Q. I have always liked the look of a “Eurobath,” which has no distinct floor barrier between the shower and the rest of the bathroom. Is it possible to convert a standard bathroom to a Eurobath?
A barrier-free “Eurobath” is also becoming more popular in the U.S. In Europe, most rooms, including the bathroom, are smaller. A barrier-free floor can make a smaller bathroom appear more spacious, and it actually can be more functional.
With a large portion of the U.S. population aging, baby boomers and many others are more concerned about building homes that are accessible to people who use walkers and wheelchairs. If you might eventually sell your house, a barrier-free bathroom could provide a larger market for your home.
A barrier-free shower relies upon a sloped floor to carry water to the drain. Also, the entire floor must be sealed well so the water spray from the shower does not leak through the floor. Tile floors and walls are most commonly used and are most attractive.
Creating a barrier-free shower in an existing bathroom is a major remodeling project. The first item to check is the slope of the floor. Floors are not always as level as you might think. If the entire floor slopes away from the shower, the conversion might not be a good idea.
Assuming your floor is reasonably flat to start with, the basic remodeling method involves laying down a full mortar bed floor, sometimes called a mud floor. The mortar bed allows you to create the desired angle. If the sink and toilet are far enough from the shower area, the floor can be level under them.
The floor framing underneath the shower area may have to be lowered to create adequate slope for proper water flow. The standard 2-by-10-inch floor joists may be cut down to 2 by 6 inches and additional ones installed (double or triple) for strength.
On the other hand, you can also change the slope by raising the floor. The only drawback here is the offset at the door where the new floor meets the bedroom or hall floor. With proper layout, you can slope the floor back down near the door.
A quarter-inch drop per foot is an adequate slope for the areas away from the shower that may get some water spray. The slope in the actual shower area down to the drain should be slightly steeper, but not excessive. Water should flow nicely over a tiled floor.
Once the mortar floor is contoured properly, it is wise to lay down a waterproof membrane before installing the tile. Mortar feels hard to the touch, but moisture, particularly if it is standing, can migrate through it to the lumber below. Use a drain with a flange, and seal the membrane around it. Install the new tile floor and walls, and grout them as normally done.