Wet room ideas open up the opportunity for contemporary creative design, without the need to squeeze in a shower enclosure or raised shower tray.
A wet room can be a real luxury at home, even when the space you have to work with is limited. Try thinking along the lines of colorful floor-to-ceiling tiles, built-in seating and sleek, concealed pipework.
A true wet room without any panels provides you with more room to move, and an open-layout is easier to keep clean than a regular shower.
However, wet rooms are a big project to take on when it comes to bathroom ideas. The tanking process to ensure your room is completely watertight can be a significant upheaval, not to mention costly, too.
You may want to weigh this up against the longevity of the space, as a wet room’s seamless design makes it a great option for accessibility and future-proofing your home for years to come.
Wet room ideas
Wet rooms have become an increasingly popular choice for shower-lovers because they are the perfect solution for small bathrooms when you don’t have the space for both a bath tub and a separate shower.
The key difference between a shower and a wet room is the fact that while both may have shower screens, wet rooms are completely open spaces without the stand-in tray you will normally get in a shower. The floor is at one level and water is allowed to flow freely to a drain.
A wet room can provide a spacious showering area and the high-end look of a luxurious spa hotel because the look tends to be very streamlined. Wet rooms are also level entry, so easily accessible to all, not to mention hygienic and easy to clean. Done well, a wet room is incredibly desirable and can boost your home’s value, too.
There are a number of things to consider when planning a wet room or walk-in shower – from suitable flooring to drainage points – so that you can achieve the best results.
1. Ensure the space you intend to use is fully tanked
It goes without saying that a wet room needs to be waterproof. Luckily builders are a lot savvier about how to achieve fully tanked spaces nowadays and wet room tanking systems and products are readily available.
'In particular, hidden tray systems, which fit under the floor tiles and take care of drainage gradients and watertightness have proved a real game-changer,' says Nicholas Cunild, MD of luxury shower brand Matki. 'Low-level shower trays that fit flush with the tiles are also popular and can help define the shower room in a bigger room. Wet room installation is not for novices, it’s important to find a tanking specialist or builder with verifiable experience.'
2. Consider underfloor heating to keep the space dry
'It’s important to take extra steps with regards to heat, ventilation and drying than you would in a regular bathroom,' continues Nicholas Cunild. 'You may be lucky enough to live in a hot climate which naturally gives a warmer bathroom. But if you live in a colder climate and you exit a wet room onto carpeted rooms – add kids, dogs and all the rest – it is a recipe for waterlogged, messy floors everywhere.
'A screen will help contain major puddles, but underfloor heating and heated towel rails will also speed up the drying process and help prevent slip hazards. Mechanical ventilation is a must and will help clear steam quickly – look for models with intelligent humidity sensors that automatically boost when required.' You can also pair this with a beautiful, easy-to-wash bathroom rug idea.
3. Consider different surfaces ideas, not just tiles
Tiling from floor-to-ceiling is practical but can feel cold and uninviting in large volumes. Nicholas points out the importance of exploiting other options.
'We’ve noted a rise in polished plaster – both traditional Tadelakt and more modern Microcement – in wet room designs and the results are stunning,' he says.
Built up in layers, the finish is waterproof and seamless, so there’s no grubby grout to tackle.
4. Pick the right sanitaryware
'If you are embracing the full wet room in a large bathroom look and omitting any sort of enclosure or screen, it is fundamental to think about your choice of sanitaryware, as it is likely that it will get wet from the spray of the shower or the condensation in the room,' advises Rebecca Milnes, designer at CP Hart.
'Opt for ceramics that are flush to the wall and are ideally wall-mounted. A wall-hung toilet is a brilliant choice in a wet room, as there are no areas for water to pool and it makes cleaning easier.'
Though a bathroom that has been tanked doesn’t necessarily need a shower panel, you may want to add one to prevent towels or toilet rolls getting wet. Opt for a fluted or frosted finish to maintain a level of privacy if your wet room forms part of the main bathroom.
'In order to create a true wet room, a watertight environment must be created by tanking both the floor and walls of the room to thoroughly protect it from leaks. First a watertight membrane is laid, then the room will need to be tiled throughout with a gentle gradient in the main a shower area so the water flows away easily into the waste.'
