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

Morse Constructions Receives 2013 PRISM Award for Universal Design

2013 Prism Award

Morse Constructions was honored to receive a Gold Award for Best Universal Design at the 2013 PRISM Awards hosted by the Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston (BRAGB) on October 30, 2013 in Boston. The PRISM Awards celebrate the building and design achievements of professionals in the home building industry. Gold and Silver Awards are presented to companies in 49 different categories.

Morse Constructions received the Gold Award for Best Universal Design for our work creating a bath that looked beautiful and functioned equally well for our clients, a 38-year-old recent quadruple amputee and his able-bodied 6’ 2” partner.Our client, Will, lost his limbs to a horrible strep infection that almost took his life.Our goal was to restore some of his independence by employing universal design principles while creating a bath that looks stunning and functions well for all.

Boston universal design bathroom

As outlined in the description for BRAGB, the project posed some challenges, including:

  • The very small existing space gave us only 8’ 11” x 4’ 10 ½” with which to work. There was no possibility of expanding the space.

  • There is no natural light with the layout of this unit within a large building.

  • Because of condo limitations, there are constraints working with the floor/ceiling cavity when installing a trench drain.

The new design includes simple clean lines with beautiful colors, maximum floor space and maneuverability.The relocation of the toilet and sink gives a more spacious feel and creates more room to enter and exit through a 36” wide, zero threshold doorway.

Boston universal design bath

All the fixtures and doors allow for minimal effort for all abilities and are simple and intuitive:

  • Both the entry door and the large shower door are on easy rollers that require little effort.

  • The wall mounted sink includes a touchless or manually operated faucet with the possibility of presetting the temperature.

  • The Duravit Sensowash Shower toilet seat has flexible wall mounted or remote controls.

  • The curbless shower with trench drain allows for easy access and gentler slope within the shower.The shower features a rain head and a personal shower which may be mounted in multiple locations and heights for maximum flexibility and personal preference. The controls also allow for presetting the temperature. The hinged shower bench allows for easy folding.

Our client says that his guests joke about having parties in the bathroom because the space is so beautiful and sleek.“Before I lost the use of my limbs, I was a professor of film. I appreciate the visual and love beautiful things, but I never thought I would have a bathroom that is this stunning.”

Best of all, Will says that the bathroom that Morse Constructions created for him has had a “huge impact” on his life by allowing him to do things that he never thought he would be able to do again. “When you lose the use of your limbs, you need a lot of personal care assistance and give up a lot of personal space. To regain some independence is totally amazing.”

We are proud that the national judges for the 2013 PRISM Awards selected this project for recognition.

 

For more examples of our work, please visit our photo galleries.

Tags: universal design, bathroom remodeling, awards

Client Story: Brookline Bathroom Restores Independence

Will Lautzenheiser in elegant Boston universal design bathroomCould you remain in your home if you suddenly became disabled? This was the issue that confronted 38-year-old Will Lautzenheiser when a strep infection took all of his limbs and almost his life. (Read Will’s story).

 

Will knew he would need to move from his second floor walk-up apartment, but the waiting list for accessible housing in Boston was years long. While he spent nine months in hospitals and rehab centers, Will worked with his family and partner to locate a feasible place to live. They finally found an apartment building in Brookline with an accessible unit, but it was still difficult to navigate a wheel chair around once you were inside.

 

Will and his partner, Angel, initially thought they would simply widen the doorways, but they realized more significant changes had the potential to restore some of Will’s independence. The biggest issue was the bathroom. Will points out that “the normal set up is not convenient for anyone who is not able bodied.”

 

Will discovered Morse’s expertise in universal design when he read an article that Paul had written for boston.com. Will, Angel and Paul collaborated on a bathroom that would look stunning and function effectively for both Will and his able-bodied partner and guests.

 

The  9’ x 5’ bathroom features:beautiful universal design Boston bathroomt

  • Zero threshold shower with a trench drain
  • Fold-down shower bench
  • Touchless faucets
  • Duravit wall mounted toilet with Duravit sensowash system
  • Rolling shower door
  • Gliding entry door

 

Will says that his guests joke about having parties in the bathroom because the space is so beautiful and sleek. “Before I lost the use of my limbs, I was a professor of film. I appreciate the visual and love beautiful things, but I never thought I would have a bathroom that is this stunning,” he comments.

 

Best of all, Will says that the bathroom that Morse Constructions created for him has had a “huge impact” on his life by allowing him to do things that he never thought he would be able to do again. “When you lose the use of your limbs, you need a lot of personal care assistance and give up a lot of personal space. To regain some independence is totally amazing,” he comments.

elegant Boston universal design bathroom

 

Tags: universal design, bathroom remodeling, bathroom design

Paul Morse talks about universal design in bathrooms on boston.com

 

Universal Design Doesn’t Mean Institutional Bathrooms

When you walk into a beautiful bathroom with a wide entrance, large shower with multiple shower heads, wall mirrors extending all the way to the sinks and adjustable cabinetry, I’m willing to bet that “universal design” is not the description that pops into your head.  Most people seem to equate universal design with accommodation for physical disabilities, which, unfortunately, often seems to mean an institutional look to many people.

Myth #1: Universal Design is just for people with physical disabilities or for aging in place.

Universal design is the art of creating environments that are usable by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

 

Read the rest of Paul's article on Boston.com's Real Estate Today

Tags: boston.com, universal design, Paul Morse, bathroom design

Universal Design in Bathrooms

Back in April, Professional Builder magazine surveyed new home builders about what buyers want in their bathrooms. Take a look at the list:

• “All curbless showers and pull-out drawers below sinks”Morse Constructions faucet detail
• “No tub; bigger shower”
• “More storage as well as unique cabinet and basin designs”
• “Incorporating universal design features like grab bars”
• “Larger showers with multiple showerheads”
• “Diversity in vanity design with more features for storage”
• “Floating wall-mounted vanities with smaller inlays”
• “Maximum natural light”
• “Heated floors”
• “More walk-in, doorless showers; more 6-foot-plus vanities due to customers wanting more counter space; more built-in storage like medicine cabinets”
• “More ambience items like fireplaces and sitting areas”
• “Focus on fixtures for an aging populace”

It seems as if universal design has come of age. Many of the features that buyers are asking for are standard components of a bathroom designed to be used by people of all ages.

Although universal design is often associated with "aging in place", it really is much broader than that. Universal design is the art of creating environments that are usable by all people without the need for adaptation or specialized design.

If you would like to know more, please take a look at our universal design white paper. Meanwhile, I'd love to know what features you want in a bathroom. Comment on this post and let me know!

Tags: universal design, bathroom design