Shower Updates for Aging-In-Place

With the housing market going crazy these days, more and more people are choosing to stay where they are for the long-term. And for many people that means making adjustments and upgrades that will make it easier to age-in-place.  

A particularly important area of the house that you should be thinking about for the long term is the shower. There are certain adjustments you can make when building or renovating that will make showering easier to manage as the years pass.

Barrier Free Entry

There are a few things to think about when it comes to building or renovating showers with the purpose of aging-in-place, and the most significant is a barrier-free, or curbless entry. With this type of installation, you won’t have to worry about a tripping hazard in this wet and often slippery part of the bathroom.

Broadly speaking there are two choices for creating a barrier-free shower – you can recess the shower floor, or raise the bathroom floor to meet the shower floor by using a ramp, or raising the entire floor.

  • Recessing the floor – If possible, recessing the floor is often the best option.  In a new build you can plan ahead and recess the floor at the framing stage.  This will save a ton of effort and make the curbless installation easy.  If you are recessing the floor as part of a renovation make sure to have an engineer review the construction plan to ensure the floor meets all of the load requirements.  Make sure to decide on the drain location, tray shape and size before starting work on framing or recessing the floor.
  • Raising the floor – The challenge with raising the bathroom floor is that there needs to be a height change somewhere, so you need to consider where that will be and how you want to manage it.  The least invasive way to do this is with a ramp.  If you do use a ramp make sure to measure and plan carefully.  In general you need a good-sized bathroom to accommodate a ramp without it starting to interfere with any of the fixtures.  But if you have the space it’s a very fast and effective solution.

If these options are beyond your scope when making shower updates, you can opt instead for a smaller curb. Curbs of any size can be custom made with Kerdi-Board so you can create a low-barrier shower entry that may still be easier to manage without going fully barrier-free. Be sure to check with building codes and/or a local building inspector to ensure the curb dimensions comply with code requirements.

Built-In Benches

Another thing to consider when renovating a shower is to include a built-in bench. These can be a great luxury for anyone, but for older people or those with mobility issues, it can be a practical safety element as well. The easiest way to do this is to use either a prefabricated bench (available in triangular and rectangular configurations) or if you need a more custom size, to make one using Kerdi-Board. While you can purchase benches to place in your shower after the fact, a built-in bench made of Kerdi-Board and designed to fit the space will be safer and can be integrated with your design. It’s important to use something that is both strong enough to sit on and totally waterproof. That way you can tile it and be confident it will not deteriorate due to the amount of water it’s exposed to.

Shelves and Niches

While I recommend these storage elements to anyone making shower updates, I think it’s particularly important for anyone who is of advanced age or thinking for the long term. Slips and falls can happen easily, so it’s important to limit the amount of moving around you need to do – and that includes bending over to reach bottles, etc.  Shelves and niches can be installed at any height you want, so you can tailor their placement to your needs.

Anytime you’re making shower updates you should think about the present and future. Don’t just consider your needs today, but consider what will keep you safe and comfortable well into your senior years. Curbless entry, built-in benches, and smart storage solutions will help ensure your safety without sacrificing style.

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