Roll In Shower: What You Need to Know for a Future-Proof Bath

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A roll in shower solves a big issue for seniors or anyone who has difficulty getting in and out of the bathtub or shower. But do you know that it's a stylish bathroom design that's both safe and spa-like? A roll in shower has a barrier-free shower entry, so someone can enter the bathing area without needing to step over a threshold or lip and has the option to roll in using a wheelchair or walker.

One of the most challenging aspects of creating a home to age in place is modifying for bathroom accessibility. The shower is a typical senior-friendly bathroom remodeling project as it's the location of many falls and is hazardous for older adults.

Roll-in showers can provide a safe and accessible showering experience to those with limited mobility, while still offering the style and convenience of a contemporary and modern space. Here, we take a deep dive into all the factors to consider and key elements of a roll-in shower to help inform your decision-making process. With this knowledge, you can give your bathroom a functional and beautiful upgrade that will stand the test of time. 

A roll in shower has a zero-step entry compared to a walk in shower that may have  a step or lip to get into the shower area.

What is a Roll-In Shower?

A roll-in shower is an easily accessible bathing area with a step-free entrance. This is especially useful for a wheelchair, walker, or wheeled shower chair to enter the shower without negotiating a curb or step.

What are Other Names for a Roll-In Shower?

If a bathroom remodel isn't challenging enough, terms referring to this type of shower are plentiful. You may hear this type of shower referred to as a:

  • Barrier-free shower
  • Accessible shower
  • Wheelchair accessible shower
  • Handicap accessible shower
  • ADA shower
  • No step shower
  • Step-free shower
  • Curbless shower
  • Curb free shower
  • No threshold shower
  • Zero threshold shower

Sometimes it's even called a walk-in shower, but it's technically inaccurate. See the FAQ section for more details.

A curbless shower is another name for an accessible roll-in shower.

How does a Roll-In Shower Work?

A standard roll-in shower design eliminates the need for a raised edge or threshold that would otherwise be necessary to contain water within the shower area. The floor of the shower slopes toward the shower drain, sometimes a larger center drain or more commonly a linear or trench drain, so that water doesn't run outside of the shower area.

Additional bathroom floor waterproofing is needed, and sometimes a full wetroom design is utilized.

Why are Roll-In Showers Senior-Friendly?

Roll-in showers offer safe and accessible bathing for those with limited mobility. They provide easy, barrier-free access to the shower and help reduce the risk of injury when entering or exiting the area, with or without an assistive device.

These showers significantly benefit seniors, people with disabilities, and others who may have difficulty stepping over a traditional shower threshold.

Types of Roll-In Shower Design

Roll-in showers are essential to making bathrooms accessible and safe for seniors. They provide barrier-free entry into the shower, allowing those with limited mobility to enter and exit the space safely and conveniently. Several roll-in shower designs are available to meet different needs and preferences.

Recessed 

A recessed roll-in shower is ideal for senior shower safety, accessibility, and convenience. This type of shower has three walls with one open side for access. The three walls provide more options for installing a shower bench, grab bars, and shower controls.

Corner 

A corner unit roll-in shower is located in the corner of the bathroom and has two adjacent walls and two open sides. This shower style may work well when someone is assisting since there are fewer walls obstructing the space. Less wall space for installing shower controls and other features, such as a wall niche with shelves for product storage, is limited to two walls compared to three in a recessed shower design.

Floating 

A floating roll-in shower lies along a wall with three open sides. This type of shower has less wall space and fewer options for installing shower seats, safety rails, shower heads, and controls.

A modern block and white tiled roll-in shower design with a handheld shower.

Benefits of Roll-in Showers

Easy Accessibility

Roll-in showers make it easier for people with limited mobility to access the shower. The lack of a threshold makes it easy for wheelchairs and walkers to roll into the shower area, eliminating the need to step over a ledge or barrier. This is especially beneficial for seniors who may have difficulty stepping over a threshold due to balance issues or joint pain.

Safety

Roll-in showers are an essential part of bathroom safety for seniors, as they eliminate the need to step over a threshold to enter the bathing area. Therefore, the older adult can seamlessly use a wheelchair or other assistive device to get into the shower, significantly reducing the possibility of a trip or fall accident. This makes it easier for them to bathe independently and safely.

Space Maximization

Roll-in showers are ideal for maximizing space, especially in a smaller bathroom. No threshold between the shower floor and the rest of the bathroom floor maximizes floor space and makes the room feel more open.

Easy Maintenance

When it comes to designing a barrier-free and wheelchair-accessible roll-in shower for senior bathroom safety, accessibility, and convenience, easy maintenance should be a top priority. Easy maintenance is essential for keeping the shower clean and safe for seniors.

One way to ensure easy maintenance is to choose low-maintenance and durable materials such as tile floors and walls.

Construction of an age in place bathroom with a large, easy to care for tiled walk-in shower.

Roll-in Shower Design Features

So, what features should be in a roll-in shower design for senior bathroom safety, accessibility, and convenience? Here are some of the key design choices to consider.

Shower Entry

The shower entrance must be wide enough for the person and any assistive device, such as a wheelchair, walker, or shower chair, to enter and exit the space easily. A 32-inch wide opening will accommodate most situations, but it's always best to determine your individual needs.

Shower Curtain or Door

Fewer obstacles are what make a roll-in shower more accessible. So adding a barrier, such as a shower door or curtain, reduces accessibility. Of course, it's also essential to contain water within the bathing area since it poses a safety issue for a slippery floor.

