Monday, January 14, 2013

Step One - Building a barrier free shower (Hob Free, No Dam - No Curb Etc.)

1a) - "The lighting plan."
1b) - "The tile layout."

Two things make up step one for me on our projects.  The tile layout and the lighting plan.  Both need to be done and decided upon before any construction happens.  The reason for this is simple.  With a tile layout completed you can select the elevations for plumbing fixtures and you will know where to start your floor grading when your designing a barrier free shower.

Of course if your renovating your bathroom the demolition process would be first but most times tile layout and lighting plans can be decide.  Sometimes the lighting plan is affected by wall and ceiling studs.  Sometimes these are easy to change and sometimes not.

An average tile layout meeting talks me about two hours.  We look at the cuts and how corners will be addressed.  Things like how the tile ends on the wall or the ceiling are all covered.  After a good tile layout a material list can be worked out.  The number of tiles.  The waste factor and on and on.

Grading a barrier free bathroom (wet room).

Looking at the picture above you can see some of the challenges in building a wet room.  This is a custom installation by me, my apprentice and a buddy (at his place).  You can not bend tile.  Well most tile anyway. So in order to achieve a safety net these extra diagonal cuts need to be made.  By adding the relief cuts into the design you can maintain one way slope in all three directions but make the two different planes meet nicely.  You do get a few tiles where the slope is away from the drain and down to the drain at the same time.

Here is a new curbless steam shower build in Vancouver (November 2013).

The hardest part of this shower design is transition from the outside area of the shower into the shower.  The grade changes and the tile needs to roll into the shower.  I layout out the tile to find the nicest arch and found that three tile courses worked well rolling in.  So I used my grinder, some elbow grease and some more thin-set to fine tune the transition area.

This work forces me to follow this exact tile layout.  Sometimes it's the shower and it's tile that defines the tile layout.  When the shower is telling you one thing and the tile layout is saying another.  The function of the shower and the shower itself trump layout.

Not all tile can roll into a shower floor like these small tiles shown above.  With other tile this transition will involve added triangular cuts.  The shower above is a new Kerdi DS Steamer in the building.  The shower drain will be an ACO tile top.

Here is yet another approach that can be followed.  This bathroom sees a  grading change at the door way going up.  Then down two full tiles to the mini dam.  The shower grades towards the door.  Impossible to prep for this style shower without a tile lay out ready to go.

Can you see the four defined grading sections?

Grading a no curb no dam shower
Barrier free shower design stems from tile layout


Some questions when planning the tile layout are;

Will you be using a linear drain?  A regular point drain or standard drain?

Will the shower be totally curbless or will a low curb still work?

What type of curbless shower will it be?  Modern - Traditional?

What type of drain do you want?  

Who will be cleaning the drain?  Do you want and easy to clean drain or hair strainer?

Below are the two ideabooks talking about tile layout and plumbing layout.  Take a moment to look through these two idea books....

You can select the little arrow buttons at the bottom left to scroll through these pictures...

I have dozens of posts here on my blog page.  Here is a little more information on Waterproofing your new shower and what to watch for in the corners and around the drains Weep holes.

Before you can even pick a tile layout you need first to pick a tile!  That is where comes into play.  Set up an account and start your own idea book.  Once you have spent a few hours online a strong sense of your preferred style will emerge and come to light.  This is a great start.  Your ideabooks are easily emailed to tile shops and will help you stream line the leg work of finding what you want.

They are also a great way to find local builders, tile setters, painters, designers and on and on.  Start your searches locally in the beginning.  They perhaps open the doors to your favourite metro location or the world if you have days and days to search.
I have written a number of ideabooks for Houzz and continue to contribute there weekly. If you follow my page on Houzz you will not miss a step or a post on my efforts to showcase proper shower construction and barrier free planning.


Next Post : How to set up a Houzz Account.

All these drains available for sale here on

If you are planning a barrier free shower 
and will have a slab on grade construction 
check out this new post on Hobless Showers - Slab on Grade