The One Big Drawback to Beautiful Walk-In Showers

updated May 3, 2019
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A bathroom with a black and white pattern on the tiled flooring.
(Image credit: William Strawser)

I’m sure you’ve seen them—the elegant, modern showers that, with no door to separate them from the rest of the space, seem to meld seamlessly with the rest of the bathroom. This is a very popular setup right now, and one that has lots of advantages—but it also has one big disadvantage. Can you guess what it is?

(Image credit: Julia Steele)

First, some of the pluses. Since a walk-in shower doesn’t require a full shower stall, it’s a great way to visually enlarge the bathroom, as the shower seems to merge with the rest of the space. This can work even in a smaller bathroom, provided the design accounts for the path of the spray from the shower and provides the appropriate shield (usually a frameless piece of glass). A rainfall showerhead, as seen in the photo up top, can be very helpful for this, since the water coming from it goes almost straight down. Walk-in showers can even take up less space than their traditional counterparts, since they don’t require walls or curbs.

(Image credit: Leanne Bertram)

Then there’s the issue of water pooling on the bathroom floor, but a good design can account for this, too. Although walk-in showers can have curbs or shallow shower pans, in many cases the floor of the shower is continuous with the rest of the bathroom, to enhance the seamless effect. In this case it’s essential that the floor of the bathroom slope towards the drain in the shower, to avoid water pooling on the floor. This can be done in a very subtle way, so the floor of the bathroom isn’t noticeably tilted.

(Image credit: Cathy Pyle)

The one thing all these design precautions can’t account for: According to lots of people who have them, walk-in showers can be really cold. Since there’s no shower enclosure to capture the steam from the warm water, on a cold day (and particularly in a large bathroom), a walk-in shower can be drafty or downright frigid. If you shower quickly, or don’t mind your showers being a little on the invigorating side, this may not deter you. If you like a long shower every now and then, or get cold easily, consider a shower with a heated floor—or consider a setup with a glass-walled shower enclosure that will be almost as lovely and minimal—without any of the chilly consequences.