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G.C. spooked by curbless showers

Mittens Cat
July 9, 2019
last modified: July 9, 2019

Our G.C. is great in countless ways, but I get the feeling he'd rather have a root canal than try to install a curbless shower. He says he's built them, but he didn't sound real enthusiastic about it.

We have one small shower where we'd like to do this. Anyone have a favorite video tutorial or other source of info I can pass along? He's always open to learning--he started college at age 60 and, after four years of night school, graduated with a B.A. in psychology--while working construction full time. So, I don't think he'd be insulted if I passed along a solid recommendation on Curbless Showers 101.

Comments (30)

  • cpartist

    Who will be doing your tiling?

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  • everdebz

    I am curious why a plumber isn't one that can do the beginnings of it?

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  • Mittens Cat

    @cpartist, I presumed he would, but my hub just said he thought a tilest would be brought in for that part. I do recall G.C. saying someone comes in to do the hot mop part? @everdebz, I'm clueless as you can tell, so...no clue! :)

  • everdebz

    Yes, 2 with no clue! :)

  • kudzu9

    I learned long ago that, when a contractor is reluctant to do something, you don't want to push it because there is a high likelihood of it not being done correctly. No video is going to help him do it right, and a shower is the last place I would offer someone a learning opportunity.

    If you want a curbless shower, get someone who knows what they are doing.

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  • PRO
    Creative Tile Eastern CT

    There are several systems available. This link will provide the general details to consider. Keep in mind the bathroom floor will need waterproofing.

    http://www.durockshowersystem.com/en/resources/installation-guide.html#barrier-free-install-2-barrier-free

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  • PRO
    JAN MOYER

    "Small bath"

    How small? Frankly, there's nothing wrong with a curb, unless you plan to roll in, in a wheelchair, I doubt you're doing that in a small bath. . No matter the shower, get someone who knows what they are doing, and your CONTRACTOR should sub it out to someone expert at waterproofing, and tiling.

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  • Helen

    As @Jan Moyer posted, what is your purpose in wanting a curbless shower.


    In my experience with my senior relatives and neighbors/friends, almost none of them needed to roll into a shower in their wheel chair. Even when very frail, they were using walkers and were capable of stepping over a low narrow curb with the assistance of their care takers because the reality is that you would want someone to help with showering when one reaches that level of impairment.


    Grab bars placed appropriately and as low a curb as possible will enable the shower to be used safely by almost all people. Most seniors are not confined to wheel chairs - if they need walking aids, it is canes and walkers. My father only needed a wheelchair if the distance was long but he was fully capable of stepping over a low shower curb under the watchful eye of a caretaker for safety (when he was in his late 90's).


    If you want a curbless shower, purely for aesthetic reasons, I would rethink it as there are certainly ways to have a lovely sleek shower that don't have potential issues given that your tradesperson is reluctant to build it. To paraphrase Maya Angelou - When someone shows you who they are, believe them. In this case, be grateful they he is being honest in terms of his reluctance rather than forging ahead and creating a mess that you don't discover until you have some kind of water or drainage issues.

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  • PRO
    GreenDesigns

    Small bath + curbless equals a total wet room. Not for the hesitant contractor at all. You need a different contractor or you need to give up the idea of a wet room done by someone who knows his limitations.

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  • PRO
    Glo European Windows & Doors

    If it's a remodel there is much more involved concerning floor slope so water doesn't pool out into the rest of the bathroom. I would imagine that would involve a bit more that just omitting a curb. That might be his hesitation. However, anything is possible with money, time and experience. Since he has proved himself otherwise I would dig a bit more in conversation with him to hear his apprehensions and make your decision from there.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Great input, thanks everyone! He is generally pretty flexible with an impressive "Can do!" spirit, so I do take his hesitation as a bit of a red flag--both for his limitations and my expectations!


    For our master bathroom, he built a 6" high frame for the shower curb. We thought it looked alarmingly high, especially after realizing tile etc. will add another inch or two, and he said he'd be happy to lower it to 4" or even 2" if that's what we want. (The condo we're currently renting has an 8.5" curb and we never realized it until we measured it last night!)


    We are trying to keep an eye on the "aging in place" idea, otherwise I don't think I would have given shower curb height a second thought (though I do like the look of the curbless showers, but right now I prefer "rock solid" to looks!). Due to a variety of things, we are unsure if this home will be ours for long term or a rental or sale, so that complicates our decisions. Thanks again for your wisdom!

  • Helen

    @Mittens - For your circumstances, have the curb built as low and narrow as would be functional - and it should be covered with a solid surface. Mine is done with a remnant from my counter.

