No longer the preserve of swish hotels and spas, nowadays wet rooms and walk-in showers are a realistic proposition and can transform bathing into an invigorating, pampering and relaxing experience. By Françoise Murat
No longer the preserve of swish hotels and spas, nowadays wet rooms and walk-in showers are a realistic proposition and can transform bathing into an invigorating, pampering and relaxing experience.
A wet room should be built by a professional. It is important to understand that this type of room needs to be completely waterproof. A stable base is a must. If the floor is prone to moving the waterproof lining will crack and leak. A concrete base is perfect but if the bathroom is upstairs as in most houses then a sub-floor needs to be added to provide the slope for drainage, or alternatively a shallow preformed shell can be sunk into the floorboards. As always, never cut into the joists! A fall of 1:100 is usual and your plumber will need to calculate the shower flow rate for adequate drainage to prevent your swish new wet room becoming a paddling pool! An impermeable membrane is then used to waterproof the floor - this is called tanking. The waterproofing membrane can be heavy so again you may require the services of a structural surveyor to determine if your upper floor needs reinforcing. Raising the floor may require the bathroom door to be adjusted and your ceiling will be just that extra bit lower.
Ventilation and heating in a wet room is very important as mildew can quickly establish itself if they are not up to scratch. Under floor heating is a good way of ensuring water dries off quickly. Ensure you have adequate ventilation too with a good powerful extractor fan or vents.
Ideally a wet room needs to be at least 3m x 3m otherwise splashes are going to go everywhere and will require constant cleaning. You can of course use a glass shower screen to reduce splashes without creating darkness or breaking up the illusion of space. A frameless screen is best to give a seamless look to the room.
I often ask clients about the hardness of their water supply – at first they are surprised by the question but quickly understand that for surface to remain shiny and stain free you need to be prepared to do a lot more cleaning! Spraying vinegar to get rid of the limescale is a good alternative to harsh chemical products.
It may seem obvious but ensure the floor surface is non slip. Highly polished stone, marble or highly glazed ceramic tiles may look fabulous but they can be extremely dangerous when wet and are best avoided. Bathroom and tile showrooms can show you both floor and wall tiles. And yes, there is a difference. Floor tiles are generally thicker and heavier so make sure you choose wisely. Also think about all the type of storage you need in a wet room to keep all toiletries and towels dry.
Wet rooms are not really suitable for a main family bathroom being more suited to a quieter usage. Children and wet rooms can often become a waterpark-type experience- fun for the kids, not fun for the parents! Visions of drowning rat-type hair and clothes and complete mayhem come to mind.
WALK IN SHOWERS
If mayhem comes to mind with children using a wet room then you may be better off considering the alternative to a wet room which uses an enclosed, discreet shower tray. The room will still look and feel like a spa but is much more practical as the wet area is screened off. This is known as a walk-in shower or semi-wet room. The tanking or shell is only required for the wet zone and not for the whole room and if cost is a factor this is a much cheaper alternative. This design maximises both the space and the family’s requirements without compromising on aesthetics and luxury. The latest shower trays are really slim and as long as you can inset them into the floorboards then you will have no visible distinction from the rest of the room. Still very much contemporary but better suited to family life.
And so to floors and walls. While practicality, particularly in a wet room environment, is of the utmost importance you need not forgo stylish design! Just remember that there is more to life than plain old white ceramic tiles…
If you are using ceramic tiles, try to avoid the clinical look by using pattern on the wall, something simple but striking. You might want to paint one wall a different colour, today’s bathroom paints are washable and wipeable (best perhaps to use on a wall that does not get wet though!). Metallic tiles are a little old-hat now, unless used sparingly, perhaps as a single line going across the room to make it look bigger or vertically to make the ceiling look higher than it is. And remember it’s not because a room is small you need to use small tiles - large scale is more elegant and looks polished and effortless. Less work too with less grout! Larger tiles often make a room look bigger especially if light in colour. Mosaic can look very Italian chic but keep it to one wall or just the shower area as a feature. Otherwise it can appear very busy to the eye and not relaxing at all.
Rubber flooring and walls are also very ‘design’ - warm to the touch, very durable and right now very cost effective. www.dalsouple.com/ or the www.therubberflooringcompany.co.uk/ are the best suppliers in the UK.
If you want to use marble or limestone remember that this is heavy, so first and foremost check that both the floor and the walls can take the added weight. Think slate, marble & limestone to clad your entire room or just make a striking wall feature. Slate looks ‘?ber’ elegant especially when only used on one wall. The slate becomes almost sculptural due to its highly riven, three dimensional appearance. Slate and stone in all their forms must be sealed. Check with the contractor or the supplier on specific products to seal your stone walls. This will need to be done regularly – at least once a year. Products such as Lithofin Stain Stop are excellent. Beware – limestone or marble and hard water are a bad combination. Descaling products and even vinegar cannot be used on any surface as they react with the stone and destroy the surface finish. We have one client who stepped barefoot into their sunken bath and used Viakal to descale the (plastic) bath. They stepped out to rinse the bath off and left a line of footprints etched into the limestone floor!
FIXTURES AND FITTINGS
To complete the spa experience chose a shower system which offers a variety of features and water pressures. Remember, it’s not just about getting clean! New innovations in showering include the waterfall which ’injects’ the water droplets with air which gives a soft showering sensation and is apparently akin to dancing naked in the rain! www.dornbracht.com/en/ produces a range of rain showers including an elemental spa shower. The Acquazzurra shower column includes a hand shower, body jets and a fixed overhead shower with integral LED lighting. Consider oversize shower heads if your water pressure is up to it as well as rain bars, massage and body jets.
Showers can be greedy consumers of water. However by installing an eco-friendly shower the rate of water flow is lowered without reducing the pressure. Matki produce a flow restrictor that reduces the amount of water used from 40 litres a minute to 12. Look for the RVEDM symbol for eco friendly products developed by the British Manufacturer’s Association.
British Manufacturer’s Association http://www.bathroom-association.org/
Check out water efficiency here http://www.water-efficiencylabel.org.uk/
Françoise Murat & Associates specialise in interior, garden & landscape design.
For more garden and interior design information visit us at www.francoisemurat.com