Showers are still a quick way to get clean. But they can also provide a luxurious method of relaxing after a stressful day, especially if they have built-in shower seats. The seats are a necessity for disabled individuals who want to bathe independently. They must meet code-specified standards for maximum durability and usefulness.
Contractors rely on local building regulations to define the construction of showers and the seats inside them. If such codes are unavailable, they turn to state or federal guidelines. All these regulations generally come from the International Residential Code, or IRC, which is a comprehensive set of rules developed by the nonprofit International Code Council. The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, also mandates standards that allow the disabled to use showers independently. The ADA bases its rules on the IRC as well, either verbatim or with some modifications.
The IRC states that standard shower compartments need a minimum of 900 square inches of interior finished space. The minimum dimension from one finished interior wall to the opposite wall must be 30 inches, not counting fixtures, soap dishes or safety grab rails. This minimum dimension must continue from the top of the threshold up to at least 70 inches above the shower drain outlet. Shower compartments with interior measurements of at least 1,300 square inches can have a minimum dimension of 25 inches or greater from one interior finished wall to the opposite one. Fold-down shower seats can be any depth as long as the minimum square inches are maintained when the seat is folded up.
The ADA states that standard roll-in shower compartment for wheelchair users can have a seat only if it folds up. It must extend from the back or front wall to a point three inches from the shower entry. In a transfer-type shower, where users move themselves into the compartment from a wheelchair or other conveyance, a permanent seat must extend from the back wall also to a point three inches from the entry. However, the top of the seat must be a minimum 17 to 19 inches high as measured from the bathroom floor.
For a rectangular seat, the back end must be a maximum of 2.5 inches from the seat wall. The front end must be between 15 and 16 inches from the wall. The side edge must be 1.5 inches from the adjacent wall. For an L-shaped seat, the rear and front edges must meet the same minimums and maximums. However, the rear edge of the “L” part must be 1.5 inches from the wall, and the front edge must be between 14 and 15 inches from the wall. The end of the “L” must be from 22 to 23 inches from the main seat wall. The total construction of any shower seat must allow for at least 250 pounds to be applied to any point of the structure.
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