The simplicity of the finished wet room can often be contrasted by the complexity of the product ranges available to provide the final room. To the uneducated, wet rooms can often be a very daunting experience. Certainly they should not be considered without knowledge of what you are getting involved with, but using the correct products and having the correct fitting procedures, and you will be able to produce an unrivalled bathroom in terms of both functionality and design.
There are many pros and cons to consider. The concept of wet rooms has come across from our cousins on the continent and was made popular during the nineties through a variety of home interior and design programmes. Many people, and it has to be said designers, see the finished product, but do not consider the installation fully. Construction methods on the Continent differ from ours and lend themselves to a wet room design. Our traditional timber construction methods can make things a little more complex when trying to contain water. Since the introduction of wet rooms into the UK market manufacturers have really embraced the trend and have produced a variety of products to simplify the installation and ensure that the correct materials are available for every application. Using the correct materials will provide the peace of mind that water and moisture is contained and removed from the wet area and the whole bathroom.
A true wet room will provide a very open feel in the bathroom. The shower area will be level access and the floor finish will complement the design and styling of the room as a whole. Variations can be formed with raised access to the shower area, where drainage is an issue, and more commonly used level access shower trays can also be used in the wet area’s. Glass panel also provide a minimalist elegant look to help contain the water in smaller rooms.
Wet Room Design Points To Consider
By far the most common construction in the UK is still a traditional timer method. Timber floor joists support timber flooring boards and then the finished floor is placed on top. A concrete floor construction will generally have a screed overlay. Materials are available for both of these construction types, but may differ in their installation method so the type of construction must be verified prior to choosing the tanking method.
We would always recommend a level access floor for a wet room. If the drainage cannot be formed within the floor void then the floor must be raised and consideration must be used in the bathroom design and the materials used to accommodate the drainage.
Tiling the floor is the most popular way to finish a wetroom. As we need to slope the floor slightly to ensure the water flows into the drain we need to be able to fall the tiles to the correct point. It used to be popular to use smaller tiles to ease the installation, however even when the floor is fully tanked underneath the water will not escape but tile grouts will always absorb moisture. The more grout lines the more moisture. The water will evaporate out of the grout without creating leaks but over time it will be more difficult to clean as minerals will deposit on the grouts as water penetrates and then evaporates. We tend to recommend the use of larger tiles to reduce the amount of grout lines. Underfloor heating can certainly be an advantage here as it will help to dry the floor quickly and reduce maintenance over time. Under floor heating will also help to reduce the amount of moisture in the room all together and adds to the luxury of the flooring and wet area.
Wall and floor tanking
Water in an unusual substance and will migrate. Please cover a much wider area with the tanking system than just the area you consider to be the shower area. In most cases we would recommend tanking the whole bathroom floor. By the time you have tanked the wet area much of the floor will be covered so providing continuation of materials should not break the budget. Most tanking systems will also act as tile backer boards so will provide the perfect backing for any floor or wall tiling. Is it important to tank the walls?? This is a question we are asked a lot. The advantage is that you have peace of mind that the wet area is fully tanked and water migration through hairline cracks in grout caused by material movement is secured by the tanked wall. The costs will increase but consider the consequences if not!! Most tanking systems will provide a more adequate tile backer than traditional plaster boards and so the slight extra cost is more than justified for the shower area. Having the continuation of material to flow from the floor to the walls is very important in our opinion. The main area to attend to will be corners, both vertical and horizontal. Some systems provide a compromise in skirting solutions or tanking paints. Tanking paints will provide a waterproof membrane for the walls and are an economic way to seal the walls. They also provide for better tile adhesion and can also be considered for use in standard shower cubicles and enclosures.
Level access and low level shower trays
Shower tray technology has improved greatly in recent years and shower trays are much thinner. They can now provide either level access or slightly raised solutions which create the effect of the wet room. Available now in different colours to compliment the room aesthetics and design such trays can often be a simpler and cost effective solution rather than tanking the whole room. It is more important to contain the water to the showering area, which can be achieved using minimalist glass panelling. It is also important to consider the joint between the tray and the tiles as this is the week point for water penetration and must be properly managed and fitted. Overall though the reliability of the shower tray has evolved into producing a wet room design which can often be more advantageous, more simple, cost effective and easier to fit than many fully tanked systems. Tray manufacturers such as Just Trays lead the way in tray innovation and supply various solutions. They have also recently launched the aptly named ‘Evolved’ collection. All ranges from the Evolved collection are currently available from UKBathrooms, if you call us to discuss, and will soon be available to buy directly online. These shower trays provide the bridge between wet room tanking systems and the humble shower tray and we fully expect them to become very popular, very quickly following their launch in July this year.
