Changing a tub shower to a full walk in shower? Consider these tips and where to start.

Jan 26, 2021

A common bathroom remodel is taking out the old one piece plastic molded shower tub combo and making it a larger walk in shower.

Where do you start?

You have to imagine how did they get that into the room? The one piece units are brought in during house framing so to get them back out they have to be cut in pieces and taken out. This does take the space back down to exposed studs and voila! plumbing replacements can occur!

That being said your best bet for NEW material is a decision between a cast shower pan, acrylic pan with three-piece panels seamed together OR a custom tiled shower to be able to manage the install in the remodel space.

Shower Questions to ask yourself and your designer:

  1. Is this a second story shower where maybe a one piece shower pan might afford more peace of mind with less cleaning of grout and potential leaks?
  1. A certified plumber will know exactly the proper materials to use either way to prevent leaks at drain and plumbing in the wall.  They will always suggest to provide an access panel cut into either a nearby closet or bedroom wall.
  1. Cost wise you can look for very cost effective fiberglass pan or consider a more custom acrylic or tiled shower pan.  The difference might be in the size needed or color as well as cleaning products and ease of maintenance.
  • What kind of slip resistance factor with tile and grout VS one piece pan is there? Here’s some tips as recommended on The Spruce.
  • Grout on a small 1”x1” or 2”x2” mosaic tile floor will help get grip but a shower pan with texture will help prevent slippage too.  The increasing popular linear or channel drain will allow for larger tiles and slab looks; but look for the COF “coefficient” slip resistance rating for anti-slip.  These numbers are general between .03 and .06 and higher COF slip resistance numbers are better meaning more friction.   The tile board or sample will have this number listed.  Natural stone can be slippery either honed or polished and have a low friction resistance when wet which is why more grout is recommend but not easier to clean.
  • If choosing grout you can ask for a polymer or epoxy system which will keep stains and build up at bay.
  • What kind of glass enclosure do I need?
  • A swing door might afford more “all glass” look but it is custom and the wait time starts after the glass is measured on the actual tile or wall panels. Slider glass doors now come with less metal looks (barn door top roller sliding type) and can give more floor space. The more metal shown the more stock availability and less customization needed. Water leaks will happen no matter what type you choose and most companies will not guarantee leak proof showers. Keep a towel or bath mat to soak up any drips when opening the door or getting in and out.
  • Seats, faucets and niches:
  • A seat is a good lead when changing to a larger walk in shower. Consider a wall mount fold away seat like Invisia. A moveable bench or a tiled corner seat or bench.
  • The faucet system is a crash course in plumbing itself. A shower kit can come with shower head, handheld, valves, levers all in one. A custom shower faucet system needs about twice the parts and can cost twice as much. Each water outlet (ie. Shower head, body jet, handheld) needs its own on/off and valve in the wall. Either way the question here is what is the water pressure PSI coming from your water system and how much water GPM (gallons per minute) does each desired water outlet item use?
  • Niches can be custom or cast and ready made. Consider multiple locations to prevent sitting items on seat or floor. Consider a matching tile to the shower floor to create a fun accent and always avoid a niche in an exterior wall to prevent freezing temps and cold spots.

Bring in your shower size and don’t forget to measure the ceiling height or make an appointment with a designer to come out to look at every scenario with you!