Is an Open-Concept Bathroom Right for You?
Open floor plans are becoming increasingly popular, even extending into the bathroom. Find out what you should know before transforming your bathroom space into a wet room.
If you’d like a bathroom that feels like a relaxing retreat or spa, then a wet-room-style bathroom is a good fit. They typically feature a curbless shower, and possibly a freestanding bathtub. The naturally airy design is topped off with lustrous, contemporary and luxurious fixtures and finishes.
In addition, a wet room is a way for homeowners to conserve space and plan for the future, as it is an ideal solution for aging in place or for those with mobility difficulties. Just understand that there are budget and construction elements to consider. Plus, the style doesn’t suit everyone’s tastes. Here’s what you should know about having a wet room installed.
What exactly is a wet room?
To start, wet rooms typically include a curbless walk-in shower or one that is low-curb. It may be partly enclosed in glass, fully enclosed, or use a pony wall for separation and privacy. The shower floor features a subtle gradient so water flows into the drain and doesn’t puddle in the rest of the room.
Rain shower heads placed on the ceiling or high on the wall are a popular wet room choice, as rain heads spray directly downward rather than outward. This helps prevent water from intruding on the rest of the bathroom. As mentioned before, a freestanding tub can be included, as well as a steam shower and other accessories, like a bench. Wet room walls are typically tiled from ceiling to floor because of water exposure.
• Curbless shower. Some homeowners prefer a curbless shower area, with or without a frameless glass barrier to separate it from the rest of the bathroom. When the shower space is on the same level as the rest of the room, it results in a seamless look, in addition to it being very useful for anyone with mobility issues. A slope in the floor is required to keep water from flowing all over the bathroom.
• Curbed shower. The other option is to have a step-up shower space, which requires a short curb to step over and a partial or full glass pane, either fixed or hinged, to enclose the shower and bathtub area.
Wet Room Pros & Cons
In addition to bringing drama and interest to a home, all the extra floor and wall space created with a wet room allows you to get creative with tiles. As far as cleaning goes, some homeowners believe cleaning a wet room is easier, while others get overwhelmed by the large amount of tiles that need to be wiped down. Like any home remodel, wet rooms come with pros and cons:
• Pros — Upgrading a dated bathroom space with a wet room can make the room feel open, streamlined and modern. Swapping out a built-in bathtub for a freestanding version can free up space. An open shower — without a shower curtain or shower door — can make cleaning easier. The open floor plan allows attractive tile work to take center stage. Wet rooms permit the inclusion of comforts like water jets, steam fixtures, benches and other spa-like luxuries.
• Cons — There are added costs involved in renovating a bathroom with specialized waterproofing, floor construction and extra tiling. Also, if selling the home in the future, potential homebuyers may fancy traditional bathrooms, which would impact resale value. Freestanding bathtubs, while attractive, are not easy for everyone to get in and out of. Cleaning around a freestanding tub can be challenging, depending on the layout. And lastly, bigger open spaces require additional heating — ideally in-floor radiant heating — which can add to the expense.
• Tile. Due to their openness, wet rooms feature a larger space that can get wet, making waterproof tile is a must. Ceramic and porcelain tiles tend to be more practical than natural stone or cement varieties due to their nonporous nature. Be sure that the tiles used for flooring is nonslip. For example, smaller mosaic tiles use more grouting, which provides a better grip. If large-format tiles are used, be sure they have a textured surface to make them less slippery.
• Shower glass. All wet rooms, even the larger ones without an enclosed shower space, typically have a glass partition of some sort to create separation between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom.
Keep in mind that replacing a typical bathroom with a wet room isn’t your standard DIY project. You will need professionals, including a plumber or construction company to implement plumbing alterations and modify the floor so that it slopes toward the drain. A 1.5- to 2-degree gradient is the recommended floor slope, and linear or square drains can be used. Before tile is installed, the walls are usually lined with a waterproof membrane while the floor requires a waterproof substrate.
You ultimately want the room to be open and inviting. It should be a worry-free space where you can use it however you like, for as long as you like.