Whether you are planning a full bathroom renovation or making small improvements to an existing bath, shower seating can increase the safety and comfort of your room. Installing a shower bench decreases the amount of time you stand in the shower which eases the strain on your body but most importantly, as part of aging-in-place design, it reduces the chances of slipping and falling.
The majority of falls within a house result in relatively minor injuries, but falls in the bathroom are often more serious. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 200,000 Americans a year are treated in the emergency room for bathroom-related falls. This is because bathrooms present a number of additional hazards over most areas of the home; the surfaces are slippery and there are very few well-anchored items to grasp. While it is certainly possible that anyone can slip and fall in a bathroom or shower, the elderly and disabled are particularly susceptible. Having poor balance or muscle strength makes it harder to catch oneself when falling, increasing the risk of injury.
At any age, a shower bench is an affordable and functional design feature. In addition to its safety benefits, a shower bench provides space to store extra accessories, a place to sit to wash feet, lather hair, or shave legs or simply a place to sit to relax and recharge.
There are two options for shower seating — Freestanding or Built-in — and your choice will depend on the size of your shower, the style of your bathroom, and your budget.
The easiest and least expensive option is a Free-standing bench that may be purchased through various bath retailers. Typically, they are made of kiln-dried teak which is sanded to a smooth finish and then treated to maintain its color. However, left untreated, teak will weather to a beautiful silver-gray color.
Alternately, various plastic and corrosion-resistant metal benches are available, and while functional, they typically have a medical look and feel. This rectangular teak shower stool in the photo to the left is from Frontgate and retails for $200.
Additionally, free-standing benches can be found in local stores and online at retailers including Bed Bath and Beyond and Home Depot as well as higher-end designer showrooms such as Signature Hardware.
This corner shower stool from Signature Hardware saves space and provides functional seating as well as a storage shelf for bathroom accessories. It is ADA compliant and runs approximately $175.
Built-in benches are the second option for shower seating. We offer three different ways to incorporate built-in seating in your bathroom design.
Built-in, tiled, and permanently attached to the wall.
- In this master bath HCI recently completed (photo 1 below), the bench is incorporated as part of the shower enclosure and extends the width of the shower (4ft) providing a generous seating area. It is finished with the same bronze-matte 24’ x 24’ tiles as the shower walls for a seamless, integrated look.
- Some homeowners choose a contrasting accent color for the bench top such as the black marble bench top shown in photo 2.
Built-in “Floating” Bench
- A floating bench (photo 3) is securely attached to the wall but is open underneath. It can be made of waterproofed wood, a solid surface material like quartz, or natural stone such as marble, granite, or limestone.
- For a small space, a folding bench (photo 4) provides the convenience of easily folding the seat down while showering or dressing then folding it up and away for extra space when not in use. Folding benches are typically made of teak or other water-resistant wood. Another advantage of using wood is that it isn’t as cold to sit on as tile. Both floating and folding shower benches require additional blocking in a stud wall and anchor hardware. Installed with the proper supports, seats can hold from 250 to 400 lbs., but in any case are only as strong as the walls and mounting hardware used.
Size and Location
Placement of the bench will most likely be determined by the size and configuration of your shower. It’s best to place the bench within reach of your shower controls, install a hand-held shower head and install grab bars for safety and ease of use. To meet most guidelines, shower benches should be mounted between 17 and 19 inches off the finished shower floor. An aging-in-place designer or occupational therapist may be consulted to customize your shower to meet your specific needs. There are also many reference books available such as Residential Design for Aging in Place that provide specific guidelines for aging-in-place bathroom design.
In 2013, we helped transform a cramped 70’s era master bathroom into a sleek, contemporary bathroom with an open configuration and curbless shower to allow for wheelchair access. The curved shower seat provides an accessible place to sit for showering and keeps toiletries in easy reach. Fabricated from a single quartz slab, the seamless bench seat with a bullnose edge is more comfortable against the skin than grouted tile with squared edges.
Photos courtesy of: Dave Edwards
For inspiration visit architecture art design for 30 irreplaceable shower seat design and ideas, like this Teak Shower Seat Collection from Jack London Kitchen Bath
Visit Teakworks4u for a variety of ADA Compliant Teak Seats, Wall mounted, fold down or Freestanding Benches and much more.
Moen products like this folding seat can be found at Home Depot and Lowes
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