A shower curtain is usually preferable since it's more flexible and is less of a barrier than a door. A sliding door or one that opens outward is preferable. If someone falls inside the shower, they could block an inward-opening entry, making assisting difficult.

Shower Seats

Free-Standing Shower Seat

A shower chair is an important piece of equipment for anyone who needs assistance with bathing and can be particularly helpful for seniors. It provides a safe and comfortable way to bathe without standing.

Shower seats are available in various designs and sizes, including padded seating, contoured backs, cut-outs for easy hygiene, swivel action, and more. These shower chairs are moveable and can be positioned anywhere in the shower area, making it easy for someone to transfer from a wheelchair if necessary.

Shower Bench

A shower bench is a seat attached to the shower wall. Usually, the bench is folded down when needed and folded up when not in use. It provides a safe, comfortable place for seniors to sit while showering, allowing them to maintain their balance and avoid slipping or falling.

If positioned correctly, the built-in bench also allows a senior to easily transfer from a wheelchair into the shower. A stationary shower bench is less flexible than a shower chair which can be moved wherever needed.

Rolling Shower Wheelchair

This specialty type of wheelchair allows seniors to safely and conveniently enter and exit the shower without having to transfer from their wheelchair near or inside the shower. Many wheeled shower chairs have wide, comfortable seats, armrests, and a supportive backrest for comfort.

Built-In Wall Seat

A built-in wall seat is a common shower feature but is often not designed to be easily accessible. They are usually more difficult to transfer onto than a shower chair or bench. Many built-in wall seats are better for putting shower supplies than sitting on them.

In tight spaces, a built-in wall seat may eliminate the need for a separate shower chair or bench, depending on its configuration.

Two types of shower seats are a flip-down shower bench attached to the wall and a non-adjustable built in shower seat.

Types of Shower Heads

Adjustable-Height Shower Head

An adjustable-height shower head gives greater flexibility to direct the water where the user wants it and makes it easier for a seated person to move and reach the shower heads. The adjustable slide bar, where the shower head and hand-held attachment are connected, can be set at different heights.

Hand-Held Shower

A handheld shower allows seniors to adjust the angle of the water spray, allowing them to direct it to specific areas of their body that may be difficult to reach or cleanse. This can be especially beneficial for those who are unable to stand.

For a more spa-like spa experience, a contractor can install multiple shower heads. This can also provide better cleaning since several heads can direct water in various directions.

Grab Bars

Grab bars, also called grab handles or safety rails, provide extra support when entering or exiting the shower and while bathing. They also help prevent slips and falls in wet areas.

Some grab bars serve multiple uses, such as a shower safety rail and a soap holder or a grab rail and a towel bar.

Shower Flooring

Slip-resistant flooring is another essential consideration since it helps reduce the risk of slips and falls in wet areas. This is particularly dangerous for anyone with impaired balance or mobility.

Contractors often use nonglossy tile for its durability and anti-slip surface in a wet bathroom environment.

An adjustable handheld shower head is a handy feature for a walk in shower. Slip-resistant flooring is important to prevent falls in the shower.

Barrier-Free, Accessible Roll-in Showers Provide Flexibility

Zero threshold showers have been gaining popularity for a variety of reasons. A barrier-free roll-in shower offers maximum convenience for all users, regardless of their abilities. But beyond practicality, custom, spa-like accents can be added to give a more luxurious and personalized bathing experience.

Accessible, barrier-free showers are essential as a measure to future-proof homes for aging in place, either for homeowners or aging parents. And while a roll-in shower delivers the most comfort for older persons, it is undoubtedly a flexible design that works well at any age or stage of life. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the best size for a roll-in shower?

When it comes to shower design, bigger is usually better. The more spacious the shower, the more room is available to fit and maneuver equipment and have room for a caregiver if needed. Often, a roll-in shower replaces an existing bathtub.

With a wetroom bathroom design, space outside the shower is often incorporated as part of the bathing area. Often floor space is shared with the toilet helping to make the bathing area larger.

Can a tub be converted to a wheelchair accessible roll-in shower?

It is possible to convert a tub into a wheelchair-accessible roll-in shower. To convert a tub to a shower, you must remove the old tub and install a new, zero-threshold shower base. The shower base must be large enough for the wheelchair to enter and exit the shower.

Some accessible showers are wetrooms or large tiled shower stalls.

What's the difference between a roll-in shower and a walk-in shower?

A roll-in shower is a type of shower designed for wheelchair users, allowing them to easily enter and exit the shower without having to step over a threshold. The shower floor is level with the rest of the bathroom, and there is no lip or raised edge that would prevent a wheelchair from entering. This makes it much easier for those who use wheelchairs to access their showers safely and conveniently.

What is the cost of a roll-in shower?

The cost of a roll-in shower can vary greatly depending on the size, features, and materials used. Generally, a basic roll-in shower with minimal features will cost between $2,000 and $4,000. This price range includes installing the shower base, walls, and door.

Is a roll-in shower a good DIY project?

A roll-in shower is not a good DIY project for the average homeowner. This type of shower requires specialized knowledge of technical requirements and experience to ensure that it is properly installed and meets all safety standards. Additionally, many components are involved in the installation process, such as waterproofing, framing, plumbing, and tiling. The installer must do these steps correctly to ensure a waterproof, safe, and accessible shower.

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

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