A No-Barrier Bathroom Can Make It Feel More Spacious

By James Dulley

April 16, 2020 4 min read

Dear James: We are remodeling our small master bathroom and like the idea of a European-style, no-barrier design. Can we change our bathroom to this type of design? — Ronnie K.

Dear Ronnie: What you are referring to is commonly called a "Eurobath," and it's becoming more popular here, too. With no barrier on the floor between the shower and the rest of the room, a smaller bathroom can appears larger. Also, not having a barrier provides more useful floor space.

Another advantage of a no-barrier bathroom is easier and safer access for elderly and handicapped people. As you get older, you might be glad you have a no-barrier bathroom. When you plan to sell your house someday, you will have a larger potential buyer pool, including the elderly.

The slope of the floor is relied upon to carry the water to the shower drain with a barrier-free floor. Also, the entire floor must be sealed well so the water spray from the shower makes it to the drain and does not leak through the floor. Tiled floors and walls are most commonly used and are most attractive.

It is a major remodeling project, but you can convert your existing bathroom with a shower stall to a barrier-free one. The first item to check is the slope of the bathroom floor. Floors are not always as level as you might think they are. If the entire floor slopes away from the shower now, it might not be a good idea to try this.

Assuming your floor is reasonably flat to start with, the basic remodeling method involves laying a full mortar bed floor, sometimes called a mud floor. The mortar bed allows you to vary the slope across the floor and create any desired angle. The sink and toilet are usually far enough from the shower area so the floor under them can be level.

The floor framing underneath the shower area may have to be lowered to create adequate slope for proper water flow. The standard 2-by-10-foot floor joists may be cut down to 2-by-6-feet, and additional ones may need to be installed (doubled or tripled) for strength.

This can also be accomplished by raising the rest of the floor in the bathroom to create the necessary slope to the drain. The only drawback here is the offset at the door opening where the new raised bathroom floor meets the bedroom or hall floor. With proper layout, slope the floor back down near the door. A small step is also possible, but this creates problems for wheelchair and walker access.

A 1/4-inch drop per 1-foot length is an adequate slope for the areas out from the shower, which may get some water spray. The slope in the actual shower area down to the drain should be slightly steeper, but not excessive. Water should flow nicely over a tiled floor.

Once the mortar floor is contoured properly, it is wise to install a waterproof membrane before installing the tile. Mortar feels hard to the touch, but moisture, particularly if it is standing, can migrate through it to the lumber below. Use a drain with a flange, and seal the membrane around it. Install the new tile floor and walls, and grout them as normally done.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: jeanvdmeulen at Pixabay

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