Q&A / 

Corner Shower

DEAR TIM: It’s time to remodel our bathroom and I absolutely want a bathroom corner shower to replace our current standard tub. Is it possible to install a corner shower tub that will work for me? What I really have my heart set on is a sleek glass corner shower. What are some of the pros and cons about these plumbing fixtures? I’m afraid I won’t have enough room with the angled door. Help! Wanda B., Greenville, SC

DEAR WANDA: You’re asking the right questions. The last thing you want to discover once you’re in your birthday suit in your new bathroom is that your remodeler created a small corner shower that has you bumping into the walls and door.

This corner shower looks like it’s cramped, but there is plenty of room so you don’t bang your elbows on the walls. PHOTO CREDIT:  Tim Carter

This corner shower looks like it’s cramped, but there is plenty of room so you don’t bang your elbows on the walls. PHOTO CREDIT: Tim Carter

As you might imagine, I’ve installed quite a few showers, many with custom shower glass. Currently, the glass shower enclosures are the rage because they’re so sleek and easy to clean. I had one in the house I just sold and will be installing several of these glass showers in the new home I intend to build.

I want to warn you about corner shower tubs. I frequently see these fixtures advertised and feel some are misleading. I’ll never forget a job I did about 30 years ago where an architect insisted on using a first-generation acrylic tub as a shower fixture.

This tub was promoted as being good for a shower, but it had no flange on the edges where the walls of the shower contacted the tub unit. I told the architect it was a mistake and that there would be future leaks.

He insisted that careful caulking would create a permanent seal. We caulked it, under written protest, with his on-site supervision. Six months later there were serious leaks into the living room below. Since I had my written release from damage, I was immune from the warranty claims made by the owner.

The bottom line is that if you decide to use one of these classy corner tubs in conjunction with a shower, be sure it has a flange on the two edges that contact the corner walls. Furthermore, be sure you figure out how you’re going to get into and out of the fixture safely without stepping over any valves and such. Finally, be sure the deck of the tub where the glass enclosure goes slopes back toward the tub so that water that splashes onto this surface flows to the tub drain.

To prevent bumping your elbows in a corner shower unit, I suggest the shower wall dimensions be at least 36 inches by 36 inches as they come out of the corner. Usually the shower-door manufacturers want you to provide at least 24 inches along the clipped corner so they can get a door that will be easy to enter and exit the shower. When you draw this configuration on a blank piece of plywood or your garage floor with a pencil, you’ll discover that you do end up with plenty of room.

If you want a larger shower for any number of reasons, be sure the walls of the shower as they come out of the corner are at least 42 inches. A larger 48-inch corner shower will give you an abundant play or a luxury shower experience.

If you decide to have your plumber and remodeler construct a custom tile corner shower, I urge you to include a corner shower bench. You’ll discover that this is a great place to sit and relax. It’s also a great place to allow you to place your foot so you don’t have to bend over so far to wash your feet and lower legs. My guess is it would be handy if you shave your legs. Since I don’t shave mine, I wouldn’t know.

Don’t hesitate to install some corner shower shelves for all of your personal cleaning and grooming supplies. You don’t want these on the bench or shower seat. If you decide to go with the nice metal corner shower baskets, be sure they are stainless steel or nickel. Avoid chrome-plated steel. I tested a chrome one in a corner shower I have in the house I just bought, and it started to rust in less than nine months.

It’s mission critical that any curb that your tile setter or remodeler builds for your new shower must slant in towards the shower. I also urge you to use solid stone for the top of this curb instead of ceramic tile. Each grout line in between tiles on a curb is a place for water to penetrate. Solid stone caps on a curb minimize leak points. Be sure the mitered seams of the stone pieces are filled with waterproof epoxy.

The marble curb in my existing corner shower was installed out of level. The marble actually slopes out towards the bathroom so that water ponds on the marble against the shower door frame. I’ve caulked this disaster numerous times, but it still leaks. I have to carefully squeegee off the water from this curb after each shower. It’s a nuisance to say the least.

If you decide to purchase an acrylic corner shower, pay very close attention to the written cleaning instructions that are almost always attached to the unit when it’s delivered. If you use the wrong cleaners, you’ll permanently scratch the shiny smooth surface. To keep the plastic surface looking brand new, just use a squeegee after each shower to get all the water droplets off the surface.

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