Once you’ve decided to install a wetroom in your home you’ll want to avoid the problems which are common to this type of plumbing installation. If you’re still at the stage of deciding whether it’s the right thing for you, please see our article about the pros and cons of wetrooms.
A wetroom can add value to a property, if it provides an ambience of luxury, or it can be a great space saver as the shower enclosure is no longer necessary. However, the main problems with having a wetroom revolve around the installation. Despite some videos by wetroom kit manufacturers making it look oh so easy and giving the idea that this can be done in a few hours by a reasonably competent DIYer, the installation of a wetroom requires skills beyond those of fitting a more conventional bathroom. And if the installation isn’t done well, it can result in all sorts of problems such as leakages and damp. You need to understand the potential problems and make sure you have built in solutions to prevent them arising.
Very small space?
Whilst a wetroom might seem to be a great way to squeeze a shower, wash hand basin and a WC into a very small space, you’ll need to be clever with the layout. Otherwise you might just find that everything in the room – towels, toilet paper, the lot – all get soaked every time someone has a shower. If you’re working with a very small space, you’ll need to take extra care in planning the layout to avoid these problems later.
Some budget hotels abroad have this kind of set up and it can work reasonably well as it enables the proprietor to cram a lot into a very small space – and thus keep the costs down. It’s fine if you don’t mind temporarily moving the towels and toilet paper elsewhere while you shower, and this is fine for a week or two. But think about whether it would be feasible for you to live with this in the longer term.
A wetroom requires greater skills to install, so not every bathroom fitter will be qualified to do this or experienced at doing it, and it’s also a more daunting task if you intend to DIY. You’ll need to think about planning, construction, tanking and finishing. All of these might be left to a professional which, of course, adds considerably to the cost. Good waterproofing is absolutely essential if you are to avoid problems of damp later.
Good Waterproofing and Drainage
If the wetroom has not been waterproofed correctly, then leaks are bound to occur so correct construction is essential. The first step of getting it right is to ensure there is good drainage from the room. This means that all the surplus water in the room should run straight down a gentle slope, on an even gradient, and into a drain. Correct installation of this will depend on what kind of flooring you have.
Type of Flooring
If the wetroom is an original feature on the ground floor of a newly built house, it’s likely you’ll have concrete flooring with a gradient already built in to the wetroom at the time the concrete was laid. Otherwise, with a retro fit, you may prefer to use a plywood subfloor, a ready-made shower former, or a preformed shower tray on top of the existing concrete.
In the case of timber flooring, the joists will need to be cut to create a space for the drain prior to fitting the waste. Then a plywood subfoor is fitted on top of that to create a platform, which can be tiled later. Alternatively, you could install a ready-made sloping shower former – sometimes known as an under-tray – and this can also be tiled over. There is also the option of using a preformed shower tray. These are made from durable material, such as corian, which does not require tiling.
If you’re installing a wetroom on top of an existing timber floor, you will usually need to raise the rest of the floor so that it sits flush with the top of the shower tray. You may also need to raise your door threshold a little, because if a drain gets blocked and water fills the room you don’t want it to flow out and soil the rest of the house. The next step is tanking the new wetroom.
Tanking the room involves sealing it with a waterproof membrane. Wood floors need to be primed and joints sealed with a special tape, corners also need special care to prevent water from penetrating. Next the floors and walls are covered with a thick waterproof membrane. Then the room can be tiled, using a waterproof adhesive, and finally grouted.
Professional or DIY?
Unless you’re very confident and competent at DIY, it’s probably best to get a professional in to do this work. But even if you do choose to hire someone, it never hurts to understand what’s involved so you can keep an eye on progress.
Good luck with your project!