All You Need to Know About a Roll-In Shower
A roll-in shower or a barrier-free shower is designed to accommodate users of all types, including individuals with limited mobility. Many barrier-free showers are designed according to ADA requirements in order to be considered an accessible shower.
What Are ADA Requirements for Roll-In Showers?
An ADA roll-in shower is a shower that meets the minimum specifications set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). ADA-compliant showers have a minimum dimension of 60”x 30”. This gives users more space to move around, even when using a wheelchair. Many ADA roll-in showers also have a lower threshold, making it easier to navigate in and out.
Some ADA roll-in showers have a large shower pan on the inside, with a minimum of 60” x 36″. This gives users with a caregiver more room. The threshold of roll-in showers should be a maximum of ½” high, providing the user with a barrier-free entry. With an ADA-compliant shower, the shower stall is safer and easier to use. New construction can help you design a shower that fits your individual style and mobility needs. This may include an easy-to-reach shower curtain rod, shower seats with a specific height, or accessible shower doors.
Why Meet ADA Requirements?
Meeting ADA requirements ensure that your barrier-free shower meets federal rules for handicap accessibility. This means that your, or your family member's, wheelchair fits properly in the shower.
This is important because the installation of accessible showers can be a big investment. Ensuring that it meets the sizing requirements also ensures that it is safe for users with all different sizes of wheelchairs or mobility devices.
Important Features When Choosing a Roll-In
When choosing roll-in shower stalls, whether it is new construction or not, you want to consider certain features. A roll-in shower should have all the necessary features of a traditional shower plus more, including:
Grab bars are important as they offer support and safety. They may be installed on the side or back walls, in the following:
- Vertical bars
- Bars installed horizontally
- Bars at an angle
Grab bars must be on all sides of the roll-in shower and between 33″ – 33″ in height. They also need to accommodate up to 250 pounds. The only exception to placing grab bars is that they do not need to be placed on the shower walls.
The grab bars should span the full length of the side wall, but shouldn't overlap the seat wall. If there are three walls in the stall, then two walls will have grab bars and one will have a seat.
If you choose a new construction shower with a seat installed, it should have grab bars on the front edge that lead to the shower seat wall. Showers without a seat usually have grab bars on each wall.
The control area of a handicap shower is the main shower area that contains the shower knobs and controls. This area should be between 38″-40″ above the floor. To ensure that the shower controls are accessible, the control area should not be more than 27″ from the seat wall and should be between 38″ -48″ inches from the floor.
All shower controls, including the faucet and spray unit, should be located above the grab bar. Shower controls should not be more than 48″ from the shower floor. The spray unit should be a minimum of 59″ from the floor.
The threshold is the small elevation between the shower and bathroom floor. The smaller the threshold, the easier the accessibility. A high threshold that is typically found in conventional showers is too large and can make it difficult to enter the shower with a wheelchair. Others may choose no threshold, which often requires careful new construction plans to ensure the water flows properly away from the wall and into the trench drain.
The most accommodating shower heads for roll-in showers are handheld. Shower heads like this sit on the back wall at a maximum distance of 27″ from the shower seat wall. An adjustable shower head can be especially useful, as it can be used by those with wheelchair-accessible needs and those without.
The trench drain is a barrier used to guide the flow of water to the drain. It can be used in place of a threshold to capture more water flow. Newer construction shower stalls often use a trench drain in place of using a threshold. Most roll-ins are built on an incline, meaning the water should flow correctly toward the drain in front of the shower door.
Not all roll-in showers come with seats. However, a foldable seat on the seat wall can make it easier to bathe and enjoy a relaxing shower. If you add a seat to the seat wall after, you may have more control over where to place the grab bars and which seat wall to use.
When choosing a seat, you want one that is approximately 15″-16″ off the floor of the seat wall and that holds up to 250 pounds. Ideally, if you install a seat on the back wall of the shower stall, it should be between 14″-15″ from the adjacent wall.
How to Choose a Shower Seat
Depending on if your roll-in shower comes with a seat or not, you may have more control over the type and shape. While shower seats are not a requirement, they can be a good addition. Standard sizing for a shower seat is typically between 17″-19″. Other than that, you can choose a chair that is comfortable for you.
You might also consider the placement of the shower seat. A folding seat can give you more space in the shower. Folding seats also allow you to transition between using the shower with or without your wheelchair, making it even more accessible. Typically, folding seats are attached permanently to the seat wall.
