We are currently presenting part 2 of our four-part series on the Next Generation Solutions for aging in place. If you haven’t already, read Part 1. This post will explore the hurdles in creating a bathroom that can accommodate the issues presented in Part 1.
The next generation bathroom must incorporate barrier-free entries while remaining stylish and beautiful. However, it must also provide an ease of installation, longevity of the materials and flexibility in design to allow for individual expression. Is there a material that can fulfill all of these demands? First, let us look at the issues that arise with the installation of barrier-free showers.
The first hurdle when designing or installing a barrier-free shower is that of moisture management. Moisture management is defined as a systematic method to contain water in both liquid and vapor form and to enable it to pass through an assembly efficiently using materials that are not adversely affected by moisture. In other words, the liquid and steam need to be contained and funneled away in such a way that the entire system doesn’t succumb to the moisture itself!
A shower is an extreme source of moisture both in the form of water and steam. An average shower sized 48” x 48” will see a volume of water each day equivalent to 3 inches of rainfall a day or 1,100 inches per year which is more than 35 times that seen even in Seattle! Mold needs water in order to exist, the shower is a constant battle – if the water is allowed to remain, mold can gain a foothold. If the water is properly removed, the mold cannot thrive. Therefore, an effective method of draining is critical to the success of a shower.
Traditional showers have long depended on impermeable surfaces and slopes to effectively funnel water away. In barrier-free showers, however, the slope must be gentle and continuous and cannot contain protrusions (due to wheelchairs and tripping hazards). This includes the drain design which must be flush to the floor and unobtrusive.
At this point the requirements become clear. A flexible, strong, waterproof material that is easily integrated into the overall design of a luxury bathroom is needed. One that can be integrated with the high-end materials available on the market that is so in demand by consumers. A material that can create a seamless flow throughout the bathroom and avoid changes in height for the creation of a barrier-free line throughout the entire space.