Barrier-free shower, with no or low threshold?


Hi guys. My grandpa's having trouble getting in and out of the shower and I need to point my parents in the direction of the right barrier-free low (or no, if possible) threshold shower.

Does anyone have any experience with these types of showers? There are a bunch of different models I can find. I'm curious--does the "no" threshold thing really work? First of all, is it really a "no" threshold after all, and if so, does it spill water everywhere?

Are there any does and don'ts that you know of in barrier-free shower spec'ing?


Jul 17, 07 11:43 pm


I just worked on an accessible bathroom for my wife's grandfather. We sloped the whole tile floor to a drain. It is easier for him to get into position and into the shower chair without any kind of threshold. We mounted an adjustable showerhead on the back wall of the shower and a handheld shower on the side wall where it was easy to reach. Be sure to include abundant grab bars at places where he will actually need and use them. There are several grab bar models that can fold out of the way when not in use. We hung a shower curtain track from the ceiling to limit the splashing into the rest of the room. The whole floor drain also makes cleaning much easier as the entire room can be sprayed down. We even used frp panels on the ceiling. Consider a combination exhaust fan/heater unit.

also consider an occupancy sensor so the lights come on when he enters the room - particularly helpful if using a wheelchair or walker.

consider a nightlight in the bathroom or in the hallway near the bathroom.

Jul 17, 07 11:56 pm

wierd to see people discuss this when all the showers i ever had to use growing up in germany and italy had no threshold, the tiles were just sloped to drain.

Jul 18, 07 12:31 am

Thanks, spark, some very good tips there that I will make use of. One small problem, though, that makes me realize I should flesh out the background a bit more.

This bathroom is in an existing home that is slab-on-grade. The drain and floor is thus in a fixed position; we are not able to do much more than rip out the existing bathtub and replace with a new unit. Ideally I would love to slop the whole floor to a drain as you describe, but that would give us an awkard step up at the threshold to the bathroom (in order to artificially create the downward slope to the drain.)

The floor of the showerpan looks like it will end up more or less even with the tile flooring, if we use one of these pre-built all-in-one rigs.

Maybe I should post pics and a floorplan and throw this tricky problem to the archinect masses?

Jul 18, 07 1:18 am
vado retro

my life has been nothing but a series of barriers.

Jul 18, 07 8:39 am

if you were following the ada guidlines they say a threshold up to 1/2" is just fine.

Jul 18, 07 9:07 am
Jul 18, 07 9:46 am

If the no threshold - pitched to drain tile is not an option you should check out Aquarius. They have some decent (and not break the bank expensive) one-piece acrylic, roll-in / low threshold shower units.

roll-in model no. S-6436-BF
- comes equipped with built-in seat and grab bars

low threshold model no. G-6096-SH
no seat, smaller grab bar

with either one, you will probably still need a floor drain.

if ceramic floor tile is not an option than 'Altro' makes a good slip-resistent sheet vinyl, has a grit to it

* i just happened to have a plan open to a detail where these showers are specified when i read your post.

Jul 18, 07 11:43 am

If you can't add a topping slab on the floor or anything to build it up to add a drain, you will get water runoff-we've had this issue for years in hospitals. Check out this link though:

they have collapsable rubber thresholds for showers-they work okay, though the adhesive that comes with it doesn't hold up very well. I think we used liquid nail to secure it and that helped-especially if a wheelchair is constantly running over it. You may have to replace it every so often, but it will at least help on a flat surface if you can't add outside drains.
Also make sure on the tile you make it non-slip with grippers because if there is runoff it will be extremely dangerous.
Hope that helps!

Jul 18, 07 2:14 pm

^^We've are trying to go with the collapsable rubber thresholds in the HC units of a project I am working on right now. Sounds like you are just looking to add the threshold to an already built bathroom. We went so far as to recess the slab 1-1/2" in the shower to ensure slope for proper drainage in the shower, then added a floor drain in the bathroom (outside of the shower) just in case there was any water runoff.

I think the rubber threshold is probably the easiest way to go, can't say how well it works since we're they're just starting construction.

Jul 18, 07 11:05 pm

aha, the place we were looking at buying from offers those collapsible rubber thresholds, and I couldn't figure out what they were/how they would work! Awesome, thanks. Also a great reminder that we should do something about the tile floor, too. I'm fairly certain that no matter what we do we're going to have some water issues at the floor, and we need to do something very slip-resistant as my grandpa's already had a couple falls.

