Curbless Showers: From Universal Design to Universally Popular

Curbless (also known as zero-threshold) showers were once primarily a solution for homeowners with accessibility issues. Today, curbless showers are one of the leading bathroom design trends for 2015. Over the past six months, the majority of bathroom renovations that we have completed have featured a curbless shower.

As its name suggests, a curbless shower has no threshold to step over. The bathroom flooring simply extends right into the shower. The elimination of a separate shower enclosure creates a seamless, contemporary look that makes even small bathrooms look and feel larger.

curbless shower with slate floorThe continuation of the slate floor right into the shower makes this small bathroom look and feel much larger.

Most clients considering a curbless shower ask the three questions below. We hope our responses help you evaluate whether a curbless shower might work for your home renovation.

Q: How does water stay in a curbless shower?

A: Most curbless showers incorporate a trench drain, which is a long narrow trench that runs the length or width of the shower. The trench feeds into the main drain and is covered with a grate that is flush with the shower and the room floor. The floor is pitched on both sides of the drain to funnel water into the trench.

trench drain close up
As this trench drain shows, the pattern of the drain cover itself can be a wonderful design element.

A door panel is usually installed just outside or right over the drain so water droplets trickle directly into the drain when they hit the door. If the drain, door panel, and shower head are properly installed, water remains inside the shower.

curbless shower in Somerville, MAThe door panel in this Somerville shower is located just outside the trench drain.

Q: Does a curbless shower cost more?

A:  A curbless shower installation is a bit more challenging than installing a conventional shower. Since the installation requires a little more work, curbless showers tend to cost $1,000 - $1,500 more than a shower with a threshold.

Q: Can I put a curbless shower in an existing home?

A: In most cases, the answer is “yes”. Since the floor needs to have a slight pitch, it is important to plan for the shower in the framing stages of a bathroom renovation. To achieve the necessary pitch, existing floor joists may need to be cut. Occasionally the location of floor joists will make it difficult to install a curbless shower in an existing space, but this is the exception rather than the rule.


The beauty of curbless showers shows that elements designed for accessibility do not need to look institutional. As more and more younger homeowners install curbless showers, they are discovering that they now have bathrooms that all generations of family members may safely use and enjoy – while enhancing the aesthetics of the room. We are delighted to see curbless showers listed on many lists of hot bathroom remodeling trends for 2015!

For more information, please give us a call at 617-666-4460 or contact us online.

Tags: universal design, bathroom remodeling, curbless showers