You don’t need to browse Houzz or visit your Birmingham neighbors for long to notice the latest and hottest trend in home renovation – wet rooms. Originating in historic Japan where soaking tubs were essential, today’s wet rooms are gorgeous partitioned bathrooms featuring a large tub and shower space in one open area, a vanity and toilet in another, often with a bench or stool for complete relaxation. The walls are shimmering tile and/or glass, and depending on the design and square footage, the wet room entrance is either open or divided by a door and step.

Such an open-concept design for bathrooms shares many of the same benefits of open kitchens, including greater accessibility, easier cleaning, better lighting, and added safety. Considered the next step in the evolution of bathrooms from purely functional spaces to luxurious home health and wellness spas, adding a wet room immediately increases your family’s quality of life and resale value of your home. Their convenience and reduced slip and fall risk to the level of full ADA compliance make them universally ideal for live-in seniors.

More Popular Than Ever

bathing dog in wet room

Wet rooms have become even more popular since the pandemic when most of us were stuck at home for long periods and craved living spaces ideally suited for added relaxation and distraction. And thanks to rising home prices, more Michigan homeowners are staying in their current homes and upgrading with in-law suites, and wet rooms for babies, toddlers, and small children for baths and showers with their parents. Wet rooms are also ideal for everything from washing pets to turning casual visits to the bathroom into wonderful home spa experiences.

Given all that, what’s not to like? The answer is absolutely nothing, wet rooms are now all the rage throughout metro Detroit and the surrounding areas. With design and build options galore, ranging from separate tub and shower areas to fully enclosed steam rooms, Birmingham homeowners are expressing a growing interest. “Wet rooms are certainly trending,” agrees Christine Ramaekers, Creative Director at Mainstreet Design Build, “but doing them properly is essential to ensure they remain hassle-free for the long term.” So here are 5 things to consider before you remodel:

Consideration #1: “Do I have enough space in my bathroom?”

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Since wet rooms feature an open area that combines a tub and shower, many people believe the renovation will always save space in a bathroom. Although some designs reduce their total floor usage, wet rooms are built for convenience and luxury, and are optimal enhancements for roomier primary bathrooms, at least 6’ x 6’ in size. An area of at least 3’x 6’ is necessary for a small soaking tub and 4′ x 7’ for a standard or larger tub. Adjacent shower floor space will depend on the number of users and fixture placement, with an ideal minimum of 3’ x 6’ total.

Available bathroom space will also determine the location and orientation of your tub, which must remain fully accessible not only for family members using it but whoever cleans it. A commonly neglected consideration when designing wet rooms in smaller bathrooms is leaving enough space around the tub to enable periodic and thorough cleaning and drying. “A tub might look gorgeous,” cautions Christine, “but you don’t want mold to grow within hard-to-access spots, or the tub and fixtures to always be wet due to inadequate sunlight and ventilation.”

Consideration #2: “How do I ensure that my wet room is waterproof?”

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Wet rooms are, by definition, “wet,” so making them waterproof sounds ironic and absurd. But if you think about it, the large open areas of free-flowing water and lack of shower curtains and other dividers make it essential that all walls, floors, and ceilings are, paradoxically enough, thoroughly waterproof. Surface materials choices must be combinations of glass, stone, and/or tiling. Mud underguarding has been replaced with a KERDI liner membrane and vapor-retarder to fully prevent any water leaks in showers, tub surrounds, steam showers, and other areas.

Installing a free-standing tub inside an alcove is currently trending, but a bad idea. A better idea is a soaking tub under-mounted into a solid surface or stone surround, thereby providing ease of access, and no crevices or tiny areas for water to gather, and mold to grow. Proper water drainage throughout is also vital, a linear drain is best if space allows. If not, a standard 4” drain can work, but only if the tiled flooring is pitched in all directions toward the drain to enable gravity to do the work instead. Staying dry in a wet room is hard! Partner with a trusted designer.

Consideration #3: “What kind of fixtures should I put in my wet room?”

shower fixturesWet rooms are delightfully customizable, depending on your budget, family needs, and available layout and space. Starting in the shower, a handheld is optimal for both personal grooming and cleaning, while dual heads, rain heads, and body sprays are terrific for accommodating multiple people and creating a truly luxurious experience. Bathtub options also abound, ranging from soaking and air tubs to whirlpool tubs and even jacuzzis – but remember to ensure adequate access for cleaning, and sufficient drainage to prevent water buildup and staining long term.

Shaving, soap, and shampoo niches add to your home health and wellness spa feel and allure, so make sure you provide ample seating all around. Speaking of which, toilets and vanities come in a wide range of wet room-appropriate varieties, including wall-mounted versions for convenience, maintenance, and space-saving. High tech touch-free appliances and fixtures, along with handrails, grip bars, supports, and other ADA-compliant features enhance ease of use and safety for all family members. Never has bathing been so safe and so much fun!

Consideration #4: “How should I light and lay out my wet room?”

Bathroom Curbless Shower with TubThe open spaces of wet rooms lend themselves particularly well to bold and bright lighting, natural and synthetic, and ideally plenty of both. Since all surfaces need to tolerate moisture and repeat soaking, your lighting fixtures should be similarly waterproof and resilient. Wall and ceiling windows bathe the area with sunlight, but watch out for wooden window sills and other porous materials that can sustain water damage, and harbor mold and mildew. Digital fixtures and LEDs are easy to use and can create stunning, customized moods for the whole family.

In terms of layouts, options range from zero entry, and shower-only designs to fully functional steam rooms with sealed doors and ventilation systems. Partition choices also vary based on needs and taste, including simple glass partitions to prevent splashing, shower doors on rails that slide to enable steam showers, and more privacy. Whether entry or no entry, bathing or no bathing, steam or no steam, wet rooms began in Asia, are already common in Europe, and are finally becoming an American phenomenon, with Birmingham residents more excited than ever.

“Wet rooms offer an excellent means to replicate the complete spa ambiance within your residence. Consolidating the shower, freestanding tub, and steam system within a single enclosed space not only maximizes convenience but also delivers a luxurious experience akin to that of a high-end spa.”

— Joshua Moss, Vice President, Advance Plumbing & Heating Supply Company

Consideration #5: “Which local firm is most experienced in these considerations?”

bathroom shower interior remodel bloomfield hillsMainStreet Design Build is a full-service, design-build remodeling firm headquartered in Birmingham, MI. As the leading design-build firm, MainStreet Design Build is committed to delivering a luxurious end-to-end experience, marked by personal care, accountability, timeless design, and exacting attention to detail. Since 1991, our team has made the renovation process comfortable, enjoyable, and safe, ensuring your home transformation exceeds your expectations at every turn.

Having produced elegant results that transform remodeling dreams into stunning and functional in-law suites, MainStreet Design Build is favored by discerning homeowners in Southeast Oakland County who value a high level of comfort and trust in knowing that their trending remodeling project will be done RIGHT. Browse our gallery of award-winning modern bathrooms for 2024, and schedule a virtual design consultation. Let’s partner today!

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