L-Shaped Foldable Seat
L-shaped foldable shower seats are a common choice. They are placed in the back corner of the shower stall. With an L-shaped foldable shower chair, you can easily run a grab bar from the seat's edge to the other end of the shower wall. This gives you plenty of areas to sit, while still having an accessible shower stall.
Rectangle Foldable Seat
A rectangular foldable seat also sits on the back wall of the shower stall, which is the wall opposite the shower controls. The seat should be permanently attached to the seat wall for optimal safety and to make it compliant. A rectangle foldable seat also needs a grab bar on the back wall of the shower stall for safety.
Foldable seats are versatile, allowing those with limited mobility easy entry to the shower stall with their wheelchair. They also offer easy access to the shower stall if you prefer to transfer to a seat.
Types of Roll-In Showers
You have a few options when choosing the right roll-in shower stall. Here are two roll-in shower types to consider:
Standard, ADA-Compliant Barrier-free Showers
A standard, ADA-compliant roll-in shower is a three-wall shower stall that meets all of the requirements above set by the ADA. It may or may not have a shower bench attached to one of the sidewalls. Standard showers should also be placed in an open room with a smooth bathroom finish floor for non-slip entrance.
Alternate Roll-In Showers
An alternate roll-in shower has a slightly shorter wall where the shower chair is attached. It may also have a grab bar on the back or side wall. Alternate showers may meet ADA rules.
Common Questions About Roll-In Showers
Here are a few questions you might have:
How High Should the Threshold Be on the Bathroom Floor?
To meet ADA standards, a threshold should be a maximum of 1/4″. Some users may choose showers with a high threshold to help with draining, while still meeting ADA compliance requirements.
What is the Difference Between Transfer and Roll In Shower Stalls?
Transfer showers, in some ways, are similar to roll-in showers. A roll-in shower stall differs from transfer showers in that transfer showers are designed for the user to transfer from their wheelchair to the seat wall located on one of the side walls. Similar to a roll-in, transfer showers maybe two or three walls and it may have a folding seat in the shower stall, located on the seat wall.
What Other Features Are Important for ADA-Accessibility?
Depending on if you are updating an existing shower following ADA compliance rules, or if you're planning a shower with new construction, there are a few other access factors that you might consider. An ADA-approved toilet sits on the wall adjacent to the shower but does not block accessibility when entering.
Other things to consider include shower shelves or soap ledges. Test out the space to decide the best height and location of shelves. For greater accessibility, you might also consider a ramp. Ramps should be a maximum of 1:8 ratio. Some people may also consider installing grab bars in other areas of the bathroom.
Can You Convert an Existing Shower Stall Into a Roll-In?
Depending on your current setup, it may be possible to convert your existing shower setup into a roll-in. However, the process can be both time-consuming and expensive. Doing so will require careful room measurements to ensure it meets minimum ADA requirements.
Remove the curtain and measure the dimensions. If your shower has an existing bathing tub, it can make the process more difficult.
Multi-piece units may be an option for some if you're looking for a cost-effective approach rather than new construction from scratch. When planning the new construction of a roll-in shower, it is best to outsource it to a professional. New construction may mean the addition of new plumbing or changing existing drains.
You want to ensure that bathing is as safe as possible and that all shower seats and grab bars are installed correctly and securely. Additionally, another benefit of choosing new construction is that you can design your roll-in to your personal preferences, as you would with any other shower.
Just because you need a shower that is accessible, doesn't mean that you have to give up on the style of preferred shower stall features.
Advantages of Roll-In Showers
Roll-ins offer more benefits than being free of barriers for easy access. Here are a few reasons to consider a roll-in shower:
- Safety: Showers that are installed with grab bars can make the area safer for wheelchair-bound individuals.
- More accessible: These showers can make the space more accessible not only to individuals with wheelchair-accessible needs but can also cater to other disabilities.
- Increased space: Whether you're maximizing your space in a new construction area, or want to convert your location to accommodate wheelchairs, roll-ins can give you more space overall.
- Open floor plan: The installation of roll-ins often involves designing an open floor plan, which can give the area a more modern feel.
While most people install roll-in showers for accessibility purposes, they can serve a variety of other purposes. If you have a property rental, you can meet the needs of tenants who may need more space when showering. A larger stall in an open floor plan can also help accommodate families with young children by giving them more space for showering.
Whether new construction or not, roll-in showers can improve the safety, value, and overall accessibility of your bathroom.