Curbless shower - Do I have this right?

alida_gwSeptember 23, 2013

Hello all! I am a long time lurker who is finally getting ready to begin our MB remodel. DH wants a big shower... really big... as in right now, he'd like to take one whole end of the room, which would be a shower approx. 8.5' long by 5.5' wide. He and I are still in discussions about this.

I have searched thru as many previous threads as I can find and just want to make sure I understand what's involved in a curbless shower. So... since this is a remodel and the current shower is curbed AND the floor of the shower is slightly higher than the bathroom floor... in order to go curbless, the existing floor joists would have to be lowered and reinforced in order to create the correct slope from the shower door to the drain?

DH would like curbless but there will have to be some trade-offs for cost. Is this expensive? Does it matter which way the floor joists run? Is it worth it?

We are middle aged and do not currently have any issues with access. Realistically, if we get to the point where negotiating the curb in our shower is too much, there will be bigger issues with the house and we would be downsizing.

Thanks in advance!

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Sophie Wheeler

You've got to have 4" in height difference between the drain and the edge of the shower. The slope of the shower can be between 1/4"-1/2" per foot. Using a trench drain at the opposide side from the shower entrance seems to work best for many curbless showers as opposed to the giant bowl in the middle where everything slopes down to it. It gives you the ability to have less slant because you've got more distance from the shower entrance.

Yes, it's "expensive". Depends on the structure of your house if it's merely "expensive" vs. "exorbitant" and it depends on your economic scale as to where those terms begin for you. As to whether or not it's "worth" it to you, for most people, a nice large shower IS worth the expenditure. A shower that has the blocking in the wall so that the grab bars can be attached at any time IS worth it. Curbless---eh, maybe.

As far as a shower that large, think twice unless you are also installing supplemental heat like a heat lamp. Even then, that's a lot of open space for your steam to heat up on a cold morning. I'm shivering just thinking about it!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 5:01PM
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Thanks for the explanation. We may get an estimate for curb less but it sounds like its not an absolutely must have. DH's big shower is still under negotiation...... And we have decided to do radiant heat in both the bath and shower floors in addition to the baseboard heat.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 9:16PM
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I'm not certain where hollysprings' 4" reference comes from, it's typically 2" when referencing IRC code. That's a minimum of 2" from the top of the drain to the top of the curb. In a curbless shower, the beginning of the slope at the shower entry would be the "top of the curb."

Over the course of the 8' length of the shower, using 1/4" slope per foot would give you the needed 2" vertical.

FWIW, my master shower is about 8' by 5'. No door. NOT curbless. It's not cold. I do have RFH throughout my house though.

To help with the elevations changes, you can "drop the framing" in the shower as you wrote about, or you can build the bathroom floor up vertically outside the shower. Both have costs and issues, especially in a remodel. Dropping the framing in the shower is much easier when working with new construction. If you have easy access through a drywalled ceiling below, it can be done. But it can be involved.

Probably the more prudent thing to do is if your shower is indeed 8' long, you can do as hollysprings wrote and have the drain at the far end of the shower, away from the entry. But don't make it a true curbless.

If you went with a standard vertical curb at the entry and used a topical membrane, your vertical curb at the entry would only have to be a couple of inches tall.

If you wanted it to be a roll-in shower, you could easily turn that 2" vertical curb into a "roll-over ramp" at the shower entry, sort of like a speed bump. A small rise up, then the long slope down in the shower terminating at the linear drain.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 11:58PM
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Thanks Mongoct! I think I we will have curb but will look into a linear drain on the far wall.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 12:48PM
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They will have to lower the flooring enough not only for the 2" slope, but also for the pan. Probably going to be right at 4" for all that.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 1:28PM
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A few weeks ago we had a consult with an apparently high end kitchen/bath designer. He said it would cost 5000-7000 extra to do this. We are on a concrete slab so it is probably a lot more work/expense that without a slab.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 9:52PM
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We LOVE our curbless shower. It WAS expensive. We have a pier and beam foundation. I don't know exactly the inches but I learned that because our shower was 5 X 5, this made it so it could be identified as an ADA compliant shower - no larger or smaller works for this label - must be 5X5. Once you are ADA compliant, rules can change and in some case are more lenient as far as the floor slope. You need to check your local code. Don't want that wheelchair toppling over, I guess.
We have a linear drain on the far wall away from the shower opening (3 ft wide) and which always drains well with no water coming out the shower opening (we chose not to put in a door and not having a door adds SOoo much wonderful ambience, it is great) and though I don't know inches precisely, there is no way it is a 4 inch drop on the tile floor. Maybe beneath, it took four inches but I doubt it since no "shower pan" as such was used, I'm pretty sure just Schlueter waterproof sheets/products were used.

We also had radiant floor put in to keep any possibility of drafts down in the winter. But I'm obviously not into the details on this very well and got help from Mongo on some of this so I will defer to him on the contruction details.

But I would like to say most importantly that the 5X5 is a perfect size and we wouldn't really get any more enjoyment from an 8X5 but your mileage may vary. I can be using the fixed shower installed on one side of the room and easily reach across to the hand held shower installed on the opposite side of the room at the same time. Room enough for two. AND turn on the rain shower in the middle. Fun, fun, fun. And because ours was 5X5, we had space to put a closet on the other side of the wall of the shower for use in the adjacent room.

Closet also gave us a place to install the Moen idigital shower valve and access panel. This really allows the shower walls to have a clean look and adds even more fun to the whole process of showering, IMO.

It was quite expensive but if we had to make the choice again, we would still choose the curbless. But make sure your contractor has experience cause I definitely got the impression you want someone who knows what they are doing.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 11:19PM
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Thanks for all the feedback. As cool as curbless sounds... I think we will probably end up with a curb. I will research getting the drain (maybe linear) of the far wall as Mongo mentioned to minimize the the height of the curb. The wish list for this bathroom is, at this point, a blank slate. The budget however, is firmly rooted in reality. I think this is one of those things that is on the "nice to have" as opposed to "have to have" list. I've seen picture of a few with curbs done with marble slabs as opposed to small tiles that look pretty nice. And stylistically, it works as our house is a pretty traditional New England colonial.

BUT I am now on a hunt to find out about Elfaba's Moen digital shower valve....... Thanks, it's sounds like a great idea!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 3:22PM
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Regarding Moen digital shower - it is WONDERFUL but...
we had to learn the hard way that it needs a battery backup so that if the electricity goes off, the digital shower won't turn off until it is manually reset.

Isn't the end of the world but we have to "reset" the data line for the valve by going to the access panel whenever there is a power outage (like when the guys work on the house).
Isn't a really big problem and we haven't got the power backup drive yet (that will be mounted on a small shelf in the closet adjacent to the valve) but... my main advice is make sure the access panel for your Moen Idigital valve is readily ACCESSIBLE! Don't put the access panel in the attic or somewhere that may be tedious to get to.
Part of our problem is that we are having a lot of work done on house so more than our fair share of outages.

My NEXT bit of advice, make sure you have a 2nd bathroom with traditional shower valves so in case there is a power outage, you can still take a shower.

The biggest hassle has been the learning curve, i.e. before we realized what the problem was. We almost had the access panel put in the attic. THANK GOODNESS we didn't do that.

I called Moen and the customer service there recommended the power back up.

Also, FYI - there is a video on that shows a standard installation. My contractor watched that and didn't charge me anything extra. Though someone else here on gardenweb said their contractor charged them extra because of the complexity - funny but to me, it is actually simpler than regular shower valves and definitely a cleaner look. Oh well -

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 6:18PM
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