How to design a doorless walk-in shower

Doorless walk-in showers are perfect for people who want a cutting-edge design aesthetic or who need to have barrier-free access to a shower. There are two basic decisions to be made when designing a doorless walk-in shower. The first is whether you want to make the entire bathroom wet. This type of shower ignores water barriers, and all surfaces in the bathroom are designed to be waterproof. This is a favoured design for small bathroom. The second choice is to design a contained shower that is large enough that water overspray cannot intrude on the rest of the bathroom.

Measure the selected bathroom to determine the square footage available to work with. For walls that will be kept, mark the existing walls as a solid 1/16th inch line on your graph paper. The graph paper scale will be ΒΌ-inch per 1-foot. Draw walls that will be removed or changed using an open double dashed line (1/16th-inch between the double lines). The 1/16th size of the line on the paper should represent the thickness of the walls, which is four inches. Draw the existing fixtures as well (use the template for assistance).

Measure into any adjacent room if you intend to borrow additional space to add to the bathroom in to create the new shower. Be sure to mark existing doors (use a dashed line if the door will be moving, too). Mark this plan as the existing bathroom.

Overlay tracing paper on the existing bathroom plan and, using the straight edge, ruler and pencil, lightly sketch the perimeter walls of the intended new bathroom. To design a walk-in shower it is necessary to protect other bathroom surfaces from overspray. This can be done by building a shower in a natural niche in the bathroom. This might be an odd-shaped area that recesses at least three feet. If the overall bathroom is a box, the niche will have to be created.

Determine the spray radius of the selected shower fixture. If a rain-head type is being used, it will fan out at a certain distance depending on the height it is mounted. If a hand-held body wash type is being used, the tendency to spray water everywhere must be considered. For a barrier-free, curbless walk-in shower, the optimum minimal size is 4 feet-by-8 feet with an entry along one long side. Curbed showers that are not barrier free can be built as small as 4 feet-by-4 feet. Anything under four feet will feel cramped.

Sketch a box that would be 4 feet wide by 7 to 8 feet long on the tracing paper. Indicate where the shower fixture will go. Draw a thin double line to represent glass or a waterproof wall coming away from where the fixture mounts. This will create a water niche. This could be a tiled half wall with sheet glass above, a wall of glass blocks or be made entirely sheet glass, depending on preference. Allow for a 3-foot wide entry for wheelchair access.

Plan for a drain that is lower than the bathroom floor for curbless showers and for a slight slope to the floor as it nears the drainage area. If a ceiling mount fixture is being used, the wall between the shower and the bathroom will need to go to the ceiling. Otherwise, the side walls only need to be just above the shower head.


If a doorless shower is planned, it is an added value if it is built barrier free. This means the bathroom exit door needs to be at least 36 inches wide and that handle-type door levers are used instead of knobs. While this access may not be required, the extra size will feel luxurious and be an easy retrofit for a lesser abled person in the future. With the population ageing, such barrier free renovations are becoming increasingly popular.


Shower installation and materials become very important when more of a bathroom is wet. Select a good contractor who can properly seal and protect walls and floors from additional moisture.

Things You'll Need

  • Shower fixture choice
  • File with clippings of showers you like
  • Budget
  • Tape measure
  • Notebook and pencil
  • ¼-inch graph paper
  • Tracing paper
  • Construction ruler with ¼-inch scale
  • Straight edge
  • Bathroom template at ¼-inch scale
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About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.