Since we're working right on the existing slab, we can't add a floor drain (or move any existing plumbing, for that matter). Even if we consulted a struct. engineer about the core locations, we wouldn't be able to connect to the existing plumbing pipes, as (I believe) they are buried in the slab.

Would you guys recommend any of the particular brands of accessible showers? Are there any you've had bad or good experiences with, specifically? Is that Barrier-free company good, tinydancer? They look like they've got it covered. We've been looking at a company called AccessibilityPro so far.

Also, have any of you used the retrofit showers? They hook together from seperate pieces, and I'm concerned about water leakage at the cracks.


Jul 18, 07 11:15 pm

its great to read this... a couple of months ago i was enrolled into redesigning my grandmother's bathroom to make it accessible... this got put on hold for a while but i'll probably need this info in a couple of months. thanks for posting myriam!

Jul 19, 07 10:06 am

Yeah it's new for me too, but I have a feeling this is going to be a design challenge a lot of us have to tackle in the next few years!

Jul 19, 07 10:59 am

oh, and evilp--in Chicago (per Illinois ADAG) thresholds can't be higher than 1/4". Actually the specific language is that no straight vertical rise can be greater than 1/4". Just a heads up that the accessibility code does vary in this respect. (I believe what we used in Boston had it at 1/2".)

Jul 19, 07 11:01 am

myriam- the collapsable thresholds work okay-like I sid we had to use liquid nail to keep them down, and then ours were used in a hospital, so a lot of traffic. But for a residential I would think it would be okay. Our accessible showers were just pans that the tile then went up to, or some were tile or terrazzo, etc.-had several of these issues over the years.
If you can't recess the shower, then I would do a non-slip tile and either low threshold shower pan or the collapsable with no threshold shower. And don't forget the grab bars!

Jul 20, 07 1:17 pm

awesome, that's a huge help. thanks all! I think we can get it down to a 1" threshold, which is going to have to work since we don't really have any other options. If we have to, we can always build a short ramp up to it.

Thanks again!!!

Jul 20, 07 4:07 pm

Maybe, maybe not. But five years ago, The National Association of Realtors, had already sent up the red flags about the amount of houses coming on the market vs. housing starts.
One of the reasons, according to the housing experts, at HUD reported that each year six million people will turn 65 and that 7 out of 10 persons over 65 will have a debilitating accident that will leave them temporarily or permanently with a mobility issue.
So that people who thought they were building the last home they would grow old in was not accessible for them. Living in a two story or split-level house with kitchens and baths that were no longer usable for them. Steps and stairways that prohibited them from using with a walker or wheelchair.
Did you also know that 70% of all Americans have one type of disability or another? Ranging from the slight, such as vision, hearing or complications from obesity, to the most severe.
So what were their choices? Extensive and very costly remodeling, selling their home and building a barrier free home plan or moving into a retirement community with barrier free home plans. That is why Architectural Designers are designing plans that are usable today as well as anticipating tomorrows needs.
Whether you call them barrier free plans, universal design plans, lifestyle homes, wheelchair plans, aging in place home plans, accessible home plans. They all fall under the same specifications established by the Center for Universal Design (CUD) at North Carolina State University.
The Universal Design Studio draws custom home plans that are perfect for today and accommodate your needs as you grow older. As well, we specialize in barrier free designs for people that already have special needs.
How do we know Barrier Free Designs? All the people associated with the Universal Design Studio have one type of disability or another!

Mar 29, 11 7:16 pm

I did this thing once that was basically a 1" high X 10" or 12" wide hump. The floor of the bathroom and floor of shower were level. The drain was in the normal middle of the shower. It lets you push a wheelchair easily up and over it, while keeping the water in. I put a glass enclosure on top of part of the hump, left the rest (away from the shower head) open. Used 1" tiles on the shower floor that rolled up over the hump.

Mar 29, 11 7:44 pm

Looking for an Architect? The Universal Design Studio draws custom home plans that are perfect for today and accommodate your needs as you grow older. As well, we specialize in barrier free designs for people that already have special needs.
How do we know Barrier Free Designs? All the people associated with the Universal Design Studio have one type of disability or another!

Apr 5, 11 2:38 pm

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