How to create a wet room

A successful wet room design requires careful structural, safety and cost considerations from the start. Follow this advice for a beautiful – but most importantly, waterproof – wet room or shower room

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If you are designing a new bathroom you might want to consider a wet room set-up. In short, a wet room is a bathroom or shower room where the whole space is waterproofed, with drainage built into the floor therefore doing away with the need for a shower tray. 

This can be the perfect solution for a small bathroom as it is not dependent on finding a bath or shower cubicle to fit an awkward space. It is also an option where accessibility is a concern – perhaps for older people or those who rely on a wheelchair.

A wet room can also be more practical than a traditional en suite, as it is easier to clean and maintain. It will create a sense of luxury in your home, can potentially add value to a property and could even change the way that you use your bathroom space.

Follow these simple steps to creating the perfect wet room, covering costs, waterproofing the space and selecting the right type of flooring and finishes for the room.

A run down cabin in Ireland has been transformed into a stylish holiday home

The wet room in this lakeside home is made watertight with Walls2floor waterproof plaster; for similar, try Sphere8. The brass shower and rose are from Barber Wilsons & Co

(Image: © Philip Lauterbach)

How much will a wet room cost?

Wet rooms tend to be around 20 to 30 per cent more expensive than an equivalent non-wet room bathroom, assuming that there are no major structural alterations needed to boost the floor strength and reroute drainage points. Depending on specifications chosen and the size of your space, budget around £7,000 for a basic design and up to £40,000 or more for a large or luxurious wet room.

Start by checking your floor

In building terms, the absolute fundamental issues when planning a new wet room bathroom revolve around floor construction, floor and ceiling heights and falls – the slopes needed to drain water away. Since a wet room needs to have drainage to the floor, keeping a streamlined look, you must be able to include a slope to a plug hole, trap and drain below the lowest point in the space.

Plan from the bottom up

Like any bathroom, access to water, drainage points and power are essential, but there are planning points to remember specific to wet rooms, too. Most are to do with ensuring water tightness. Ask: how is the drained waste water going to get to the nearest drainage point? Working up from there, ensure that the floor finish is stable, which involves stiffening the floor sub-structure to ensure no leakage.

Click here for our step-by-step guide to plumbing your own bathroom.

Then, think about the slopes to drain to a particular point and invest in a floor covering that will ensure no water permeates. Manufactured board systems, such as those supplied by Wedi, which come with specialist waterproof membranes, and pre-sloped panels that sit below the floor finish, such as Impey Aqua-Dec, are ideal.

small-wet-room-bathroom

A wet room designed by Architect Your Home

Ensure good drainage

A drainpipe, usually 10cm in diameter, needs a slope on it to ensure proper drainage, so if the joists run in the same direction as where you want to run your drain, the pipe can be fitted between joists within the existing depth of the floor.

However, if you need to run your pipes across the direction of the joists, they will go beneath them, which would mean below the ceiling of the floor underneath and may require a new lowered false ceiling, or above the joists, requiring raising the floor.

Waste pipes need to be beneath the floor, so as long as the issues of floor structure and construction are sorted, pipes will be concealed as a matter of course. Speak to a structural engineer and an architect or designer regarding the building’s structure and best arrangement of the space.

Impey shower room with stone look flooring in a renovated flat

AquaDec Linear3 wet room Floor Former, from £902.03; WaterGuard wet room tanking kit, from £407.16; Aqua Screen X glass wet room panel, from £579.48 – all from Impey

(Image: © Impey)

Choosing sanitaryware for a wet room

Look for sanitaryware with smaller dimensions, but don't go so small that the item is hard to use. You can get very small sinks which take up barely any space and work well for a quick handwash in a downstairs loo, but will not be easy to wash your face at.

For the shower area, go no smaller than 80cm x 80cm – less than that leads to a claustrophobic showering experience. If you’re using glass screens in your design, make sure there is something, such as a motif, border, or frosting, on the glass, to ensure it is visible. 

When choosing a toilet, consider that a compact wall-hung loo with a concealed cistern removes visual clutter and helps to ensure as much of the floor as possible is visible.

