Leak resistant wet rooms upstairs as well as down

Wet rooms in upper floors are seen as normal in hotels, and yet there is still some hesitancy in fitting them upstairs in a domestic setting. With demand for inclusive bathrooms increasing year on year, Stuart Reynolds, UK Marketing & Product Management Director at AKW, a leading provider of inclusive solutions, discusses how wet rooms can be specified – with confidence – upstairs too.

Demand for wet rooms on the rise

According to latest data from the Office of National Statistics, in the year ending June 2021, 24.9% of disabled people aged 16 to 64 years rented social housing compared with only 7.9% of non-disabled people. It is no wonder therefore that social landlords are seeing increased demand for level-access showering.

However, over recent years, due to leak issues, poorly installed wet rooms have tarnished the reputation of such solutions. In fact, some architects, specifiers, and technical officers are still hesitant to specify them, particularly upstairs on timber floors. However, thanks to advances in digital pumps and electric showers, and lessons learned from poor installations, specifying, and installing wet rooms in upper rooms has become more straightforward. 

A wet room or a shower tray?

Level access showering can be achieved by the installation of either a shower tray or a full wet room and the OT assessment, should show which is better suited to meet the disabled person’s needs. Shower trays are more cost-effective to install than level-access wet rooms, and AKW’s Mullen, Swift and Eagle TWO shower trays can be fully recessed in timber floors to offer a level-access shower tray solution. However, wet room formers, such as AKW’s Tuff Form or ShowerDec ranges, might be more suitable for those looking to future-proof the adaptation, as they can withstand the combined weight of users, wheelchairs and/or carers and can be fitted into unusually sized/shaped spaces.

Achieving leak resistant wet rooms

The problem areas that can lead to leaks in a wet room tend to be to do with movement around the edge of the former/tray if the fitting isn’t as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Also leaks can appear under the corners of poorly fitted or sealed flooring, gaps between any shower curtain and the wall or showering area, a misaligned shower screen or a missing seal.

To minimise these risks and achieve a leak resistant wet room – either upstairs or down – AKW has developed a downloadable ‘lessons learned’ installation guide from their technical team. Here is an overview of the key lessons:

  • When a former for a wet room is installed, the former and surrounding floor must be level along all 4 sides and ready for vinyl safety flooring to be laid over the top. It is essential to ensure that any flooring joins are not in the main showering area.
  • It is important to follow the fitting instructions and fully support the chosen former on all sides and install additional noggins where required, to correctly support the former and prevent movement.
  • The waste and drainage must be fully tested before fitting the final floor covering and former for any leaks, correct drainage falls and to ensure that the rubber seals are in place.
  • Although tanking kits are usually used when installing formers with tiled floors, some specifiers also opt to specify tanking when sealing beneath anti-slip vinyl safety flooring and above the former. This is to achieve a secondary leak resistant barrier.
  • For additional bathroom edge protection, the vinyl flooring can be coved up the wall and fitted into a wall panel or tile trim. Using wall panels eliminates the use of tile adhesive and grout. If inadequate tile adhesive or grout has been used, there is an increased risk of tiles lifting and causing a leak.
  • If a recessed shower tray is used instead of a former, ensure that the heat seal or clamping system for the vinyl safety flooring is carried out as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Specify a Bluetooth® enabled electric shower, such as AKW’s SmartCare Plus and SmartCare Lever electric care showers, and digital pump that has an anti-flood shut off feature, to minimise surface water accidents around the bathroom in the event of a power failure. Combine the pump with an external auxiliary pump switch (AKW’s DigiPumps can be activated using an auxiliary pump switch), so any excess water drainage can be dealt with at the press of a button.
  • If shower curtains are used, ensure that they fall at least 100mm from the external edge of the shower tray to avoid water dripping outside of the tray’s fall area and onto the surrounding floor.
  • Finally, ensure top access wastes are used for future maintenance and ease of cleaning.