How To Create Wet Rooms


Wet rooms are becoming a more mainstream option for bathroom design these days.  Previously only seen in countries outside of the U.S., (especially in the UK), and only as a way to get the most out of a very small bathroom space, the idea of transforming a bathroom into a wet room is now becoming more and more popular for both large and small bathrooms in homes across the country.  Creating a wet room, however, is not for the novice do-it-yourselfer and requires a certain amount of skill and know-how.

Wet rooms are a simple variation on a standard bathroom design.  The main difference is that they include an open shower area, without a bathtub or shower stall, and therefore water containment is a key issue when building a wet room in your home.  But, a wet room design can be a great way to make the most of a small bathroom space, or can transform a larger bathroom into a relaxing and luxurious oasis, and so if you’re willing to heed a few important installation steps, the results can be well worth the effort.

The most important point to keep in mind when transforming your bathroom into a wet room is to make sure that the floor is properly graded to slope towards the drain.  This will ensure that water easily flows down the drain and does not accumulate on your bathroom floor.  You must also make sure that the subfloor and lower portion of the walls, as well as the complete walls in the area of the shower, are completely waterproofed so they are protected from any water that may potentially seep through.  The other important consideration is the type of finishes you use in your wet room bathroom, because there will be lots of water around.

If you are planning on tackling wet room installation on your own, the first aspect you need to focus on is the floor.  Wet room flooring must slope properly towards the drain.  This can be done by using exterior grade plywood to create a sloped subfloor or by installing a special wet room shower tray that is used as a subfloor and provides the proper slope for the subfloor.  Do some research to find out the exact slope you need to ensure that water does not sit and pool on your wet room floor.

Once the slope of the floor is sufficiently set up to lead water to the drain, the entire floor and walls around the wet room shower area should be waterproofed.  Waterproofing is of course a crucial step, and is known as wet room tanking.  You can do this with liquid sealers or with materials that are rolled out over the floor and walls prior to the finishing tiles being installed.  There will be a lot of water splashing around wet rooms, and proper waterproofing is the key to making sure you do not have problems with leakage and moisture build up.

When it comes to finishes, most wet rooms use tile.  This includes both the wet room floor as well as the walls.  But, if you are building a large wet room where the shower area is just in one small portion of the room, you do not necessarily have to tile the walls outside of the splash zone if you don’t want to.  Tile finishes can range from basic white porcelain to rich and textured stone finishes.  Just make sure that whatever tile or stone you use on the floor is not slippery when wet and that the materials you use are not porous, or you will have a moisture problem even though the floor and walls underneath are waterproofed.

If you want to limit the splash zone of your wet room shower area, you can install a screen or partial wall.  Wet room shower screens and half walls serve to keep water more contained in one area, while not completely blocking off the shower area.  They can keep the rest of the bathroom drier, while still maintaining the open feel that is the hallmark of wet room design.  They can also provide a bit more privacy.  Although you may not have room for this feature in a very tiny bathroom, it is a great compromise between a completely open wet room and a shower stall, and can offer the best of both options.

Another option that many people choose when building a large wet room is to section off the shower area by itself.  This creates a wet room-type shower in one portion of the bathroom but leaves the rest of the bathroom protected from the water and provides more privacy in the shower area.  To do this, follow the same procedures in just the shower area as you would if the whole bathroom was a wet room, installing a wall or some wet room screens to separate off the area.  In doing this, you can then install multiple shower heads along the walls or ceiling to create a welcoming and invigorating shower space that is separated from the rest of the bathroom, while still providing plenty of space and feeling open and airy.

There are companies that offer wet room kits, which include the materials you need to properly install a wet room shower, such as the subfloor tray, drain, tanking (waterproofing), and even plumbing fixtures, but since wet rooms are not yet a mainstream bathroom option in the United States, you may have a hard time finding them unless you find European companies that will ship them to you.

Building a wet room is a rather ambitious DIY project, but one that can certainly be tackled with a bit of knowledge and expertise.  The results of your efforts, however, can create an uplifting and relaxing personal space that cannot be matched by a typical bathtub and shower kit installation.

Related posts:

  1. Wet Room Design Basics