If there’s a renovation project that has been overlooked in the past, it’s a bathroom remodel. However, a study of nearly 1,600 U.S. homeowners by Houzz found that wall finishes, floors and showers tie at 83% of all upgrades in a home bathroom and approximately nine in 10 home renovation projects are updates to the style of the homeowner’s master bathroom. More specifically, the study named small showers as a leading pet peeve (34% of respondents, to be exact) among homeowners’ leading complaints. And, with people spending time at home more than ever, we can’t say we blame them.

Thanks to excellent performance engineering, the shower system category has made leaps and bounds in providing vast waterproofing advancements, including prefabricated shower pans, curbless methods and linear drains.

The Rise of Linear Drains and Curbless Showers

Originally intended for unimpeded access for wheelchair users in facilities like hospitals and hotels, the curbless shower trend has grown due to its unique and appealing design aesthetic. Most recently, we have witnessed the innovation of performance design within the shower system market due to the endless design possibilities, easy accessibility and a seamless look to complement the aesthetic of a bathroom. Also known as barrier-free showers, these walk-in systems are without a raised shower dam and are commonly devoid of glass or a door. They are sleek, modern and effortlessly enhance the appeal of an entire bathroom.

With the ability to extend nearly any type of tile from the floor directly to the shower, homeowners and commercial property owners are able to create a spa-like retreat with less visual clutter to keep the bathroom light and airy. Built-in seats, benches, niches and shelves are also options for creating additional customization and comfort. Additionally, when the shower is seamlessly aligned with the floor, it makes the entire room easier to clean.

However, without a “curb” to stop the flow of water outside the shower, alternate methods must be taken to manage the liquid drain path. This can be accomplished primarily through sloping, waterproofing and water containment methods.

This barrier-free installation places the waterproofing membrane underneath the tile or stone finish versus the bottom of the mortar bed in traditional shower pan applications. These methods allow water to shed right at the surface through a linear drain with a bonding flange or lip, which receives the waterproofing membrane. This design is also more aesthetically pleasing and accommodating to wheelchairs, thanks to its ability to act as a base for large-format tiles and other grand designs that would otherwise be limited to small tiles due to its curvature. Moreover, it’s easier to install due to the linear pre-sloped shower pan, so it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Innovation Calls for Waterproofing

Waterproofing showers can be a tricky task due to the various codes and requirements that must be met to be considered compliant. There are international building and plumbing codes, as well as national, state and local requirements, in addition to tile industry standards. Also, if the shower is curbless and expected to be handicap accessible, there are additional federal regulations from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Since bathrooms often do not confine moisture to the shower alone, it can be difficult to separate the “wet area” from the “dry area.” As such, the bathroom must be sufficiently protected against water and moisture as a whole with a liquid waterproofing membrane or a sheet membrane. As other methods of waterproofing are becoming more prevalent and accepted by professionals in the field, prefabricated waterproofing solutions such as sheet membranes or wallboards have been newly engineered to provide ready-to-tile solutions with effective waterproofing built in.

Laticrete accommodates this new method with the Hydro Ban® Board, a lightweight, easy-to-handle and ready-to-tile wallboard that’s designed to be used in bonded tile or stone installations. Made with a high-density, waterproof extruded polystyrene core and a reinforced, waterproof membrane on both sides to give triple protection from water and vapor intrusion, it can be used on walls, floors and ceilings.

Likewise, the Hydro Ban Sheet Membrane is a waterproof sheet membrane that is installed using a substrate-appropriate Laticrete thinset. Due to its polymeric construction, this sheet membrane can also be used as a vapor barrier/waterproofing membrane for steam room and steam shower applications. Available in rolls, tapes, corners and collars, Hydro Ban Sheet Membrane allows for a quick, easy waterproofing installation, which will retain its integrity for the life of the installation. In addition, the product is lightweight when compared to most common alternatives, which reduces the stress and wear and tear an installer puts on their body over a given period of time.

Ask an Expert

Curbless shower systems are becoming increasingly popular among homeowners, designers, architects and installers due to their sleek and modern finish. However, it’s important to acknowledge all aspects that factor into ensuring a successful installation. Consult a manufacturer before selection and installation to determine the system’s suitability for the intended area of use and the specified project.