Barrier-free Showers

August 6, 2009
For the two showers we ordered Tile-Redi barrier-free shower bases from Home Depot. The first photo below shows the bottom of the shower base and the recessed area we formed in the concrete slab for it. The second photo shows how it sits in place. Only the exterior walls are framed at this point, and the interior walls will butt up against the shower base with cement backer board to hold the wall tiles. We set the shower base temporarily in place today so that the interior walls can be framed to fit.

The whole shower base and the 18″ wide area in front of it will be tiled, and the floor will slope gently down into the shower to make it easily accessible for a wheelchair. For those who are ambulatory it also eliminates the tripping hazard of a conventional shower curb. The base is a one-piece plastic composite pan, and comes with an epoxy for adhering the floor tiles to it. The base itself is a bit pricey, but it saves the labor cost of building up a conventional mortar base and waterproofing membrane for the shower. We’ll basically just glue it down and start laying tile on it.

August 25, 2009
Today we installed the shower bases, gluing the PVC drain lines into the bases as we set them in a bed of mortar. The directions say to spread the mortar, apply the glue, and press it into place. But we found it worked much better to test-fit the base into the mortar with no glue on the PVC. We lifted it up several times to correct unevenness in the mortar until it set solidly, THEN we applied the glue to the PVC fittings and set it in place permanently. Once the PVC glue sets it can’t be removed so it pays to get the fit just right first.

Here’s a photo of the shower base after it was set into the mortar. The plastic base sits about 1/8″ above the lowered area of concrete. We’ll bring this up to level with thin-set mortar, so that the floor tile will glide smoothly from the top floor level down into the shower. The overall drop is only about 3/8″ over a distance of 18″ so it’s a gentle slope, enough to drain any stray water into the shower but not enough to pose any barrier to users with limited mobility.

August 28, 2009
The carpenters placed blocking around the shower stall, to support grab bars. The ADA recommended grab bar height is 33″ to 36″ so we split the difference and centered the blocking at 34.5″ above floor level. It’s a good way to use up scraps of 2×6 and 2×8. Blocking for a shower seat will be added next. We also had them block the narrow stud pockets at the entry to the shower with solid wood, so we can install vertical grab bars there. The blocking continues from the shower area around behind the toilet so grab bars can be installed all along.

October 3, 2009
Jay’s brother Dave tests the accessibility of the shower. He says it’s roomy enough but not wet enough.

November 24, 2009
Our tile-setter Rick nailed Durock cement backer board inside the showers. At the bottom we used Redi Flash aluminum flashing that’s made to fit over the top of the shower base and behind the backer board in order to prevent water intrusion at this critical joint. This flashing was quite pricey at $55 per shower and we suspect that one could find something equivalent at a home center for much less, but it’s done and it should never leak. It’s sealed in with silicone caulk, which you can’t see very well in the photo.

Rick applied a liquid rubber membrane compound at all the joints to make them waterproof.

December 15, 2009
Rick started setting the tile in the cottage shower, beginning with the walls. We chose a relatively simple off-white tile with some texture for the walls, with a narrow accent band of blue glass tiles. We decided to include four corner shelves for holding soap and shampoo bottles, and we kept them low enough that a seated person can reach them but high enough that they won’t conflict with the grab bars to be added below.

The photo below shows the shower mostly finished. It’s still missing the bottom-most row of wall tiles, and it hasn’t been grouted yet so the grout lines look much darker than they will. Although you can’t really see it in this photo, Rick sloped the floor tile gradually in front of the shower, so it slopes down about 3/8″ from floor level into the shower pan, and the shower pan is sloped a bit more than that toward the drain. The floor tile is an unglazed porcelain with a rough anti-slip texture. Above the shower you can see the 8″ round inlet that will exhaust air through the heat recovery ventilator (HRV). On the left of the photo you can see two electrical boxes. The one up high is for a humidity sensor that will automatically switch the HRV to high (maximum airflow) when excess humidity is present, so it will automatically exhaust the air faster when someone is showering. The box down low is for a timer switch that does the same thing, but is manually activated so the occupants can switch the HRV to high for up to 60 minutes whenever more ventilation is needed. It’s right next to the toilet so increased ventilation is readily accessible should a need present itself.  🙂

December 22, 2009
This is a photo of the mud base laid under the sloped entry to the main house shower. It is sloped so that the tile will be even with the concrete floor on the right, and even with the tile laid into the Tile-Redi shower base on the left.

December 29, 2009
Today the grouting was completed in both showers. The first photo below shows the finished cottage shower, and the second photo shows Rick grouting the shower in the main house.