Endless design possibilities, easy accessibility and a seamless look to complement the aesthetic of a bathroom are some of the main reasons curbless showers are becoming so popular. Also known as barrier-free showers, these walk-in fixtures are without a raised shower dam and are commonly devoid of glass or a door. They are sleek, modern and effortlessly enhance the appeal of an entire bathroom. Originally intended for unimpeded access for wheelchair users in facilities like hospitals and hotels, the curbless shower trend has grown due to its unique and appealing design aesthetic.
With the ability to extend nearly any type of tile from the floor directly to the shower, homeowners and commercial property owners are able to create a spa-like retreat with less visual clutter to keep the bathroom light and airy. Built-in seats, benches, niches and shelves are also options for creating additional customization and comfort. Additionally, when the shower is seamlessly aligned with the floor, it makes the entire room easier to clean.
Without a curb to stop the flow of water outside the shower, alternate methods must be taken to manage the liquid drain path. This can be accomplished primarily through sloping, waterproofing and water containment methods.
A good rule of thumb when sloping the shower drain is to make sure the shower floor is sloped ¼ inch per foot toward the drain, which can be especially difficult if the drain is in the center of the shower floor. A linear drain that is located off to one side is more highly recommended because it requires only a single slope, making it easier to install with a linear pre-sloped shower pan. This design is also more aesthetically pleasing and accommodating to wheelchairs, thanks to its ability to act as a base for large format tiles and other grand designs that would otherwise be limited to small tiles due to its curvature.
Additionally, it is a good idea for the bathroom floor outside the shower to be a high point so water can drain toward the shower. For concrete applications, and before pouring the slab, installers should implement a recess to accommodate the shower. A waterproof membrane would then be used to form the bottom of the shower pan and extend into the adjacent floor area and up the surrounding shower walls.
Waterproofing curbless showers can be a tricky task due to the various codes and requirements that must be met to be compliant. There are international building and plumbing codes as well as national, state and local requirements in addition to tile industry standards. Also, if the shower is expected to be handicap accessible, there are additional federal regulations from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). To ensure a successful and compliant installation of these systems, installers must understand the requirements for constructing them.
Because barrier-free bathrooms do not confine moisture to the shower alone, it can be difficult to separate the wet area from the dry area. As such, the bathroom must be sufficiently protected against water and moisture as a whole. For waterproofing, installers should use either a liquid waterproofing membrane or a sheet membrane, which both result in the same protection while utilizing different methods. In addition to the floors, it’s recommended that this method be done at least three inches up the wall.
For installers who prefer to use a liquid waterproofing membrane, it is vital to apply the required number of coats and mils—which measures thickness —to prevent failure. This number varies depending on the product and manufacturer. To help measure how many mils thick a liquid membrane is for a guaranteed successful installation, there are many wet film gauges available on the market. Another consideration if choosing to use a liquid waterproofing membrane is the cure time. Cure times can vary by manufacturer type and are influenced by project site conditions.
To ensure waterproofing gets all the way around a linear drain when close to the edge of a wall, installers should consult with a membrane and linear drain manufacturer on how to handle the installation. Typically, the membrane will have to tie into the drain’s bonding flange and then turn up the wall to create a seamless and continuous pan effect.
Laticrete recently launched Hydro Ban Quick Cure, a liquid-applied, ready-to-use waterproofing membrane and Quick Cure Mortar Bed. A pre-mixed, polymer-fortified thick bed mortar, Quick Cure Mortar Bed provides the industry’s fastest mortar bed shower system installation. While other systems on the market may require up to four days to install a shower system, using Hydro Ban Quick Cure and Quick Cure Mortar Bed in conjunction allows tiling to begin within hours of installation.
Hydro Ban Quick Cure is available in a 1 gallon (3.8 liter) pail and Quick Cure Mortar Bed is available in a 60 pound (27.3 kilogram) bag. Both Hydro Ban Quick Cure and Quick Cure Mortar Bed are eco-friendly emitting low VOC and components of the Laticrete Lifetime System Warranty providing peace of mind for trouble-free installations.
To accommodate virtually any shower installation, Laticrete also launched a series of new and improved grates and troughs in a variety of sizes and finishes, with custom sizes available upon request. The new options are part of the Hydro Ban preformed shower system that includes an expansive line of pre-sloped and linear shower pans, niches, seats and benches, all made with a high-density polystyrene core. The line also includes installation accessories like liquid applied and sheet membranes, sealants and lightweight ready-to-tile wallboards backed by the industry’s best warranty.
As other methods of waterproofing are becoming more prevalent and accepted by professionals in the field, installers should also consider utilizing pre-applied waterproofing solutions such as sheet membranes or wall boards. These handy products provide ready-to-tile solutions with effective waterproofing built in.
The Hydro Ban Board is a lightweight, easy to handle and ready-to-tile wall board designed to be used in bonded tile or stone installations. Made with a high-density, waterproof extruded polystyrene core and a reinforced, waterproof membrane on both sides to give triple protection from water and vapor intrusion, it can be used on walls, floors and ceilings.
Likewise, the Hydro Ban Sheet Membrane is a waterproof sheet membrane that is installed using a substrate-appropriate Latcirete thin-set. Due to its polymeric construction, this sheet membrane can also be used as a vapor barrier/waterproofing membrane for steam room and steam shower applications. Available in rolls, tapes, corners and collars, Hydro Ban Sheet Membrane allows for a quick, easy waterproofing installation, which will retain its integrity for the life of the installation.