Design Guide: Wetrooms

Create a luxurious wetroom with Caroline Rodrigues' essential advice
by Caroline Rodrigues
26th November 2012

No new home is complete without a shower room, and one advantage that self-builders have over owners of older houses is the ease of designing this as a wetroom.

This stylish shower room without a cubicle or screen has long been popular in Europe and Scandinavia, and is now a must-have in designer hotels and lavish bathroom schemes.

How it works

A wetroom is essentially a shower room that is tanked (a form of waterproofing) to make the floor and walls splash-proof, so that no shower tray or cubicle is needed. The entire floor is tiled, with a slope so that the water can run away to a central drain.


It’s far easier to install a wetroom before floors are completed, so plan the room carefully at an early stage. Consider whether you want the whole room to be one uninterrupted shower area, with flush floor, or whether to dedicate one part of the room for the shower, using a step up to hide the plumbing and drainage.

To prevent water splashing everywhere, site the toilet away from the shower, or build a low level wall to divide the area. Rather than leave the showering area completely open, you can also install a glass panel, or a tiled wall. Consider including a curved wall, or one that’s two-thirds the height of the ceiling, to partially divide off the shower.

A wall-hung basin, toilet and cabinets will leave the floor area clear, adding to the illusion of space. Bold tiles, glittering mosaics or large-format porcelain tiles will add a luxurious element to the room.

Floor type

The floor must be stable and has to include a slope so that the water will drain away. On suspended wooden floors, an area is usually cut away to take the ‘former’. This is a type of hidden shower tray, sited under the shower area, which directs water into the waste pipe and avoids leakage.

With concrete floors, channels may need to be dug out to allow for the waste outlet, and the floor will need to be laid at a gradient in the shower area for water to drain away. Alternatively, you could fit a former with a controlled gradient. Its open mesh, or matrix, can then be filled with screed and tiled over.


The floor of the room must be sealed against water, or ‘tanked’ with a waterproof membrane, underlay, sealing tape and a compound that cures to a watertight finish. In the shower area the walls must be tanked as well. Other walls need to be tanked to a height of 100mm, according to the Bathroom Manufacturers Association. Competent DIYers may want to buy a tanking kit, such as Roman’s Shield.


For a wetroom floor, Jules Archard of Surface Tiles recommends using a linear drain rather than a central one. “This means tiles do not need to be cut to create a central fall. Instead they can be angled towards the drain with a 16mm fall,” he says.

Many wall tiles are not suitable for wetroom floors, so it’s vital to double check before you buy. Some experts recommend mosaics, as they form a grid with lots of grout lines, making them less slippery.

The current fashion is for large-format, porcelain tiles. In sizes up to 1,200 x 1,200mm, they look amazing, but can be heavy and awkward to cut and fit, needing two people to lay them. “As well as applying adhesive to the wall or floor, the back of the tile needs to be buttered for good adhesion,” says Jules.

The right shower

All multi-functional shower options are suitable for wetrooms, from a drenching overhead shower to hand showers, body jets and shower panels and columns.

A shower panel can have a combination of overhead, hand shower and jets, or a glamorous wall of individual jets with lighting around the panel. The columns conceal the pipework and incorporate the jets and controls.

A shower column fits all the necessary into a slim pole, either freestanding or attached to the wall. In some cases the column can form part of the support for a shower screen.

Main image: Aqata’s Spectra SP445 walk-in shower is perfect for a stylish modern wetroom

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