Doorless showers offer beautiful aesthetics, but limit privacy

Bathrooms were once designed as a purely functional space, with a toilet, sink, and tub fitted into a relatively small area. Today, however, homeowners are eager to upgrade their bathroom and make it a luxurious, impressive part of the home.

One of the most popular features of a bathroom upgrade is a doorless shower. This feature can make the room seem more spacious and provide some impressive aesthetics. But you'll also have to be prepared for a few drawbacks.

As the name suggests, a doorless shower lacks the curtain or sliding glass door of a typical shower setup. There may not be any enclosure at all, simply a showerhead and drain located in one part of the room. Ronique Gibson, writing for the interior design site Freshome, says this open design often lets you take advantage of a window in the bathroom, allowing you to enjoy a scenic vista while showering.

The open design also means that the shower space in the bathroom can potentially have multiple uses. Allan Bryce, writing for the company Don Pedro + Home Design, says the open design might allow a shower area to be used as a walkway to access the master bedroom or other part of the home when it isn't in use.

A key benefit of a doorless shower is that it helps open up the room. Since you won't be incorporating the edges of the bathtub or any other barriers, the bathroom will seem much more spacious.

Doorless showers naturally improve the accessibility of the home. Degnan Design-Build-Remodel, a company in DeForest, Wisc., says you'll be able to walk right into the shower, allowing for an unobstructed floor. Not only will this improve the appearance of the room, but it will also allow older residents or others with mobility issues to access the shower more easily.

Shower curtains and their liners must be regularly replaced when they develop mildew or mold. Glenda Taylor, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says glass shower doors also need to be cleaned regularly to eliminate hard water spots and other blemishes. Doorless showers avoid both these hassles.

Showering in an open space rather than an enclosed one can be enticing for some people. Bryce says the design often gives the bathroom the look of a luxury spa, helping to make the bathroom a more inviting and attractive area.

Of course, others won't be comfortable showering in the open. While some people are fine with letting others use the bathroom while they're in the shower since the curtain or other enclosure offers some privacy, they'll be more exposed with a doorless shower. This likely means that only one person will be able to use the bathroom at a time.

A design compromise allows the shower to remain doorless, but be semi-enclosed. Taylor says partial walls will provide some privacy while also keeping the water from spilling out into the bathroom.

Enclosed showers with transparent or semi-transparent glass can also make the room seem larger while providing some additional privacy. However, Gibson says this will also require you to frequently scrub or wipe down the glass panels to keep them clean.

Escaping water moisture is another drawback of a doorless shower, but it can usually be controlled with adequate design. There should be enough room around the showerhead to keep water from splashing into other areas of the bathroom, and an overhead "rainfall" showerhead will also minimize any stray spray. Multiple drains and a graded floor will also allow water to run off more easily.

The lack of barriers around the shower will allow steam and moisture to spread through the room instead of being confined in one area. Make sure your bathroom exhaust fan is adequate enough to ventilate the space. Devine Bath, a company in Portland, Ore., recommends using non-slippery flooring as well as materials that will hold up well against moisture, such as porcelain and engineered quartz.

The wider distribution of steam will also make the bathroom feel colder in the winter. You might need to include radiant floor heating, heat lamps, heated towel ramps, or similar features in your bathroom design to help ward off the chill.

Doorless showers will usually need to be custom designed. Degnan Design-Build-Remodel says this can be beneficial, since the shower and its accessories can be built to accommodate the needs and requests of the homeowner. However, Taylor says this also means that the design and installation can be more expensive than a traditional shower, and that the project is unlikely to be something you can do on your own.

Not every home can accommodate a doorless shower. Degnan Design-Build-Remodel says larger bathrooms are better suited for this design, since it minimizes the chances of water splashing outside the shower area. The company says a doorless shower needs to be at least three feet square, and will ideally have an area of at least 42 by 60 inches.

You should also think carefully about putting in a doorless shower if it means ripping out the one bathtub in your home. Taylor says eliminating all bathtubs can hurt your home's resale value and that you should keep at least one tub.

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