Open concept bathrooms are coveted for their sleek design and functionality. Showers without a curb, or curbless showers offer a seamless look by allowing the bathroom floor tile to continue directly into the shower area, without the need for an elevated curb, lip, or threshold. The smooth transition is not only a trendy design feature but is also a safeguard against trip hazards.
Offering great design versatility, modern curbless showers often feature a simple glass panel that separates the shower area from the rest of the bathroom, or panels and doors can be omitted completely to create an open-concept wet room. Large format tiles are a popular choice for curbless environments as they minimize the use of grout joints and contribute to an elegant and fluid design. But really, with the vast array of tile shapes and sizes available, almost any tile will do!
There are three ways you can build a curbless shower system:
1. Recess the shower floor
A recessed shower floor allows for the installation of a sloped mortar bed or a prefabricated shower tray that is flush with the rest of the bathroom floor. Schluter Systems offers six sizes of prefabricated curbless shower pans or trays featuring thin perimeter heights that simplify the construction of curbless showers.
There are a few ways you can recess the shower floor. In all circumstances, it is important to note that the recessing must be done in a way that preserves the structural integrity and safety of the construction. This may require the services of a qualified design professional (e.g., architect, engineer, etc.).
To learn how to recess a shower floor for dimensional lumber assemblies, watch: How to Recess a Floor for Curbless Showers.
2. Use a prefabricated shower tray and ramp
When recessing the shower floor is not an option, you can use a prefabricated shower tray and ramp to facilitate the seamless transition between the shower and bathroom floors. KERDI-SHOWER trays feature integrated waterproofing and are available in a variety of sizes, as well as options for center and off-center drain placements. The KERDI-SHOWER-R ramp is made of lightweight, expanded polystyrene with integrated waterproofing and adheres to the slope ratio required by the ADA. The ramp can also be cut as required to achieve desired height.
3. Raise the bathroom floor
If you cannot or don’t want to recess the floor (e.g. post-tension concrete) or use a ramp, the use of additional materials to raise the bathroom floor is another option. With the KERDI-SHOWER-TT thin shower tray on a wood subfloor, you can build up the rest of the bathroom floor by installing either a 5/8" or 3/4" plywood/OSB panel on top of the wood subfloor along with Schluter®-DITRA-HEAT or DITRA-XL. Over a concrete subfloor, use a mortar bed of appropriate thickness along with a Schluter uncoupling membrane to build up the rest of the bathroom floor. Note that in this curbless shower option, a threshold will be needed at the bathroom entry to compensate for the raised floor.
Because wet areas and dry areas are not clearly defined in curbless showers, the bathroom must be sufficiently protected against water and moisture as whole. Schluter®-Systems offers a complete line of products with options that integrate to form a fully bonded, watertight assembly—both in and out of the shower.
Learn more with these helpful resources:
Seamless design aspects aside, there are several benefits to curbing the curb in your bathroom. Here are just a few:
No more tripping! Or toe stubbing.
Bathrooms can be slippery when wet. Why have an extra impediment such as a curb?
Easier to clean
Think about running a mop from the bathroom floor right into the shower—without a curb, there are no extra corners and crevices to contend with. As many walk-in curbless shower designs incorporate single glass panels as opposed to shower doors, there can be even less to clean. What a time- (and back-) saver!
You don’t need to have a sprawling bathroom to have a curbless shower. Curbless showers are perfectly suited for small spaces as the absence of the curb acts as an absence of a room divider. Plus, the use of the same tile throughout the bathroom creates a continuous flow and the impression of a much bigger space.
Curbless showers are appreciated at any stage of life but are especially useful for those who wish to age in place or those who have mobility constraints. Eliminating the curb ensures a smooth and safe transition into the shower area, for everyone. If the curbless shower entrance is at least 36 inches by 36 inches, it can also create easy access for those using mobility aids or wheelchairs and contribute to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
You may be surprised to learn that curbless showers require less labor, less waterproofing, and less tile, therefore causing you to spend less money. With one flat threshold, there is no need to fit and set a curb, waterproof the curb seams, or measure and cut tile to the curb. You’re welcome.
Versatile drain placement
Schluter’s prefabricated shower trays feature integrated waterproofing, as well as an integrated slope which allows for varying shower drain placements, including wall-adjacent placement, center drain placement, and at the shower entry. Both the Schluter®-KERDI-DRAIN point drain and KERDI-LINE linear drains are suitable for curbless applications. These drains are unique in that they feature an integrated bonding flange that create a waterproof seal—which is traditionally a difficult transition to achieve.
The best advice we can offer for getting your bathroom ready for a curbless shower is to speak with a professional. Installation experts will evaluate the structural integrity of your bathroom and help you determine the best way to achieve a curbless shower in your space.
A curbless shower can transform an ordinary bathroom into an extraordinary one. Include finishing touches to elevate the shower’s functionality and design such as a niche, bench, trim profiles, and even DITRA-HEAT floor warming for added luxury. Check out our Inspiration Gallery for curbless shower design ideas.