Is a wetroom on your wishlist? Here’s what to consider

Thinking about designing a wetroom? KBB journo Charlotte Luxford answers all your questions and provides top tips to help you create a perfect showering space…

First, what is a wetroom? It is a fully waterproofed space, with a shower but no shower tray. The room has an almost level floor throughout, with a slight slope towards the integrated drain.

Of course, there are variations – for example, wetrooms can also incorporate a basin and WC. Some designs could have a walk-in shower area, with a single glass panel to prevent the sanitaryware from getting drenched.

Pink bathroom design with gold brassware and big window.
Emily Murray of @pinkhouseliving chose pink-tinted plaster when designing this pretty shower space. Georgian shower, £3604.80; 4741 Aquitaine sink mixer, £612.36 and 6918 Traditional wall-mounted shaving mirror in polished brass, £727.92, all by Perrin & Rowe. Photography: Susie Lowe.

So, what are the benefits of installing a wetroom?

With more options in terms of design, a space that’s easier to clean and a bathroom that’s easily accessible, there are plenty of good reasons to opt for a wetroom. By eliminating the need for a shower tray and specific wet area, you can increase your workable floor area, which is ideal if you have a fairly compact space to play with.

“They are a great solution for those with reduced mobility, as everything is on one level and you can keep the water spray to a minimum with a single fixed glass panel,” says Dena Kirby, senior designer at Ripples Harpenden. “This will minimise the risk of slipping and tripping and, by removing the bath, you allow for a larger, luxury-sized shower area. A fold-away or built-in tiled seat within the shower can be a very useful addition and needn’t look too obvious or clinical.”

Blue and white bathroom design with double basins, matching mirrors, lights, and taps, and wall-mounted furniture.
Sunlit Days Silestone surface in Cala Blue, from £300 per sq m, from Cosentino.

When it comes to aesthetics and if you want a seamless look, a wetroom has a definite advantage. You can create one continuous space by using the same tiles throughout the entire floor to make the room appear bigger than it actually is. The drainage can also be super subtle, disguised by tiles or by picking a sleek grate that will blend seamlessly with the rest of the floor.

It looks smarter for longer, too, with the dirt and grime that builds up in those nooks and crannies of shower enclosures being less of a problem in a wetroom where everything is easily cleaned and maintained.

What are the potential issues?

One of the biggest concerns for homeowners is that the tanking process is carried out correctly. If it’s not installed properly, water can easily seep through tiles and grout, leading to dampness and even structural damage. Therefore, it’s essential to use a tradesperson who has experience in designing and building a fully tanked wetroom.

Curved wall clad in micro mosaic tiles in a green wetroom.
Unity dual-function concealed shower system with shower head and handset in brushed brass, £890, from Roper Rhodes.

“While you can use a waterproof membrane on the floor of your wetroom, you must also seal your walls to keep moisture from seeping into the adjacent rooms and causing damp,” says Kate O’Brien, content manager at Roper Rhodes. “This sealant is called a flexible wall membrane, that glues and grips to every inch of your wall and allows for small changes and expansions in the wall over time.”

Adequate ventilation is also vital for a wetroom as steam can get trapped. If there’s no direct source of ventilation like a window, it’s worth installing an extractor fan that circulates air from an outdoor source.

Green wetroom bathroom with grand showers, a compact vanity, one large window and patterned tiles.
Project by Rebirth at Cuschieri Architects. Chessleton shower control, £750; thermostatic valve, £895; Grand floorstanding shower pipe, £1440; shower head, £516; Rother wall-mounted WC, £1775; Ladybower single vanity, £6072; Chessleton basin mixer, £1800; Round tilt mirror £1230 and Derwent single light with fluted shade, £708, all in polished-brass finish, from Drummonds. Dandelion tiles, £148.90 per sq m, from Marrakech Design.

Finally, consider whether the cost is worth it. A wetroom will cost more than an average bathroom with a bath and separate shower so make sure you budget for it and have a contingency fund in case of any unforeseen expenses.

Which materials work best in this shower space?

