Simple-yet-sophisticated, zero-threshold showers are a perfect example of how aesthetically pleasing accessible design can be when done right. Yet the streamlined look of a curbless shower is deceptive to the complicated installation process behind-the-scenes.
From the sloping needed for water runoff to the tile constraints and specialized drains, remodelers need to know what they’re doing to get it right and make it look great. Clients often start with one on their wish list, but it takes the perfect combination of budget, bathroom size, and professional skill to pull it off. Still, as the pandemic persists, more and more clients are considering aging-in-place and health-focused products. As a result, remodelers may see an increasing number of forward-thinking homeowners splurging on curbless showers for a contemporary or modern bath.
Here are a few projects that hit the mark:
Glenn Forstner Construction — Litchfield Park, Ariz.
Believe it or not, the curbless shower in this whole-home remodel’s bathroom addition features the first linear drain Glenn Forstner had ever installed in his 34 years of operation. Working with the architectural firm Ranch Mine, Forstner set out to update the home while preserving the nearly impossible to replace original fired adobe brick.
The team chose Delta Trinsic shower collection in a matte black finish for the fixtures in order to make the surrounding red brick pop, but realized they needed new plumbing as well. “There’s no way to get a shower valve into one of those, so we furred out the walls in order to give ourselves a big enough space,” says Forstner. He installed muted-gray, large format tiles on the floor and walls that required a one-directional slope in the shower area. Forstner used the Infinity Drain system and created a 1.8-degree slope in the floor over three feet. After adding a shower bench, they enclosed the space with glass walls.
Rhode Island Kitchen & Bath — Warwick, R.I.
This bathroom’s original design featured a choppy, cramped layout with a walk-up tub. Thanks to Rhode Island Kitchen + Bath’s careful touch, the room was transformed into a contemporary natural-lit oasis that mimics the ocean visible from the bathroom windows. “The homeowners came to us knowing they wanted to feel like they’re taking a shower outside, especially because it was a summer house,” says Erika Pearson, design consultant and the project’s assistant to the lead designer, Prudence Stoddard. “The idea was that you’d have all the windows open and you’d walk right in.”
The stone pebbles act as a twofer: Their natural look keeps with the beach theme while their small size allowed for the remodelers to follow the bend of the custom-made, circular glass partition and bring the covering up the shower wall. To waterproof the shower, the team used the Schluter System along with a waterproofing membrane that they took all the way up the walls to avoid any seams. Inside the shower, the team kept it simple with a wall-mounted rain shower head, a handheld shower head, separate wall-mounted controls, and a glass shelf.
Harth Builders — Spring House, Pa.
The natural, basketweave marble tiles featured on the vanities’ backsplashes and floor of the zero-threshold shower steal the show in this transitional bathroom. With the smaller tile choice, the team wasn’t married to a linear drain, which turned out to be the curbless shower’s saving grace. “This home had TJI framing so it wasn’t an option to do a linear drain because you couldn’t shave down the top of the joist,” says Katie Petruzzo, drafting advisor, designer, and marketing and social media officer for Harth Builders.
Instead, they installed a small center drain in the middle of the shower. One touch any homeowner would be thankful for are the wall-mounted hand controls located on the half wall next to the recessed shower niche that decrease the risk of freezing when you turn on the shower. The removable handheld shower head rests on an adjustable slide bar. Though the shower is long enough to ensure that water doesn’t seep out of it, the team installed a glass wall to eliminate spray and an exhaust vent to take care of any steam that could lead to a moldy, damp bathroom situation.