The Differences Between ‘Step In’, ‘Low Level’, ‘Level Access’ and ‘Walk In’ Showers and Trays Explained.
Many people are familiar with a shower with a high step, sometimes as high as ten inches (260mm). The reason these showers have such a high threshold is to ensure the waste water can drain away easily. Water can only run down hill, so having such a high step height means the waste water runs down the plug hole from a high starting point allowing it to reach a soil waste, sometimes located a fair distance away. The lower the step height the less fall for the waste water and the more work required to achieve an adequate drainage. Obviously, the higher the step height the easier the work, which is why many homes have showers with fairly high steps. If adequate drainage can’t be achieved there is always the option of a waste pump being used to pump the waste ‘up hill’ and back into the soil pipe. See one of our recent projects involving a waste pump for an example of this method. Aside from this technical plumbing aspect to lower level shower trays, the question in the mind of the customer and end user is which height would be best for me?
NB. Scroll down to the gallery at the bottom of this page for larger version so of all the images.
These shower trays have step heights starting from 60mm (around 2.5 inches) and rising to around 120mm (just under 5 inches). This height suits people who are still fairly ambulant but would benefit from an easier to access shower tray. As a general rule, if the steps on the stairs are manageable, this type of shower tray height will be suitable.
If it is known that a person’s mobility will become worse in future, this type of step height may not be suitable, as the step will become more of an obstacle as an individual’s mobility reduces. A ramp may be added to permit wheelchair access, but may not be suitable in all cases. The waste pipes will be located above floor level so it is suitable for concrete floors.
What the pictures here don’t show and is classically the case with bathroom show rooms, is that where there is a step in or high level shower tray there is also going to be a boxing that hides the waste pipe as it travels back to the soil stack ABOVE floor level.
Low level shower trays are typically around 40mm (just over 1.5 inches) in height and obviously easier to access than a step in shower tray. This step height suits people with reduced mobility who find the steps on the stairs to be difficult, but can still manage some small steps.
As there will be a step, it will not be suitable for use with a Zimmer or wheelchair, unless a ramp is also used. The reduced step height will make ramp access easier, but it is not always suitable to use a ramp depending on the situation. The waste pipes will be routed around the joists or laid in a channel dug into a concrete floor, with the tray above floor level.
Level access shower trays sit flush with the floor presenting no step height at all. If fitted in a property with a concrete floor a small lip may be present as it is not always possible to recess the tray completely into the screed. Level access is suitable for people who require step free access for their current or future mobility needs, or who intend to use a wheelchair or Zimmer frame.
Access will be step free, affording excellent access for people with limited mobility, or who just want the assurance of step free access. The waste pipes will be routed below floor level and the tray recessed into the floor in order to achieve level access. Note, that with a concrete floor it is only possible to recess the tray as deep as the surface screed permits, and in many cases a small lip will project above floor level. With a wooden floor lip free level access can be achieved, unless some unusual circumstances are present.
In addition to the shower tray options above, a wet room set up provides an open room with no step height and a large, generous showering space. Suitable for wheelchair users or people who appreciate freedom of access and usage. In general a wet room can add value to a property and often creates a luxury, designer look and feel to the bathroom, depending on the materials specified. Waste pipes will be below floor level and it may not be possible to install a wet room in all types of property. Check out this recent wet room project for a good example and pictures of designer look walk in shower fitted by the boys at Rhombus Bathroom Fitting.
Hopefully you now have a good understanding of the different types of shower and tray available to you.
Click the images below to see them in full size.