The wet room look

Once the preserve of  premier footballer pads or boutique hotels, the wetroom is now infiltrating homes of non-celebs too. Positioned at the mid to high-end of the market, these chic showering areas allow designers, retailers and housebuilders the opportunity to encourage their clients to trade-up. With the bulk of wetrooms being sold for refurbishment projects, sales are still thriving, as people who are unable to move add value to their homes. lmpey’s assistant manager PR, Steve Trigg comments: “Until 2009 we saw a typical increase in sales year-on-year of well over 40%. Difficult trading conditions from 2009-2010 still saw a significant increase in sales, but not to the same degree.? While Damian Burns of Whale adds: “Sales of our specialist product has grown by 33% over the same period last year and is predicted to be four times our sales in 2007″

New build moves

Although refurbishment sales are significant, the new build market has also been quick to catch onto the trend, with prestige housebuilders featuring wetrooms to differentiate their exclusive developments. Managing director of Bathroom Engineering, Sigi Herring agrees: “Housebuilders have cottoned on and increasingly want wetroom solutions for their  projects’.

While general manager of Dallmen lohn Purser adds: “A high – end, new build home would normally have them as part of the specihcation. They have not, so fan been adopted much in the way of new mass market homes but that sector has been in the deep freeze for the past two years anyway”.

Need to know

Whether working in the refurbishment or new build secton designers and specifiers must ensure wetrooms work efficiently and, of equal importance, remain watertight. lohn Purser of Dallmer continues: “The three most important things are a correctly built wall and floor structure, the waterproofing, and the drainage point where it integrates with them both.”

James Clark sales director at On the Level expands on the points to consider He says: “Firstly, designers need to consider the room size and shape and measure up for the former or underfloor tray. A common mistake when designing a wetroom is that the shower former is far too small. So designers must ensure they are in excess ofthe immediate showering area. The designer also has to  understand the fact that the tanking, or waterproofing of the room is a major consideration. A fully waterproofed membrane is always a winner as reduction in movement is key.”
He continues: “Consider underfloor heating as it is comfortable and luxurious but it is also practical as the warmth dries off the floor after use. Next, the tile size and drain shape and size is a consideration. Trends today are for larger tile formats, in which case an oblong drain shape is the best. Conventional square floor drains require a tiler to cut and angle the tiles to fit, which is why installers often opt for mosaics.”

In addition, designers must pay attention to how much water the drain can remove and ensure it matches the output of the shower As Sigi Herring says: “Check the thermostat and the showerhead. If the whole system chucks five buckets of water onto the floor every minute, make sure the structural elements are designed to cope. lf the trap can only  handle four buckets, the result is backing up water and flooding into the next room.”

Finally, to complete the wetroom is deciding whether the area will feature a glass screen. James Clark of On the Level says: “It should not be necessary unless the wetroom opens onto other areas of the bathroom”

Ensure product compatibility

However the key consideration for all the elements of a wetroom, is that they work together John Purser points out: “A designer has to give a lead in specifying components that will work together There are some excellent wetroom kits available, where the compatibility of components has been thoroughly sorted out. The wall and floor finishes are relatively easy components to choose and install- but if laid on a non- watertight structure, the chances are there will be leaks, very difficult rectification and a lot of dissatisfaction.” Certainly, this has been the experience that Sigi Herring of Bathroom Engineering has had to rectify: “We recently completed an ‘Expert Witness’ project for a national house builder where hundreds of wetroom showers had leaked. This was due to incorrect products being specified, so the combination was not fit for purpose and were not – in a word – compatible.”

No sales barriers

Although there will always be a market for showering surrounds, the market for wetrooms is (like their construction) wide open. Far from being a design fad, wetrooms  are a fashionable and functional trend. They not only offer coveted contemporary bathing spaces but with level access, are suitable for all users within an ageing population. lohn Purser concludes: “Fitted bathroom furniture, back-to-wall WCs and concealed flushing cisterns have gone from cutting- edge to a standard tool for a designer to use, to help create a great-looking bathroom. Wetrooms are, I suspect, joining that toolkit as more professional designers, as well as competent installers, learn about them and gain confidence in recommending them.”