5. Choose the right size sanitaryware to enhance the sense of space
It’s important to choose sanitaryware that is slightly smaller than the average in size so that it can make the room look bigger. A wall-hung toilet with a concealed cistern, is not just easier to keep clean, but being able to see the floor gives the illusion of a bigger room. Wall-hung bathroom vanity ideas will also help reduce visual clutter and use the bathroom space more effectively.
6. Play with the illusion of space
Using matching tiles or composite panels on both floors and walls is a good idea for wet rooms and small bathrooms as it will accentuate the sense of space.
Create areas of bathroom color, and even patterns using mosaics or tiles in a variety of formats, to give definition to your shower space, or mix shapes, sizes and shades for a unique look.
'Add glossy finishes and sleek chrome fittings and use matching shower tile ideas or composite panels on both floors and walls to accentuate the sense of space. Create areas of color and even patterns using mosaics or tiles in a variety of formats to give definition to your shower space, or mix shapes, sizes and shades for a unique look.'
Make sure the floor tiles you want have an appropriate non-slip bathroom flooring rating for wet areas – look out for raised, textured finishes or anti-slip properties in your search.
'Good-quality porcelain tiles are perfect for use in wet rooms and walk-in showers,' says Jo Oliver, Director at Stone & Ceramic Warehouse. 'Firstly, they are impervious to water, making them an ideal solution for everyday use. They also won’t be damaged by detergents or any of the other chemicals we frequently expose our shower surfaces to.'
7. Design a wet room around an awkward space
While it’s easiest to install a small wet room in a new-build or extension, any bathroom, upstairs or down, can be fully tanked for wet room use.
There are certain situations where a wet room comes into its own. 'Wet rooms are particularly effective in small or awkward scenarios, like rooms with sloped ceilings or strange layouts, as you can maximize the showering area without the restrictions of standard shower tray sizes,' says Nicholas Cunild.
Issues like the direction of floor joists can be problematic but not insurmountable. 'In some cases, you may need to accept a step up into the room, in order to achieve the necessary gradients for efficient water drainage. If it’s done by a good professional, it will be unnoticeable.'
8. Fake a wet room
If you are not able to create a true wet room, the latest ultra-low profile shower trays are a clever alternative.
A frameless shower enclosure will give any bathroom a modern, seamless feel and create a contained area for showering without the need for a separate cubicle.
Paired with a low-profile shower tray, these walk-in shower ideas with frameless, clear glass panels help to make even the smallest of spaces feel less claustrophobic and therefore a more calming showering experience.
Don’t forget to allow for adequate drainage at the planning stage. Your shower floor ideas may need to be fitted at a sloped angle away from any doors so water can drain away easily. A sunken shower tray that can be installed flush to the rest of the floor.
9. Bring in pattern to help zone the shower area
Many wet room designs lean towards a minimalist look but it can also be a great opportunity to introduce color and pattern into the space.
Even in an open plan space you can use a showstopping tile on the shower walls and floor to zone the shower area. If you are feeling even braver you can contrast the tiles you use on the floor and walls for even more impact.
10. Find the right tile
Bright and colorful wet rooms make for an invigorating shower experience. Ideal if you're not naturally a morning person. Smaller bathroom tile ideas like mosaics are a great choice for wet rooms, as they’re easy to lay in a slope towards the drainage hole.
Alternatively, a mix of metro and patterned tiles create a cool and contemporary appearance.
Maintain a seamless look by incorporating a recessed shelf within the shower – a great shower storage idea to keep essential bottles without encroaching on the rest of the space.
11. Enhance the floor factor
Shower floor ideas are one of the most important factors when planning and developing a wet room.
Most bathroom flooring types can accommodate the pipes needed for drainage in a wet room – even concrete. But in some instances, the flooring will need to be taken up before tiling takes place to ensure the drainage pipes can be positioned with the necessary slope for the water to drain away.
Tiles are the best type of flooring for a wet room. Damla Turgut, founder of Otto Tiles & Design, advises: 'The most suitable types of tiles for a wet room floor are porcelain or natural stone such as marble, terrazzo, encaustic cement or mosaic tiles. Because of their construction and high-shine finish, we would not recommend the use of ceramic tiles on a wet room floor, they are however suitable for wet room walls as are the very on-trend zellige tiles.'
