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What Is a Roll-In Shower?

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If it isn’t ADA compliant, it isn’t a roll-in shower. The facts about roll-in showers

A roll-in shower is designed to give easy access to help maintain a sense of independence for those less mobile. They are ideal for the elderly and those with mobility issues because they are wheelchair-accessible showers.

We explain what an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) shower is, what it does, and who would benefit from installing one.

Roll-In Shower: Why Do I Need One?

A roll-in shower needs to have ADA-compliant features. The lip needs to be no higher than 0.5 inches, and they have to meet strict specifications on size, safety, and maneuverability. They come in 2 styles: standard and alternative, and you can also get a portable version if you are struggling to convert the existing shower in your bathroom. The benefits of a roll-in shower outweigh the negatives. They allow a level of independence that typical shower enclosures can’t deliver.


Roll-In Shower Features

What is it that makes a roll-in shower so unique? What features and benefits do they have? Let’s take a look.

Threshold

The shower threshold helps keep the water from flooding the rest of the bathroom floor; however, if the lip is too high, you cannot access the shower in a wheelchair.

If the threshold is 0.5 inches high, it should have beveled edges to make it easier for the wheels on the chair to roll. If the threshold is 0.25-inches or below, you don’t need a beveled edge.

Grab Bars

Grab bars give the user increased stability. It also helps them to stand and sit more safely. Grab bars are required on all sides of the shower except the wall with the seat, and they should be mounted 33 to 36 inches from the floor.

Grab bars should span the entire length of the back and side wall and measure between 1.25 and 1.5 inches in diameter, and withstand a maximum weight of 250 pounds.

Shower Seats

Shower seats can be one of 3 varieties:

Freestanding

Freestanding seats are ideal if you have users of the roll-in shower with different mobility capabilities. If someone is a wheelchair user, the chair can be removed, and if someone can stand independently but still needs the reassurance of a chair, you can place it back inside the shower.

If the chair is freestanding, the grab bars should run along all 3 walls, even where the seat would be, because if the chair is removed, the bar is there as a backup for stability.

L-Shaped Folding Chair

These types of chairs attach to 2 walls, with the shorter part against the back wall. The seat should accommodate 250 pounds of weight, extend no further than 2.5 inches from the back edge and be 15 to 16 inches from the front edge. It should also reach 14 or 15 inches from the adjacent wall.

The seat should be no higher than 17 to 19 inches from the floor for it to comply with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). Plus, the grab bar should run from where the seat ends to the other wall.

Rectangular Folding Chair

Rectangular folding chairs only attach to the farthest wall facing the showerhead and controls. Because they fold, they enable access for wheelchairs and walking frames, but they can also accommodate more independent people who only need a place to sit during the shower.

The seat’s height should be 17 to 19 inches from the ground, and it should be no longer than 24 inches and no wider than 16 inches.

The grab rail should extend from the edge of the seat to the opposite wall where the showerhead and controls are situated.

Shower Heads

Hand-held shower heads with extending capabilities are crucial for roll-in showers as they aid washing and allow the user to direct the water with a minimum of fuss. It should be fixed to the back wall and no more than 27 inches from the seat.

If you can install the shower head on an adjustable bar even better because you can tailor the height to suit the user.

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Shower Controls

The controls should be on the opposite wall to the folding seat and no more than 27 inches away. Plus, they should be between 38 and 48 inches from the floor.

Lavatory

The lavatory should be situated in a place that doesn’t infringe on the shower entrance, and it should also leave the shower controls clear of obstruction. The toilet itself should be comfort height, with the seat no lower than 17 inches from the floor, as this complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Ramp

You can use a shower ramp if you have a lip on your shower that measures between 3 and 5 inches, as long as the ramp has an elevation ratio of no more than 1:8.

Types of Roll-In Showers

There are 3 types of roll-in showers, but what are the differences between them? Let’s take a look.