Wet room glass panels
Glass panels are not always required but are recommended. They provide a very minimalist and cost effective way to avoid water overspray and contain the main amount of water produced by the shower to a contained area. This encourages the water to stay in the shower area where it can be more easily directed to the drainage point. A simple glass panel has the added advantage of being far easier to maintain than a standard enclosure. Manufacturers such as Kudos, which is a British made product, will provide many panel options which will compliment any design solution. With 8mm and 10mm glass available, and life shield as standard for ease of cleaning, the panel range has many fixing options available and hinged deflector panels if required.
Often overlooked due to the extra expense UKBathrooms would always recommend the use of underfloor heating in any wet area. Underfloor heating is used in general to compliment the heating requirements in bathrooms and other areas. Rarely considered a primary heating source, underfloor heating will provide extra luxury on those colder days and warm the tiles in an area where your feet are usually bare. In a wet area it is more than that. It will help to dry the floor at a far greater rate than by natural evaporation and will help to dry the tile grout so moisture is removed. We would recommend it is left on continuously. The heat is thermostatically controlled and so the temperature is maintained at a constant, or can often be programmed to reduce slightly at times of least use and increase automatically when the bathroom has more use. It is also more efficient to maintain the heat in the tiles rather than turning the heat on only at certain times which will require energy spikes. Leaving an ambient heat coming from the floor will also increase air circulation in the wet room and aid in moisture removal in general. This can help significantly in keeping unwanted moulds away from the bathroom and keep the air moisture levels much lower making the whole environment for hygienic.
When a wet underfloor heating system is used in the whole house and a wet room is required in the bathrooms please take care. Many of the tanking systems, by the nature of the materials used, will insulate the wet underfloor heating systems and make them much less effective in the bathroom. An electric wire system is laid on top of the tanking material and so will be far more efficient.
Wetroom Tanking systems
There are so many tanking solutions available. At UKBathrooms we have chosen some of our favourites to provide you with complete solutions for many construction types. The aqua4ma system from Kudos and Impey systems are both suitable for timber floor construction methods. Aqua4ma is very simple to install and provides a steel tray for structural support. This effectively replaces the floor boards to offer a flush floor solution. The steel tray is then overlaid with a composite board which is sloped to provide the drainage to the gulley which is also included. Extra tongue and grooved composite boards are used to cover larger areas and the walls if required; or Aqua4ma supply a skirting board for the walls, which will effectively seal the horizontal corners. The joints between the boards are sealed using an adhesive which will melt the composite together and form a chemical bond where water can never penetrate. When used on walls the aqua4ma system provides a perfect solution for tiling onto and when accessories and shower fitting are fitted at second fix the composite board not only provides a solid board to fix to but also seals around the screws which maintains the waterproofing element.
Impey systems are also easy to install and preferred by some fitters. The aqua-dec is paced on the floor or fitted between the joists and then the water guard tanking kit is used to cover a larger are. This is a simple thin waterproof mat, supplied as a kit, which provides an easy to fit product to cover the whole bathroom floor and tie into the aqua-dec to form a fully tanked floor. The water guard tanking kit can also be used on the walls.
Wedi is the most commonly known brand and was one of the first manufacturers to provide a floor tanking solution. Using an extruded polystyrene board with a cementitious tile backer overlay, available in different sizes, with an integrated gulley system the boards are either overlaid on the floor or integrated into the floor structure. Board joints are taped and sealed to provide a continuous waterproof membrane and then over tiled as with the other systems to finish the bathroom wet area.
At UKbathrooms, we have worked with manufacturers to provide a simple, cost effective wet room floor and wall tanking system. Recently introduced, our very own Origins wet room flooring provides simple packs, in different sizes, which provide everything you require including the drain and gulley, tapes, adhesives, jointing materials and primers. Priced at below normal market levels this proven technology makes choosing all the correct products very easy. Origins wet room flooring takes the complexity out of ordering, ensuring you have all the products you require and is suitable for virtually any wet room design. Using extruded polystyrene boards which can be easily cut to size the Origins range can be used by competent DIY fitters or tradesmen alike. With Origins every kit is supplied with full installation instructions which are simple to follow. As we buy this directly from the manufacturer we are also able to offer this product at a price which is less than the normal market rates for wetroom tanking systems.