12. Turn a loft space into a wet room
There are so many advantage to having a wet room.
You can create a more impressive shower room design in an average-sized bathroom simply by removing the bath and freeing up the space needed for a walk-in shower. For instance, if you have a loft space, consider installing a wet room here.
You probably will need a special extractor fan in your wet room. The build-up of moisture and condensation is greater in a wet room than in a traditional bathroom. Fans operated by light switches alone often aren’t effective enough. A good fan needs to be wired into the room (still coming on with the light switch) but with a separate cut-off switch, which is outside the room. Humidity-tracking extractor fans are best for wet rooms as they work continuously and incrementally with automatic extraction for however much steam is in the room.
13. Create a spa-like sanctuary
Real estate agents are quick to point out that a family home without a bath will be less saleable, but there are creative wet room ideas with baths you can explore.
If space allows, the bathroom can be turned into a spa-like sanctuary with a bath, vanity unit and smaller wet room-style cubicle.
'Wet rooms give an added level of luxury, allowing a continuous floor finish making a space feel seamless and bigger,' says Gemma Holsgrove, Associate Director at interior design agency Sims Hilditch. 'With cleverly positioned fittings it can certainly feel well thought through.'
A wet room design can also work alongside a bath, as Sally Cutchie of BC Designs explains. 'Choosing to have a wet room can actually be hugely beneficial when wanting a bath to sit in the same space,' she says.
'As a wet room is fully waterproof it doesn’t need a shower enclosure fitting,' she adds. 'This can free up a lot of extra space for the all-important bath.'
If your bathroom is on the small side, then use the same material to clad your whole space. A strong stone, like marble, is a stylish option.
14. Take a seat
Add built-in seating to your wet room for a sauna-like experience. Complete the look with a large rainfall showerhead, then simply sit back and relax.
A wood look can offer a holistic spa bathroom experience, but you'll need to ensure any timber is treated so that it's suitable for a wet area. Or you can mimic the look with tiles. Just make sure they have a non-slip treatment and are comfortable to sit on.
15. Let the light in
If you are creating a new space for your wet room, you will need to think about light sources during planning. A huge skylight like this creates the illusion of showering outdoors. So if you've been inspired by trips to tropical climes such as Bali or Thailand, this could be a practical way to recreate that magic.
The best bathroom lighting ideas feature at least two lighting circuits – one for overhead lighting and another for adjustable mood and task lighting. Where you place these will depend on any natural light sources, too.
16. Install a space to rest and recharge
When considering how to choose a shower for your wet room, Paul Bailey, Senior Category Manager at GROHE, says: 'Features such as steam, sound and chromotherapy through built-in lighting modules are increasing in popularity, due to growing demand for spa and wellness inspired bathroom spaces.'
Wet rooms are considered a practical and luxurious addition to a home. However, they can be costly. Nick Cryer of Berkeley Place says: 'Wet room installations are more specialist, more time consuming and more expensive. All the materials and kit is very readily available, however, we recommend only experts are employed to complete the installation.'
Are wet rooms a good idea?
There are lots of benefits to having a wet room – from being able to utilise a small or awkward space where a bath or standard shower enclosure cannot fit, to future-proofing your home.
Estate agents are quick to point out that a family home without a bath will be less saleable. But there are creative options you can explore. For instance, if you have a large master bedroom, consider installing a freestanding, statement tub here for a dash of hotel chic.
'Investing time and money into creating a wet room and properly tanking it can also be incredibly useful when it comes to busy family bath times,' says Paul Bailey, Senior Category Manager at GROHE UK.
The main drawback is the investment and upheaval a wet room project brings, mainly due to the fact that all wet room ideas require proper tanking.
'One other point worth noting is that wet rooms can get quite cold, because there’s no enclosure to keep the steam in,' adds Yousef Mansuri, head of design at C.P. Hart.
How small can a wet room be?
While wet rooms are not limited to incremental sizing, most bathroom designers would recommend that the showering section of a wet room measures a minimum 800 x 800mm.
When planning a shower design for a small bathroom, there are a few aspects which may determine the space required. Will pipework be exposed or concealed? Do you need to install a glass panel to prevent other areas of the room from getting wet?