Large-format tiles lend themselves to minimalist wetroom schemes, where bathroom surfaces take centre stage. Look for a striking stone-effect design, such as onyx, which is easier to maintain than natural stone. Porcelain is ultra-durable and easy to clean, while ceramic is less expensive, simple to lay and a useful and long-lasting option. Fewer grout lines will create a more uninterrupted look and will be easier to maintain.

Bathroom design with walk-in shower, green tiles and storage niche.
Vertical tiles accentuate the high ceilings of this loft bathroom by Aflux Designs. Wall tiles, Domus Tiles. WC, Aston Matthews. Basin, The Way We Live London. Vanity unit, Mandarin Stone. Brassware, Big Bathroom Shop.

Mosaic tiles are ideal for flooring, adding texture and dimension to your shower room design while also being conveniently slip-resistant. Popular mosaic designs include finger- or kit-kat-style vertical mosaic tiles, as well as Deco-inspired micro-hex designs. Whichever tile style you choose, check the R rating for good slip resistance.

Colourful bathroom design with micro mosaic tiles on the walls, patterned wallpaper, herringbone floor tiles, gold brassware and marble vanity.
Interior design by Barlow & Barlow, featuring tiles by Ca’ Pietra and sanitaryware by Lefroy Brooks. Photography Kristin Perers.

Measured from R9 to R13 with R13 being the best for anti-slip, a minimum of R10 is recommended for a shower room or R11 for a wetroom floor. “Tiles are the obvious choice, but I also love incorporating unusual materials,” says Dena. “Wooden slatting is becoming an increasingly popular choice as it’s surprisingly easy to install, and some options are completely waterproof. It brings a contemporary twist to the design and has a lovely, natural-looking texture.”

Another interesting and tactile alternative to tiling is Tadelakt, a traditional Moroccan plastering technique, or microcement, which can even be applied over existing tiles. Both can provide a waterproof, mould-resistant surface that will save on installation time and maintenance in the long term.

What else should I consider?

The gradient

First and foremost, it’s important to ensure that your floor is sufficiently sloped so that the water from the shower is directed towards the drain. So make sure to check your gradient.

“You’ll need a gradient of at least 15mm from the edges of the designated wet area to the waste outlet,” advises Kate. “The easiest and least invasive way to achieve this is for your installer to use a wetroom former – a thin shower tray that sits level with your tiling but has a built-in slope to drain water.”

You’ll also want to make sure that the drain can handle the volume of water produced by the shower by checking its capacity, in litres, per minute before you buy.

Bathroom design with walk-in shower, grey and marble tiles, blue vanity and gold brassware.
Stylesmith Interiors chose large-format tiles for a clean, chic and uninterrupted look in this shower space. Antique Marble Calacatta Oro porcelain wall tiles, £70.80 per sq m and True Limestone Arco porcelain floor tiles, £70.80 per sq m, both Lapicida.

Quality brassware

A wetroom is obviously a moisture-heavy environment. Choosing brassware that can stand up to the job is important, especially if you live in a hard-water area, prone to limescale build-up. Cheap brassware can tarnish and look tatty quickly, so choose something that is made to last: perhaps in a hard-wearing finish such as chrome, or embrace the wear and tear with a beautiful living finish, such as unlacquered brass.

Modern bathroom with wood flooring and marble tiles, a leather chair in a corner and gold enclosures.
Designed by Finkernagel Ross, this large ensuite was given a luxe feel with brass detailing and a super-sized walk-in shower. Walls are painted in De Nimes estate emulsion, £52 for 2.5 litres, Farrow & Ball. Taps and shower fixtures from Vola. Photography: Anna Stathaki.

Underfloor heating

You can help speed up the drying-out process in your wetroom by installing a heated membrane under the flooring, which will also keep things nice and toasty underfoot when you step out of the shower.

Rethink your layout

If you have a wetroom without a shower panel, it increases the likelihood of water spraying your surrounding sanitaryware and furniture. Avoid locating your WC near the shower so you don’t have to tiptoe around the wet shower floor and also to prevent a soggy loo roll. It’s also wise to invest in a vanity unit wrapped with PVC foil for an added layer of waterproofing.

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