When designing and building a shower you have generally two options to go with: a Shower Curb or a Curbless Shower.
What is a Curbless Shower?
A curbless shower is a shower where the bathroom floor is continuous to the shower without a curb or any other elevated separation. The floor can have a pitch to direct the water to a drain but, one won’t step over any barrier to enter the shower.
I am Jorge Fontan an architect in New York and owner of NYC based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. In this post I am going to discuss curbless showers and review some of the reasons one may or may not use a curbless shower.
Curb Shower vs Curbless Shower
Below you can see two bathrooms from our previous projects. On the right is a curbless shower and a bathroom with a shower curb on the left.
Advantages of a Curbless Shower
There are a few advantages to a curbless shower. The first is barrier free design. A curbless shower is barrier free and does not require one to step over a curb. This makes it easier for accessibility, especially for those in a wheelchair or with any difficulty walking.
Another benefit of a curbless shower is the modern look. This is a more subjective matter, but many people prefer the aesthetic of the curbless shower. I personally do like the look of a curbless shower, it has a more luxurious feel to it.
The last advantage is that it makes cleaning the bathroom floor a bit easier. I do not think this is such a huge advantage, but it should be a little bit easier to clean. I do not recommend mopping the floor into the drain. This could lead to clogs if you are pushing hair and other items into the drain.
Disadvantages of a Curbless Shower
There is one primary disadvantage of a curbless shower and that is protection in case of a flood. If you have a curb in your shower and there is a clog in the shower drain the water will begin to pool in the shower. The curb will hold the water in the shower until of course it is full. This will at least give you some time to notice before the water spills out to the rest of the bathroom.
If you have a curbless shower the water will not pool very much at all. Curbless showers have a slight pitch to direct the water, and this can hold a little bit of water, but not nearly as much as a shower curb would. So, in the case of a hair clog in the shower drain the water will overflow into the rest of the bathroom faster than if there was a curb. This is the biggest disadvantage of a curbless shower.
Another disadvantage is more subjective, but it is that some people may not like the aesthetic of a curbless shower. That is completely up to you. I like the way they look but do not like the fact that you are at more risk of water overflow.
If you are in a multifamily building and planning a bathroom renovation some Condo and Co-Op boards do not allow you to install curbless showers. This is a building by building issue. We have certainly encountered buildings in NYC where they did not allow this.
Linear Drains for a Curbless Shower
When we design a bathroom with a curbless shower for one of our projects we always use a linear shower drain. The linear shower drain makes it easier to control the water drainage and easier to provide a slight pitch to the floor. Personally, I also like the look of a linear shower drain.
Below is a linear drain in a concrete bathroom from an apartment we renovated. The concrete floor has a slight pitch to direct the water to the drain. We have another post you can look at if you want to see more on this Concrete Bathroom.
Curbless Shower vs Shower Curb
There are some clear advantages and disadvantages of a curbless shower. I will always tell you that quality of installation and craftsmanship is critical. If it is properly installed and properly waterproofed that makes a big difference. Make sure to be careful about not clogging the drain and occasionally opening it up to clean it out if necessary.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Curbless Showers.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.