1. Why do you want a wetroom?
Before designing a wetroom, it is vital that you correctly brief the designer (or understand yourself) why you actually want a wetroom. Is it led by user needs with reduced mobility or arthritis; is it due to previous problems with leakage; or is it simply a fashionable look that you desire? These three questions fundamentally alter how you design and construct a wetroom – and will also have a major impact on the cost of materials and installation.
2. What size showering area do you need?
This is another fundamental starting point – very much linked to the user’s needs. Wetrooms can be the smallest en-suite or cloakroom if it is driven by mobility concerns. Otherwise, in a large bathroom, you have the luxury of planning an essentially unrestricted showering space. In Scandinavia, the whole bathroom is tanked (covered by a waterproof membrane), but this has been driven by insurance. In the UK, we generally only tank the active wet showering area, so your costs are dictated by the size of the wet area – it is a section of the bathroom rather than the full room. If you have the space, be generous.
3. Choosing the system
Once you have your fundamentals answered, the appropriate system should then be identified by you or your installer. There are so many options available in the market which cover all requirements. Each system tends to focus on a particular need. There are substrates which are suitable for concrete floors and some which are structural for wooden floors – understand where your joists are and how the substrate fixes. Some systems are suited to small mosaic tiles only, and some have large angles to minimise the cutting lines on larger tiles. It may be that you simply use a levelling compound – in which case you must ensure that the fall is correct. If you are just aiming for the ‘wetroom look’ (which is actually the vast majority of installations), then you simply need a low-level shower tray – very much the cheapest option.
4. Installation and tanking
There are a number of stages in correctly tanking a wetroom. Be sure to check your installer’s experience and ask for images of completed projects. A wetroom is the ultimate waterproofing failsafe, if done correctly. Poor installation is the main variable with whatever system you choose. Once the substrate is installed, then there is a primer to be applied; seal strips for all joints and corners (which have elasticity for floors moving); special mats around the drain; and then the actual tanking membrane itself.
Each process needs to dry, so it is generally a three-day installation – obviously depending upon the area that you are tanking.
5. Water delivery
It is, of course, ultimately all about the shower. If your wetroom is a small cloakroom or en-suite, then you will need a simple shower with a flexible hose for cleaning or assisted showering. If your desire is more driven by luxury, then you do not want your shower to disappoint. The positioning of your showerhead, multiple heads or body jets is absolutely critical to the rest of the design – and ensure that pipework can be accommodated appropriately at a very early stage. Also, ensure that you have the required water pressure and design in a shower pump if required.
6. The waste
It might not sound glamorous, but it is vital to ensure you have the right shower waste. There is, once again, a multitude of options available. Choose between linear wastes; hidden wastes or easy-clean wastes. Some are suitable for wheelchairs, and some definitely are not. The most important factor of all is to check the litres per minute that the waste takes away is well ahead of the litres per minute your shower delivers. Also, check positioning with joists and pipework to ensure the correct fall.
7. Shower trays
If you are opting to use a shower tray, then your installation is much more straightforward, and you don’t need tanking as you are simulating a wetroom. There are many sizes and shapes to choose from – and a variety of materials.
The more design-led trays tend to be manufactured from solid surface material – effectively man-made stone. These generally have excellent anti-slip properties and have a huge choice of colours and finishes. Check how the tray is meant to be installed as this dictates the height of the tray in use – and then assess the thickness of your floor tiles to understand if you have level access or a small step once the installation is complete.
8. Wetroom shower panels
If you are using a shower tray, then your sizes and shapes are already decided. If not, you can choose from an almost limitless choice of sizes, shapes and heights. Whilst a doorless walk-in shower looks very minimal and on-trend, be conscious of the volume of water and where it goes. It is strongly recommended to have a small fixed panel or a moving flipper panel as you walk in – otherwise, water will spray everywhere when in use. Also, check how the panels need to be braced to the wall.
9. Shower panel design
This is the most visible and fashionable part of the design. Glass thickness tends to be 8mm or 10mm. Printed glass offers options such as the industrial-chic framed look. Textured glass is rapidly rising in popularity – ‘fluted’ glass offers a degree of obscurity without affecting lighting and is a great feature in an eclectic wetroom design. Ensure the glass is CE Marked – a legal requirement.
Ensure that your glass has a (guaranteed) water-repellent coating on it for easy cleaning. Ensure the design doesn’t leave you with small spaces you can’t get to easily.