Paul Tingey, Director of Customer Services at AKW explains the main issues that impact on wetroom design.
Traditional bathrooms are notoriously difficult for many elderly people to navigate, so fitting a wetroom is often a sensible lifestyle choice for them. It’s also an excellent installation opportunity for plumbers.
All the statistics associated with the elderly point to an imminent work bonanza for plumbing installers. For example, the number of people in the UK aged 65 or over (11.4 million) is set to triple by 2050. Nearly 6 million households in England are headed by a person aged 65+ and this is predicted to rise to more than 7 million by 2021.
Older people occupy almost a third of all UK homes and 76 percent of older households are owner-occupiers, with most owning outright. In 2013, the last time it was measured, the total spend by households headed by someone aged 65 or over was a staggering £145 billion.
Add to this string of encouraging figures the fact that a walk-in shower makes it more convenient and easier for older people to bathe than using a bath and you can see why plumbers are likely to be in high demand to install wet rooms in the coming months and years.
Indeed, AMA Research, a leading publisher of market reports, says wet rooms are the fastest growing sector of the
UK bathroom market. The company estimates that only around 5 percent of UK homes currently have a wet room installation so there is plenty of room for dramatic and sustained growth.
In 2014, the wetroom market was valued at around £79 million at manufacturers’ selling prices. This represents an increase of 4 percent compared with the previous year, equating to approximately 265,000 installed wet rooms.
With AMA Research predicting that, by 2020, the wetroom/walk-in shower market will be a third larger than it is currently, it’s crystal clear that this market is set to take-off.
As an open-plan alternative to the traditional bathroom, wet rooms provide a design-led, space-saving solution that is regarded as a luxurious feature in the home. They are easy to clean and maintain, perfect for creating a stylish, contemporary look and they add value to properties in which they are installed. So what should you, as an installer, be looking for in the design of a wetroom?
The first component to think about is the floor former, which is used to create level access shower areas in wet
rooms. Formers are manufactured with a pre-formed gradient in the top surface to drain water towards the waste and can be covered by different slip resistant surfaces, such as tiles and safety flooring. A former with a load capacity of up to 25 stone should be fine for typical wet room applications.
However, there are formers with capacities of up to 40 stone to cater for the user plus, say, a wheelchair and carer, as well as to take the point loading from the legs of a shower seat.
The next consideration for the installer is ease of installation, which includes siting flexibility. Some formers can be fitted directly onto joists and additional noggins without under-boarding, which reduces installation time, effort and hassle.
Ease of installation also applies to electric shower systems themselves. The latest showers use Bluetooth – a short-range wireless interconnection of mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. This allows the shower to be controlled remotely and Wi-Fi connectivity provides the ability to communicate directly with the pump unit, eliminating the need for wiring between pump and shower.
Safety considerations are also addressed in these high-tech shower units. One example is controlling the water temperature thermostatically on AKW’s Bluetooth-enabled smart electric ‘iShowers’, helping to prevent scalding. A user or carer can operate this BEAB Care-approved shower system via a wireless remote control or with a smartphone app.
User benefits are also addressed in the latest wetroom technology. For example, with their ability to memorise the last user’s settings, some shower units – including our own iCare model – can be turned on and the temperature and flow rate adjusted to the preferred levels before entering the shower.
There is so much choice in wet room formers and shower systems that it pays to take advantage of specialist product knowledge when you are specifying solutions for wet rooms. AKW is the only company in the UK with a dedicated survey team for bathroom and kitchen adaptations.
During a visit, our expert surveyors will consider the construction of the building, drainage and the layout of existing pipework, the type of floor, locations of windows, radiators and ventilation, and access to fittings. This means that you, the installer, can be assured of receiving the best possible advice based on a comprehensive reading of all the necessary information.