Don’t forget that adequate ventilation must also be installed in line with building regulations to prevent mould and damp spots.
Get the right layout for a wet room
There's no denying that plumbing can limit the layout of a wet room. Basins, baths and showers only have to take away water but, if placed 12ft from an outside wall, the drainage will have to slope gently downwards for quite a long way, avoiding joists, which may not be running in a helpful direction. The sooner an architect or plumber raises a few floorboards, the sooner you’ll know your options.
'In a wet room, the shower area is flush with the floor level and the drain is fitted into the fully tiled floor. Originally wet rooms were completely open without any glass partition. However, a simple fixed glass panel creating a walk-in shower area is a much more practical choice and has become the most popular trend,' advises Rebecca Milnes, designer at CP Hart.
'Wet room systems are not limited to incremental sizing, like shower trays often are, so they are a great solution for awkward or tight spaces.
'In small rooms it is possible to turn the whole area into a walk-in shower. However, it is best to be mindful of the items in the bathroom that need to be kept dry, such as towels and toilet rolls.
'One of the first things to consider when planning a wet room is where to position the drain. Ideally the drain should be as far away from the bathroom door as possible, to minimise any risk of water escaping the room.
'If you have a wooden sub-floor, the way your joists run is crucial to where your drain can be positioned. You’ll also need to think about which way the gradient fall towards the waste will run, to avoid any tricky wedging effects.'
What's the difference between a wet room and a walk-in shower?
‘A true wet room is a fully waterproofed space without a fixed shower door or tray, and usually has an open tiled shower area,’ explains Nicholas Cunild, managing director of Matki.
A walk-in shower, on the other hand, is an area in a bathroom or shower room with a low-level shower tray and glass surrounds. While completely watertight, you may still wish to include a glass panel in a wet room to contain the water spray.
Is a wet room expensive?
There’s no doubt that a wet room is an investment. The tanking process to ensure the room is completely waterproof can be costly and takes time. All wet room ideas involve tiling the space from floor to ceiling carefully while ensuring proper drainage.
Concealing pipework can also be an investment, though this can often allow recessed shelving and storage to be created as an additional benefit.
You can find out how much it costs to install a wet room in our guide.
What kind of costs are involved in a wet room?
It is never cheap to re-do a bathroom. In a family bathroom with two basins, a WC, a bath and a shower, quality items will easily add up to £5,000.
Installation adds a further £3,000 or so and, with cabinets and storage, good quality mirrors, tiles and lighting, it generally adds up to between £10,000 and £15,000.
Do I need a special extractor fan in my wet room?
The build-up of moisture and condensation is greater in a wet room than in a traditional bathroom. Fans operated by light switches alone often aren’t effective enough.
A good fan needs to be wired into the room (still coming on with the light switch) but with a separate cut-off switch, which is outside the room. Humidity-tracking extractor fans are best for wet rooms as they work continuously and incrementally, with automatic extraction for how much steam is in the room.
Pick the right wet room flooring
'When deciding which wet room system to go for, think about what your sub-floor is made of. There are systems for both solid and wooden floors. If you have a concrete floor, it can be quite invasive to channel in a waste and create the gradient fall required for drainage,' advises Rebecca Milnes of CP Hart.
'Forgoing a shower tray in favour of a wet room allows the floor tiles to run through to the shower area, which adds visual space to a room. However, not all surfaces are safe to use in a wet room setting and it is crucial to know what the slip rating of the material is. I’d recommend using a material with a structured, textured finish to give extra grip in wet areas. Mosaics are also a great choice for wet areas, as the grout lines between the tiles give appropriate grip.
'In cases where a step-up to the wet area is needed, the step should be at least 10cm high, as anything lower can be easily overlooked by those not familiar with the room and can become a trip hazard. Adding under-plinth lighting can highlight the step and add ambiance to the room.'
Tanking a wet room
'Tanking is essential in a wet room,' says Rebecca Milnes. 'This is a multi-step process which entails several layers of waterproofing to ensure an excellent seal – much like a swimming pool.
'The two main approaches for tanking a wet room are using a self-adhesive bitumen-based waterproof membrane, or applying a paint-on liquid wall membrane. It is always best to speak to your supplier about the best system for your project.'
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space.
Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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