What Is a Wet Room? Everything to Know About This Bathroom Style
Curious about incorporating a wet room into your home? Wet rooms can be a unique and luxurious addition to your home. Below, architecture and design experts share key insights to keep in mind that will help you determine whether a wet room is the right choice for your home.
Diana Melichar is the president of Melichar Architects in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Merisa Fink is the co-founder of Kit Reno in Brooklyn, New York.
Kara Kersten is the owner and principal designer of Kara Kersten Design in Overland Park, Kansas.
What Is a Wet Room Bathroom?
Even if you don't have a wet room of your own, you've likely come across one while staying in a hotel or spending time abroad. According to Diana Melichar, president of Melichar Architects in Lake Forest, Illinois, a wet room is essentially an open plan bathroom, with no divisions between the shower and the rest of the fixtures. The floor of the shower is also the floor of the bathroom, with a drain for water.
Wet Room vs. Standard Bathroom
In a standard bathroom, a shower is not level with the floor and there is some separation between the bathing area and the rest of the bathroom.
"In a wet room—in theory—the whole room can get wet," Melichar says.
She says that sometimes, her clients ask her to design a hybrid wet room, like the one shown here. Melichar says a hybrid wet room the shower and bathtub may be grouped together in the 'wet' area, while the vanity and toilet remain separate.
"This seems like a happy compromise," she says.
Pros and Cons of a Wet Room
If you choose to install a wet room, you may save some money during the bathroom design process because you won't need as much square footage due to the shower and bathtub sharing some space, Melichar says. She cites a few other benefits, including accessibility for people with reduced mobility, as well as ease of cleaning.
The main disadvantage associated with a wet room is its cost, and Melchar notes this is primarily due to the amount of tile needed for the room.
"All the walls and floors should be tiled at minimum. and waterproofing membranes are required. Imagine that you enlarged your shower to engulf all of your plumbing fixtures. That’s what a wet room is like," she says.
You will also need to hire a licensed plumber to move the drain location, explains Merisa Fink, the co-founder of Kit Reno. Plumbers will be able to slope the floor so all of the water drains properly and doesn't pool, and will need to place a drain either in the middle of the floor or close to the showerhead, Fink says.
"Construction is like surgery, and you generally want to move walls, water and electricity as little as possible, because there is often an unexpected complication," she says.
Additionally, you will need to alter your vanity choice to accommodate your wet room too. Wood vanities can't be used in a wet room because of moisture issues, Melichar says, so waterproof options like porcelain are required. "You can’t put a wood vanity in a wet room because wood and water don’t mix," Melichar shares.
"The room can feel pretty institutional if it’s not properly detailed and finished," says Melichar.
For some, the concept of a wet room may take some getting used to as well. "If the entire bathroom is a wet room, people can be weirded out with the idea of the toilet getting wet or having your vanity top wet," notes Kara Kersten, the owner and principal designer of Kara Kersten Design.
Can You DIY or Retrofit a Wet Room?
While there are many home projects that are possible to DIY, a wet room is not one of them, Kersten says, unless you already have experience in plumbing and tiling.
Melichar adds that there are too many risks of water leakage involved if wet rooms are not installed properly, and electrical outlets and fixtures also require special installation due to the wet conditions.
"Ventilation must be properly sized," Melichar says. "Finishes should be slip resistant, and sized appropriately so there aren’t too many grout joints in the wrong places. I’d leave it up to the professionals for this project!"