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Uncurbed Appeal

MoenOnSiteJune2014 Curbless Showers

Curbless showers are climbing up the most-wanted-features list for home buyers. Photo courtesy of Morey Construction.

Tips for pulling off this hot design trend.

Curbless showers and stand-alone tubs are getting a lot more attention in today's baths, and for good reason. Going curbless is not only elegant, it's also practical in terms of physical access as homeowners age. Stand-alone tubs, for their part, allow for a dramatic expression of style and flair.

But pulling off these hot design trends and incorporating them into your next new build takes both forethought and technique.

Curbless shower musts

Like nearly all plumbing-related projects, one of the first things to consider when designing for a curbless shower is where the water will go. These designs demand calculated planning as to how you'll plumb the drain, and the slope of the floor underneath your tile.

"There are more construction elements to consider when planning for a curbless shower," says Heather Bull, senior designer at design-build-remodel firm Morey Construction in Signal Hill, Calif. "The code requires that you have adequate decline to the drain, which means you either slope the concrete accordingly, or raise the entire bathroom floor around it to allow the shower to drain properly."

Of course, more engineering can mean added costs to your project. But if you point out to clients that a curbless design will age with them should they need wheelchair or walker access down the road, they can save by planning ahead and avoid the need to remodel in the future. "I try to help them weigh out the benefits versus the costs," Bull says. "If this is the home that they are planning to retire in, then going with the added costs may save them from a redo later."

The size of your floor tiles may be limited as well, say no larger than 6" x 6", in order to allow for proper slope. The upside of that, though, is that it can actually result in the use of less material, especially if you leave out the shower door and track, which can be omitted in a curbless design. That kind of minimalism can help offset increased costs in other areas.

"Curbless showers require less stone or smaller pieces of tile since there are no curbs — so there is less material to specify," says Lea Shulman, owner of Lea Shulman Interiors in Darien, Conn. "Also, since there is no break from the shower floor to the main floor, the flooring choices can blend or be the same throughout."

Standout stand-alone tubs

When it comes to designing for a stand-alone tub, start with the dimensions of the room. "Freestanding tubs are beautiful and dramatic, but you need to provide enough space to allow for cleaning around them," Bull says. "Think about the height of the faucet, too, which can be up to 30 inches tall and can become a real focal point of the room."

Indeed, undertaking a stand-alone tub project is as much about the faucet as it is the bath itself. "With the stand-alone tubs, the faucet choice is a huge consideration," Shulman says. "What is the height? Is it from the floor, the wall or a platform? What is the reach, and how does it work with the shape of the tub?" Answer these questions to make sure your tub placement will work.

The use of acrylic has expanded the design styles and choices of stand-alone tubs, which means whatever dramatic effect you want to add to the room — from a tulip flare to a simple teacup design — you've got plenty of options. Just make sure your clients know what they're getting for that look.

"Stand-alone tubs are not practical for the elderly," Shulman says. "Also, if having a bubble massage jet is top on the wish list, you'll have limited options."

With a curbless or stand-alone design in your project, you'll be sure to achieve plenty of curb appeal, while standing out from the competition.