There are many options to consider when you undertake a major bathroom update or overhaul. While an easy facelift can be accomplished with a new vanity and sink, and a better flushing toilet adds an upgrade in function and reliability, the shower and bathtub are often left ignored. Most of the time they can be hidden behind an updated curtain and rod so why worry about the expense of replacing one? Bathrooms give you big bang for your buck when remodeled in this fashion and it will add beauty to any home. It seems easy to overlook the shower or bathtub because they are one of the most expensive items to change, but they are becoming the focal point and main motivator for more and more remodels as the population ages. Demand is surging for products and services that will allow baby boomers specifically to “age in place”. Even a slight physical impairment can make a tub nearly useless and for many people they become down right dangerous. Fortunately new products are rapidly coming to market, so whether you have a large budget for a custom tile shower or just need a cheap solution, you are certain to find something affordable for you. Here is a breakdown of some of the best solutions, and we would be happy to help you figure out the best option for you.

Barrier Free Shower Modules

Barrier Free Shower Module

A prefabricated barrier free shower is a great solution.

These are showers that have no curb to step over. Many are designed to allow easy wheelchair access while still preventing water from running out all over the bathroom floor. They are commonly made from prefabricated vinyl or fiberglass pans, but custom tile floors create the most seamless look. These options often require extensive modifications to the sub-flooring. In certain applications floor joists are altered and the shower area is dropped down a few inches deeper than the rest of the room to allow for proper drainage. This is often the most expensive option but when done properly assures a watertight and easy to access shower that is unmatched for ease of use. You can expect these options to start around $5,000 for prefabricated units while custom tile jobs can run a few thousand dollars more.

Wet Room Shower

A full wet room is the top tier option.

Barrier Free Wet Rooms

A wet room takes the idea of a barrier free shower and takes it one step further, waterproofing the entire bathroom. This is a great option when the floor plan is constrained. The advantage with a wet room is that the entire room becomes suitable for use as a shower and allows for a very open feel even in smaller bathrooms. They require waterproofing be installed along the entire floor of the bathroom and up a substantial amount of the walls. As a result they will usually be the most expensive option. It is a good idea to use water proof materials such as porcelain or concrete sinks and a wall mounted toilet. A nice advantage to a wet room is that they are very easy to maintain. Because they are designed to get wet you can just hose them down! Be prepared for a full wet room renovation to set you back at least $15,000.


Traditional walk-in shower with a curb.

Traditional walk-in shower with a curb.

Walk-in Shower

A traditional walk-in shower has a small curb in front to keep water contained. These units are not handicap accessible as most curbs will be about 4″ in height. They are much easier to step over than a traditional bathtub wall and are a popular option in many newer homes and renovations. A walk-in shower can be installed for around $2,000 which makes them one of the more affordable solutions for those looking to age in place. There are many ways to create a walk-in shower including complete fiberglass or acrylic units, prefabricated bases with tiled wall surrounds, or completely custom tile jobs.


The Safeway Tub Door® conversion.

Bathtub Conversions

For those on limited budgets finding themselves in need of a functional shower, a bathtub conversion can be an effective cost saving option. A bathtub conversion is basically a modification to an existing bathtub. An opening is literally cut into the side of the existing bathtub and a step through is installed over it. There are even optional doors if maintaining use of the tub are desired. They can be installed in a matter of hours and are well under the $1,000 mark. We currently offer the SafeWay Step and you can find information about them on this website.

We don't recommend walk-in tubs!

We don’t recommend walk-in tubs!

Walk-in Bathtubs

We receive a lot of curiosity about walk-in bathtubs, but many of them have major shortcomings which currently prevent us from endorsing them as a good solution. People often overlook the fact that you can’t fill the bathtub full of hot water prior to climbing in, and you can’t exit the tub until the water has fully drained out. This means you must sit inside, likely naked and cold, while the tub slowly fills up. You then get to repeat the process, now cold and wet, while it takes 10 minutes or more to drain before you can exit. The height of the units make it very difficult for a caregiver to assist in bathing which is another large concern. In addition, these things are very expensive. We have removed more of these tubs than we have installed as many people regret purchasing them.

No matter your budget, Sterling Craft Plumbing has a solution to help you remain comfortable in your home. Call us today and we would be happy to set up a free consultation and discuss what options might be best for you.