How to Add a Wet Room to Your House

by Michael Franco
Tiling work in a bathroom wet room

When it comes to bathroom upgrades, options abound. Now more than ever, it seems people are turning to the sort of renovations that make their shower and bath areas feel as spacious and spa-like as possible. And one increasingly popular option for achieving these spa vibes is by transitioning your traditional bathroom space into a wet room.

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Read on to learn more about this burgeoning trend and to find out if it might be the right fit for you and your next bathroom renovation.

What Is a Wet Room, Anyway?

A wet room is a completely waterproof bathroom space with no separation between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom. Wet rooms are single level in that there are no steps, trays or raised portions at all. Because they utilize space more effectively, adding a wet room can make your bathroom appear larger. If tranquility and spaciousness are what you’re after, transforming an outdated bathroom into a wet room is the perfect way to maximize your space.

Wet Room Bathrooms: The Benefits

Once you start scrolling through images of wet rooms online, it might start to feel like adding one to your home is more fantasy than reality. After all, their super sleek, elegant appearance looks like something out of your favorite magazine.

But what if adding a wet room wasn’t nearly as difficult as you thought? What if installing a wet room was a smart and sensible upgrade that can be as useful as it is luxurious? The fact is that adding a wet room bathroom to your home offers a number of advantages:

Space Maximization

One of the most enticing reasons to install a wet room is its inherent space efficiency. Because everything in a wet room is waterproof, the need for a shower screen or enclosure becomes obsolete. Without the need for a separate shower area, the entire bathroom becomes an open area that appears larger than it actually is. Do you have a small bathroom with an awkward layout that makes mobility difficult? An open-plan wet room might just be your best bet.

As you lay out your new bathroom, be sure to remember that these rooms are designed in such a way that everything can get wet. So you'll want to be sure to site your toilet and sink in such a way that they don't get sprayed by your shower. If there's not enough room to do so, a simple partition between the shower and toilet/sink space can do the job nicely — and using one made from glass will still keep the open feel of the room.

Easier to Clean

As an added bonus, wet rooms are easier to clean than conventional bathrooms. Think about it: There are no shower trays or screens to contend with and, with fully tiled walls and floors, a wet room cleaning routine is super simple. If you opt to install a wall-mounted toilet or sink to further open your floor space, cleaning gets even easier.

What’s more, when installed properly, your wet room floor will protect your subfloor better than standard bathroom flooring. Because the floor of a wet room is as waterproofed, or “tanked,” as a conventional shower pan, wet room floors prevent water from infiltrating your subfloors and are actually more protected against mold and mildew than a normal bathroom would be.

Safer and More Accessible

One of the best reasons for installing a wet room bathroom is its functional, accessible design. Whether or not you have any handicapped or elderly members of your family, a doorless, curbless shower area is just safer in general. If you’re concerned that a fully tiled floor might be a slip hazard, you can easily avoid installing polished tile and opt for a non-slip option like natural stone or porcelain.

Speaking of safety, be sure to plan your drain correctly. A popular option in wet room bathrooms is drains that run from one wall to another and funnel water to a central point. Such a drain system can act as something of a gutter that can ensure that water stays on one side while the other side stays dry.

Adds to the Value of Your Home

Open floor plans are in, and they’re here to stay. Sleek design and open spaces are timeless qualities that are both stylish and functional. Secondly, a bathroom without a shower alcove or a bathroom stall feels and looks larger, so increasing the functional space in a room is always a plus when it comes to adding value to your home.

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Installing a Wet Room

If you can’t already tell, adding a wet room shower area to your house is a gift that keeps on giving. That said, the idea of ripping apart your bathroom can feel like a pretty daunting and even scary task. And let’s be clear: Unless you’re an advanced DIYer or all-around remodeling expert, installing a wet room is a job that’s best left to the professionals. Ensuring that everything is graded and waterproofed properly is a necessary aspect of a wet room installation, and a pro will be able to make sure there aren’t any water leaks in your new space.

But still, how do you begin designing your new wet room? Whether you’re in the process of a new build or remodeling your existing bathroom, there are crucial aspects to a wet room bathroom design that it pays to stay aware of. Here are some considerations to keep in mind while you’re in the design phase:

1. Examine Your Bathroom Floor

Before you dive into designing a wet room, you first need to examine your bathroom floor to determine how complex the install will be. In fact, it’s generally accepted that the floor type dictates every aspect of the installation process.

Consider the two most popular floor types: timber and concrete. Timber flooring is perhaps the most popular type of flooring and, if you are planning on installing a wet room upstairs, you are most certainly working with timber flooring. In timber floors, joists run parallel to support plywood subflooring. To install a wet room onto a timber floor, you’ll first need to have a floor former installed onto your subfloor. Floor formers have built-in gradients that work to channel water into the drain. On the other hand, if you are installing a wet room onto a concrete subfloor, you’ll need to first install a drain screed to enable the water to channel away from the shower area and safely exit into a wastewater pipe.

2. ‘Tank’ the Wet Room

One of the key benefits of a wet room bathroom is that the entire floor area, as well as the lower section of each wall, is properly waterproofed — “tanked”— to prevent water from damaging the structural elements of your home. The waterproofing process can be time-consuming and can account for a hefty portion of your project’s budget.

To properly waterproof your wet room area, the entire floor section (including the lower section of the walls) will need to be primed and then have a membrane applied that will need to be set or cured. You can choose to use a liquid membrane like Jackoboard Wet Room Waterproofing Tanking Kit that’s painted on with a roller, or a physical membrane such as Impey TileSafe, which is laid onto the floor before tiling.

3. Choose Flooring and Wall Coverings

Once the room has been properly waterproofed, the surface areas are ready to be applied. Tile is by far the most popular choice for surface areas in a wet room, and for good reason. Tile is a sturdy, aesthetically pleasing option that is both easy to maintain and can stand the test of time. However, when choosing tile, it’s important to go for a material that’s not inherently slippery, like ceramic tile. Although they need to be sealed after installation to prevent damage and staining, natural stone tiles are one of the most popular choices for surface areas in a wet room due to their rustic, hard-wearing finish, but also because they’re less slippery than other types of tile.

In addition to tile flooring, vinyl and rubber flooring are other popular choices for a wet room bathroom area. Because of their durability, cost-effectiveness and the wide variety of available patterns, colors and textures, vinyl and rubber flooring remain good waterproof options for your new wet room, particularly if tile is out of your budget.

In terms of wall tile, you can really let creativity be your guide. Keep in mind that porcelain is less porous than ceramic, so it might be a good choice for keeping moisture away from the back of the tiles. Glass tiles are also a popular and waterproof option.

4. Vent It

One other thing to keep in mind when planning your wet room: Be sure to have good ventilation. This can be as simple as a standard vent fan, but it's critical that you include one in your planning because wet rooms tend to get moisture over a larger surface area. If that moisture doesn't have a place to vent, mold and mildew growth can occur.

Wet Rooms: Worth the Work

Whether you want to add value to your home, increase accessibility or simply update your space, adding a wet room may be the way to go. And doing so might be less complicated than you think.