Standard Roll-In Showers

Standard roll-in showers have 2 side walls and a long back wall that measures no more than 60 inches long and 30 inches deep. There should be a minimal threshold to give wheelchair accessibility, as well as support bars on all walls without a seat.

Finally, there should be a clear space outside the shower entrance with no blockages that could impede maneuverability.

Alternate Roll-In Showers

Alternate roll-in showers are slightly different from standard ones in that they have a shorter entrance wall with a seat behind, and should be no longer than 60 inches and no deeper than 36 inches.

There should be no obstructions at the entrance of the shower other than an ADA-compliant toilet.

Portable Roll-In Showers

A portable roll-in shower is a temporary structure that constructs and deconstructs to transform bedrooms and other rooms in your house into a wheelchair-friendly washing space.

They are also ideal if your bathroom is mainly used by non-disabled people and is expensive to convert into a roll-in shower. Essentially it is a 3-walled cube shape with a wheelchair-size entrance and a shower head and controls.

Benefits of Roll-In Showers

Roll-in showers can bring many benefits to those less able-bodied and older people with limited movement.

Independent Lifestyle for Disabled People

Maintaining independence is one of the biggest drivers for getting a roll-in shower. The longer you can make someone feel self-sufficient, the more it gives them a sense that they are not reliant on constant help.

If you live independently, a roll-in shower could be the difference between staying in your home or moving to accommodation designed for people with limited mobility. However, it’s not just those with disabilities that benefit; if you are recovering from a medical procedure, a roll-in shower could make washing a whole lot easier.

The ADA lays down the guidelines for roll-in showers to make them functional and safe, ensuring there are no accidents, and they are all a standard size.

Take Up Less Space

Many roll-in showers take up less space than a bath, and they can open up smaller bathrooms, giving the illusion of extra space.

Can Be Very Stylish

Roll-in showers don’t always need to look like they came out of the pages of a medical catalog. Sometimes, they can be stylish, with glass screens and marble-effect tiling. And as we said, they can open up small spaces to make them look luxurious.

Easier Cleaning

Roll-in showers are designed for easy access, making them easier to maintain and clean. Because they have no or a limited threshold, keeping the water inside the shower is simple, and any water that escapes can be washed back into the shower enclosure.

Potential Drawbacks of Roll-In Showers

Where there are benefits, there are always drawbacks.

Chilly Airflow

Because these showers are open-plan, they can let a lot of the heat and steam escape, which cools down the shower experience. You could install a heated floor to counteract the effects of the temperature drop.

Water Flow

Because these roll-in showers have no lip, the water tends to go where it pleases. This can lead to trip hazards. The best way to counteract this is to install a drain trench that collects the water and drains it away.

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Privacy Issues

By nature, roll-in showers are open plan, so you are often exposed when you are in the shower. The shower curtain affords you some privacy, but not much. You could install a barrier wall to preserve some degree of modesty.

FAQs

What Is a Roll-In Shower in a Hotel?

A roll-in shower in a hotel is often called an Italian shower, but other than the difference in name, they share all the same attributes of a roll-in shower.

What Is the Difference Between a Walk-In Shower and a Roll-In Shower?

Roll-in showers cater to wheelchair access, so they must be a minimum length and depth to meet ADA specifications. They have no, or minimal threshold, whereas a walk-in shower can be any size, and they invariably have a deeper lip, which won’t accommodate a wheelchair.

What Makes a Roll-In Shower ADA Compliant?

A roll-in shower has to meet ADA criteria to qualify as suitable for those with mobility issues. It must be 60 inches in length, 30 to 36 inches in depth, and have a threshold no higher than 0.5 inches with a beveled edge or 0.25 without a beveled edge.

The showerhead should be adjustable and extendable, while the seat needs to be no higher than 17 to 19 inches for comfort and a minimum of 27 inches from the shower controls.

The controls need to be 38 to 48 inches from the ground, and the grab rails must extend the length and width of the shower on the walls without a seat.


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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.