didn't really focus on the opening at all. The issue the contractor focused on was the space for the toilet, which has turned out to be 30 inches, the minimum required by code. This was mentioned to us and we said ok. The size of the shower opening we did not look at really (we did look at the size of the neoangle shower and yes focused on the elbow room etc and the reduction in size). We were really focused on issues surrounding sourcing vanities, fireplace design etc. No doubt we could have called out an issue on the framing of the pony walls before they were tiled.

My "defense" if necessary is that I feel more strongly about a narrow opening when I know that it is well below code; the code issue is a wake up call. Also, you notice narrow a lot more after tile.

First shower door installer commented that "turning the corner" on the pony walls is the real problem. The decision to turn the corner wasn't really discussed with us. We didn't pay attention to it......

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 3:00PM
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My home was built in 1971 and in the masterbath we have an 18" shower door on our neo-angle shower. We hate it. It is very narrow and with the door swing you have to enter the shower sideways. Our new shower will have at least a 24" opening more if the space allows.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 5:03PM
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