    Place a grab bar at the entrance to the shower so that you can grab the bar while actually stepping into and out of the shower. Add another grab bar if necessary so that a grab bar is always just a quick grab away. As I am sure you are aware, grab bars need to be attached to the studs for safety.

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  • girl_wonder

    FWIW, I know of someone who had a curbless shower and then had the shower drain backup....with sewer water going into the bathroom (I think they caught it before it leaked into the master bedroom).

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  • Mittens Cat

    Thanks Helen! A low curb sounds perfect. This shower will likely be used by our adult child for the next year or so, so I was thinking we'd add grab bars later (though set up the extra studs now).

  • Mittens Cat

    @girlwonder Thanks for that… This is mostly a new build with all new pipes in both directions, so I hope that won’t happen for a long long time! :-)

  • Mittens Cat

    Oh brother! Just spoke to G.C. about this shower and he said he was planning on a curbless and already did the prep work to make the entire bathroom a wet room. Duh on me! And no, he isn't doing the hot mop or the tile himself. BTW, this shower will be 3'x4' and faces the toilet, about 4' away.

  • Helen

    I think the drain back up is caused by the linear drains which are generally used with curbless showers. Because of their design, they need to be cleaned out more frequently than standard shower drains. It's not a major concern - just something added in terms of cleaning out the shower drain. I am installing a hair catcher under my actual drain so that cleaning the shower drain is simplified as I just have to lift off the drain cover and whisk away the hairs.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Thanks Helen. I spotted an ad for a hair catcher last week and thought I'd get it for my DH's birthday present (it's my hair that continually clogs the drain!). :)

  • kudzu9

    We have a linear drain in our master bath, and it gets cleaned about once a year; about the same as our showers with the regular drains. I actually think they are less prone to clogging than regular drains, and are easier to clean since you can lift off the screen cover rather than having to unscrew a drain cover...and try not to let the screws fall into the drain pipe ;-).

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  • Helen

    FWIW, my drains don't have screws. I deliberately ordered them that way as I am on a high floor and I doubt that any sewer rat is going to decide to climb all the way up to climb out of my shower when he has much easier pickings in the bowels of my building. :-).

  • Mittens Cat

    Wait. Sewer rat?? :-o

  • kudzu9

    Helen-

    I like the imagery of "bowels of my building." Very poetic in this context ;-).

  • Helen

    @kudzu - I was originally going to write kishkes of the building but wasn't sure it would be understood.

    Prior to my remodel I had a very simple hair catcher that was just a metal grid that lay on top of the drain but was extremely effective. So simple to just lift up and remove any hairs.

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  • Helen

    @Mittens - Yes - Sewer rats aren't a myth unlike sewer alligators :-).

    And they have been known to swim up through pipes.

    I could be wrong but my childhood home in Brooklyn had the main waste pipe attached to the City main sewer lines with some kind of trap door so that waste water could flow out but sewer rats couldn't get back in. Evidently to the horror of my mother, a worker forgot to close the trap after doing some work and a sewer rat surprised her in the basement when she was doing the wash.

  • kudzu9

    Helen-

    Wow! That's even better. You're the poet laureate of this thread... ;-)

  • Nancy in Mich

    Yay, wet room!

    It sounds like he may be having the floor all tilt toward the trench drained shower, which is a really valid way of doing it. The second drain, or floor drain, that I told you about in the other thread is how we did it because it was a shower pan, not a tiled floor, and you could not have the floor all flow to my shower because it was not the far end of the room, but at the side of the room. We could not make the floor slant sideways without it being messed up at the entrance.

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  • Mittens Cat

    Geez louise, just call me Fake News Mittens. I got it all wrong. G.C. did not make the entire room a wet room. He just sloped the concrete toward the center drain. So now I'm guessing I should give up the idea of curbless and go with a standard glassed-in shower with curb.

  • Nancy in Mich

    The shower concrete only and not the room's floor?


  • Helen

    All showers are supposed to be built with a slope toward the drain - even those with curbs.

    Honestly I would go with a standard shower with as low and narrow a curb as is functional. There doesn't seem to be any reason you wanted a curbless shower in terms of function.

    How is he waterproofing the entire shower? Concrete is not waterproof nor is cement board. They still need to be waterproofed in some manner. You should find out exactly how he is building the shower - and ask him about the 24 hour flood test. This is done to make sure that the shower floor is 100% waterproof. In my area, this test is required by Code in order to pass inspection.

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  • Mittens Cat

    I asked him to take me through the steps today regarding our master shower (not the would-be curbless one) and he said something about more plywood, cement board, waterproof membrane, something else I can't remember and then Hot Mop Guy comes in and does the next phase before Tile Dude takes over. Does that sound about right?

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