Apr 042012

What is a wet room?

Wet rooms are a new idea in home design that many people aren’t aware of.  Wet rooms are a new twist on a traditional bathroom where the whole room is designed to withstand getting wet. They are completely enclosed, waterproof bathrooms, that are mostly a shower area. They do have a toilet and sink like a traditional bathroom, but the rest of the room consists of multiple shower heads with a sloped floor to a central drain. They may or may not have a curtain, screen, or half wall separating the shower area from the rest of the room.

Because these types of bathrooms are designed as wet rooms, the whole bathroom is waterproofed, not just the shower area as in a traditional bathroom. This ensures that there is no mold in the bathroom or in the underlying structure to the bathroom.

Why install a wet room?

wet rooms can be beautiful like this this
Creative Commons License photo credit: cuatrod

There are several benefits to having a wet room in your home. They are very modern and contemporary, especially if made with concrete floors and walls. They are also safer than a bathtub for those with limited mobility or disabilities. Wet rooms make cleaning even easier than a walk in shower in a traditional bathroom.

Wet rooms are ultra chic. They add the ultimate in luxury look to a bathroom, as they are even more beautiful than a standard walk in shower. I saw one picture of a wet room where the shower portion was several showerheads mounted on the wall with a single glass shower screen protecting the rest of the bathroom. The walls and floor were done with a dark blue gray concrete and the whole room looked really slick and cool. Chrome fixtures, with a modern sink, vanity, and toilet and the bathroom can look like an upscale hotel or spa retreat.

Hundreds of thousands of people fall every year in their bathrooms. Many times this is due to a loss of balance in stepping into or out of a bathtub. For someone with limited mobility, a bathtub can be a very dangerous place. And, someone with a disability that requires them to be in a wheelchair or use other assistance to  move around needs extensive adjustments to their bathroom to be able to bathe. A wet room can help with all of these, since the shower portion is flush with the rest of the bathroom. Also, because the whole room is designed to get wet, splashing isn’t an issue and a curtain doesn’t have to be used if you don’t want to. As with traditional bathrooms and walk in showers, a wet room can be designed with a non skid floor and have rails or benches mounted on the walls.

While a traditional walk in shower, with it’s large area to move around in and hand held shower head can be easy to clean, a wet room is even easier. Since the floor is continuous, you don’t need to worry about the joint or seam between the tub and floor, or between walk in shower doors and the floor. A modern bath screen usually attaches to the wall and stands on short posts connected to the floor. This means there are very few areas where dirt or mold can collect. If you use a smooth surface, such as concrete, or large tiles, you eliminate or cut down on the number of grout lines as well.

How to design a wet room?

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So, if a wet room intrigues you, how do you go about deciding how to put one in your house? The following steps should help you with your remodel.

1. Evaluate your bathroom, looking to see what works and what doesn’t. Also, consider what you will need in the future. If you are planning to stay in your home for some time, or suspect you will need safety features sooner rather than later, you will need to incorporate these into the design from the start.

Consider space in your bathroom as well as storage. Will a more traditional vanity and sink fit, or would a pedestal sink or smaller vanity with a modern bowl sink fit better?

What about lighting? Will you need lighting over the shower area, or will lights in the rest of the bathroom be sufficient? Remember that with a wet room, lighting needs may be different to ensure the waterproof needs of a wet room design.

2. Since wet rooms are a newer design, you may need to do some additional research on how best to install them. You will probably need the services of a professional contractor. Check with several to see if they have ever installed a wet room before. Someone who is familiar with a walk in shower, or handicapped requirements may be your best bet as handicapped showers are often similar to the shower end of a wet room.

3. Since part of a wet room design is a level floor, with the slight adjustment for drainage, you will need to look at waterproofing solutions for the whole bathroom. If you decide to tile the bathroom, consider the room as a whole and know that the tile design will continue around the room. Another option, as mentioned above, is to go with an ultra modern concrete floor, or floor and walls. This doesn’t have to be anything like an industrial shower, however. The concrete can be textured, or colored or even inlaid with mosaic designs. But, concrete can be easy to clean, and provide a crisp appearance to the bathroom.

4. Look for accessories. One cool way to ensure the smooth continuity of the floor is mount your cabinets, accessories, and even the toilet on the wall, instead of on the floor. This requires a slightly different configuration, but it is very possible.

Also, keep in mind that if you need accessible toilets or sinks, this will have to be taken into consideration. A wall mounted sink is actually great for someone in a wheelchair as they can roll right under the sink. Handicapped, or increased accessibility toilets are also taller than standard toilets.

Putting it all together – tips for putting in your wet room

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The literal base of a wet room is the floor. Because the whole room is designed to be continuous, the floor is designed like a large bowl. You will see that the juncture between the walls and floor is usually smooth, instead of having a 90 degree seam. The floor is also sloped slightly towards a drain, either in the center of the bathroom, or at the end where the shower is. The size of the bathroom will determine the exact layout and location of the drain.

The basic installation of a wet room is a blend of installing a bathroom and a walk in shower. One way you can picture the installation is to think of having a toilet and sink put into one end of a walk in shower. The same mold resistant backer boards and membrane systems that underlie a walk in shower will go throughout the entire room.

Even if you decide to install a shower screen, or a shower curtain, to have a true wet room, the whole room must be considered for waterproofing. That means you won’t have wall board in your bathroom, unless it is mold resistant backing for tile. If you opt to have sections of the room that are painted, this must be considered carefully and a waterproof pain used.

While it may seem like wet rooms are a cool concept, but a hassle in construction, that’s not necessarily the case. Because the whole room is treated as one large space, there can actually be less labor since tile or other flooring material can be continued without having to work around a bathtub, or even the sink and toilet if you decide to have them hang from the wall.

A wet room isn’t for everyone, but is something you should consider if you want modern and sleek, or need increased accessibility and a traditional walk in shower doesn’t look like it will suit your needs.

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