10 Things You Need to Know Before Building a DIY Walk-In Shower

You can build a walk-in shower that perfectly suits your bathroom space, getting-ready needs, and design preferences—just consider these 10 key things first.


1. Consider construction costs. Generally, building a walk-in shower requires gutting walls to access plumbing pipes, applying waterproof poly sheeting to the walls and floor, rebuilding walls using moisture-resistant drywall or backer board, installing drains, and pouring mortar to create shower pans. Plumbing pipes might need to be moved to accommodate showerheads and sprays. Finally, the new walls will need to be tiled or clad in a waterproof surface. Easier and more affordable walk-in shower options include prefab shower kits, which can be installed by moderately handy do-it-yourselfers who are comfortable framing walls and working with plumbing pipes.

2. Find inspiration. Look for walk-in shower ideas in shelter magazines and at bath showrooms and home centers. Meet with a bathroom designer or construction professional to discuss your project, firm up goals, and solicit bids if needed.

3. Be space-savvy. When planning a walk-in shower, make sure there will be a minimum of 32 inches between the shower and the room's other fixtures. Walk-in showers should supply at least 36x36 inches of space per person, so double that amount if two people will be using the shower at one time. Remember: Hinged shower doors must open outward and require 30 inches of clearance.

4. Review your options. Standard prefab shower kits range in size from 31x31 inches up to 36x48 inches and are available as one-piece stalls, as a shower pan and three walls, and as customizable units. But if you want a custom look, you'll want to build a walk-in shower from scratch. This allows you to devise a stylish shower enclosure or opt for a wet-room-style shower, which is a barrier-free showering space that opens to the rest of the bathroom.

5. Think about entry and accessibility. Opt for a curbless shower or a low-threshold entry so you can safely move in and out of the shower. Consider whether you want to leave the shower's entry undressed or add a curtain or hinged or track-style doors. Opting for an open doorway? Make sure the shower walls, base, and showerhead layout are designed to contain spraying water.

Shower with Sloped Ceiling

6. Contemplate functional forms. Custom-built walk-in showers can take on any shape that your space and budget allow. If your bathroom is small and/or dark, opt for a seamless glass enclosure that allows light and eyes to move freely through the space. Other good options include floor-to-ceiling glass-block walls or knee walls topped with frosted glass; both designs promote privacy without blocking light.

7. Deck out shower interiors. Do you want a rainfall showerhead, a standard showerhead, steam-shower fittings, and a handheld spray? How about a built-in bench or integrated ledge? A shaving mirror? Remember to include toiletry niches, lighting, and ventilation in your shower plans. Opt for shower controls and showerheads that match other metal finishes in your bathroom.

8. Control the controls. Install wall-mount shower controls 48-52 inches above the floor; place the controls so they are accessible from inside and outside the shower. Mount showerheads 69-72 inches above the shower floor. Keep in mind that sprays from traditional showerheads extend as much as 4 feet.

9. Select stylish surfaces. Shower walls and floors take a fashionable spin when clad in solid-surfacing, marble or quartz slabs, or river-rock, stone, glass, or glazed ceramic tiles. Devise a jazzy tile design that raises shower walls to fine-art status. Or, stretch your budget by using inexpensive field tiles to create a backdrop for inlaid colorful bands and borders crafted from pricier tiles.

10. Think long-term. Building a walk-in shower is an expensive proposition, so it should accommodate your showering needs for years to come. Including universal-design features, such as a wide entry, a level threshold, slip-resistant flooring, grab bars, a bench, and a handheld shower spray, ensures your stylish new shower ages as gracefully as you do.

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