Think about loo placement

Always plan its location with the aim of keeping the toilet dry. Even a wet room needs careful screening to ensure key areas remain practical. A sheet of glass to separate a shower area from a loo tends to work best, and you should always aim to create space between wet and dry areas. Our guide to choosing a toilet will help you make the best choice for your bathroom.

Choose the right tiles for a wet room

Clearly in a wet room, the floor will get wet, so choosing a bathroom floor tiles that will not be too slippery is vital to ensure safety. Many tile manufacturers will specify certain styles as being suitable for wet areas. There are a large number of choices of resin, porcelain and ceramic tiles, many of which are treated to handle water. A good idea is to choose a floor tile covering that has a gentle texture, giving some grip under foot. 

If the floor level of the wet room cannot match the room it is entered from, consider what sort of a join will be used and how this works practically. If a step up or down is required, it is best to have one 10cm step, or higher, instead of multiple steps measuring between 3 and 4cm, which could pose a trip hazard.

The water-tightness of where the floor meets the walls of the room needs to be carefully thought through, too, as if the junction of wall and floor moves, you could have disastrous leaks. A good solution is to carry the floor covering up the walls, particularly in shower areas.

Impey showers en suite wetroom with shower screens

Impey AquaDec EasyFit Floor Former, from £475.26; WaterGuard tanking kit, from £407.16; Aqua Screen X glass wetroom panel range, priced from £579.48; Impey wet room foot rest - £70.95

(Image: © Impey)

Ensure there is adequate ventilation

Ventilation is very important, and a statutory requirement in a bathroom without an window that can open. Aim to site an extraction system in a location that is both inconspicuous and requires the shortest route for a duct to the outside. 

Plan wet room lighting

A flexible wet room lighting scheme will ensure the room’s bright enough for tasks such as shaving and putting on make-up, but can have a relaxing ambience for showering.  

Downlights can provide the room with good overall light, while task lighting around mirrors will make precision tasks easy. Wet room lighting must be suitable for the zone of the room it’s in, determined by its proximity to a water source, so always check before buying and work with a registered electrician.

Heating a wet room

Underfloor heating is ideal for a wet room, especially where space is tight. You can extend an existing radiator system to add an underfloor heating circuit, with the pipes laid between the timber joists, and insulation beneath.

Electric underfloor heating mats are easier to install as they do not increase the floor level significantly. They are inexpensive to buy, but will cost more to run than a water-based system. In a large wet room, you may need additional heating, such as a radiator or heated towel rail.

Choose the best window treatment for a wet room

It’s vital that wet room window treatments can stand up to the humid atmosphere of the space. Shutters are smart, and will regulate light and privacy effectively. Window likely to get splashed? Choose a shutter that’s specially made to tolerate water without warping.

If you prefer blinds, louvred versions are also neat and effective, or try coated fabric blinds made to cope with the condensation in the room.

Design tips for a wet room

While a light, bright palette will help reflect light and make the wet room feel larger, avoid going overboard with white which can make the room feel cold or clinical, and consider warmer, earthy tile colours.

Patterned wall tiles or colourful accessories will also bring warmth and interest to the space. The odd house plant looks great in a wet room and will thrive well in the warm, humid environment.

Demister mirrors will help make the wet room feel bigger. If you can, sit them flush with any tiling to create the illusion of depth, or choose mirrored wall cabinets to stash away bathroom bottles neatly.

Large format tiles can work well in a small wet room. They lead to fewer lines of grout which can create a grid-like pattern that makes the space feel smaller. That said, small patches of mosaic tiling (perhaps to provide splashback to a sink or feature) can be very effective. Find out how to choose the right tiles for a small bathroom.

Do you need planning permission for a wet room?

A new wet room probably won’t need planning permission, but installing a new loo, shower or basin and changing electrics near a shower are subject to building regulations

If you are replacing existing plumbing work, it is not subject to building regulations approval, unless is it is near to, or involves electrics (such as an electric shower).

Top image: Impey Aqua Screen Pure, from £406.22; Aqua Screen Pure Pivot Panel, from £491.53; AquaDec EasyFit Floor Former, from £475.26; WaterGuard tanking kit, from £407.16

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