A 'Universal Design' Shower How To
Okay, you've carved out the space for a universal design shower. Here's a checklist of features to make the shower work well for the whole family.
Seating. Some people want or need to sit in the shower, and some don't. If you recess a bench into the shower wall or install a fold-down seat, everyone will be happy.
Sprays and controls. An adjustable handheld shower spray is the way to go for maximum flexibility. It slides on a wall-mounted rod, and can be locked into place or pulled out on a retractable hose. In other words, it's where it needs to be, whether the person in the shower is tall or short, standing or seated.
Put the controls where they can be reached from the shower seat and from outside the shower. Choosing a lever or other style that's easy to grasp and turn. You'll need valves to keep the water temperature safe and controls for these belong out of reach of children.
It's a good idea to install a second shower spray overhead. That lets the kids take a shower even if Dad or Mom left the adjustable spray too high for a child to reach.
Wall niches. You'll want at least two wall niches for soap and shampoo: one by the seat for kids and seated bathers, and another up higher for standing adults.
Flooring and walls. For a non-slip floor, go with tumbled stone or non-glossy ceramic tiles, preferably mosaics or other small pieces that are embedded in a dense network of grout. Grout lines are good because they add texture, but they should be thin to keep the surface smooth.
Tiling all the way up the shower walls and even across the ceiling. After all, a handheld spray can shoot water everywhere. But those swaths of tile don't have to be monotonous. Add decorative accents that look great and help orient people who may need a few visual cues as to what's where.
Lighting. You'll want good lighting in the shower and at the entry — no surprise here. But the best place for overhead lighting in the shower may not be dead center. Stand into the proposed shower area to figure out where to locate the light so it won't be blocked by a bather.
Grab bars. Grab bars have a bad reputation. People think they are ugly and belong only in hospitals. But grab bars now come in wonderful colors, chic shapes and elegant finishes, often coordinating with other bathroom accessories.
It's best to put grab bars at the shower entry as well as in the shower at various heights to provide welcome handholds and prevent falls. If you don't want grab bars now, at least add blocking for them while the walls are open for construction of your shower. That way, when you decide to put in a few grab bars, the job will be inexpensive and easy.