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Community and Q&A

Window in Shower: Awesome or Stupid?

Rick Evans | Posted in Interior Design on

Hello GBA, 

No specific project in mind. This is just a theoretical design question:  Should a Shower Fixture ever have a window?

I know designers do it all the time and I’ve lived in two homes in my life that had a window in the shower.  It was kind of nice to have a view outside and I imagine that it lends a bit more flexibility in terms of floorplan design. 

However, from a durability perspective, this seems like an enormous, unforgiving risk.

Yay or Nay? 

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Replies

  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    I wouldn't do it. You'd have a window that would constantly be exposed to what amounts to bulk water on the interior side, where most windows aren't designed to shed water. I think this presents a risk. You could minimize that risk with a non-operable window of a material that doesn't care about getting wet (PVC or fiberglass), but you'd still have to flash the interior of the window into your tile somehow to avoid water running back behind the tile into the wall. I wouldn't just trust the shower user to "not point the shower head at the window" as a means of protecting the window and wall :-)

    It would be safer to just orient the shower so that you can see out a window in the main area of the room from inside the shower. This way the window isn't exposed to the bulk water which is where most of the risk is coming from.

    Bill

  2. johngfc | | #2

    Our house has a traditional, double-hung window in our bath/shower and it's been fine for 30 years. This is a combination shower/bath, and the window is on the long side of the bath. We replaced the original wood window with a much better vinyl Andersen window, which is more comfortable and attracts much less condensation. We use a (clear) shower curtain cut down as a window shade. The curtain has a couple small plastic suction cups that hold it to the tile while showering, and I think that's important to keeping water away from the window and molding. For us, admittedly adults who are careful, the larger threat is probably condensation. So while it's surely "poor construction practice", this is the only exterior wall of the bath and it's worked well enough for us. If you have rambuncious children, I imagine it could be a disaster. And if you're in a cold climate, I'd recommend getting the best window you can afford - you don't want a cold draft in the shower.

  3. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #3

    Rick,

    Modern showers are such an amorous thing the it's sometimes hard to tell if something is in or out of the shower area.

    As Bill said, the concern is bulk water. If it isn't subject to that, then there isn't much difference between a window anywhere else in the bathroom. They are always going to be the first condensing surface in the room and benefit from careful detailing of the sill, but beyond that...

    If they do receive bulk water they can be made to work successfully, but it puts a real pressure on everything to be done and maintained correctly. Whether it's worth it depends on your appetite for risk.

    1. this_page_left_blank | | #4

      Malcolm, did you mean amorphous instead of amorous?

      1. maine_tyler | | #6

        amorous things are more likely to happen in amorphous showers. Unless you're in college... that age can make do in a vertical coffin of a shower.

      2. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #7

        Trevor,

        I think I'm g0ing to have to increase the font size for the new year.

  4. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #5

    I personally feel it's not good practice to have a window in a shower, because of the risk of bulk water leakage. That said, I've done it when necessary. Both the inside and outside of the window should be detailed like the outside normally is - sill flashing overlapping both the interior and exterior water protection. Certainly use a waterproof window - FG or PVC. I like to use a single piece of stone for the sill. More durable and waterproof than tile, and you can extend it just a bit for a shelf. Real backer rod and caulk joints at all edges completes a relatively durable installation.

  5. walta100 | | #8

    In short yes a window in the shower is both awesome and stupid at the same time depending on the details.

    I think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling water it is undisputable awesome and stupid at the same time. Let’s build the house over the creek what could go wrong?

    How much risk are you willing to take for awesome?
    Would I that that risk No but that is me and I am not you.

    Walta

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #9

      It's also probably pretty climate dependant. This one in Australia looks pretty low risk.

  6. Andy_ | | #10

    I've seen so many old windows in showers that had water damage and rot in the framing. I don't think I've ever seen one that didn't have at least some signs of water intrusion at some point. Having said that, I have a window in my own shower. I went to some lengths to design it to mitigate the water risk. I put a wide short window up high where it wouldn't get much, if any, water while still providing air and a little light without putting on a show for the neighbors.
    I waterproofed it as though it were a niche, then added redundant layers of waterproofing, used synthetic trim and made it one piece, and used a vinyl window.
    Even with all these steps I wouldn't put a window in low enough to get splashed on.

    1. Expert Member
      Rick Evans | | #17

      Andy, I was hoping to hear from somebody that has torn apart/repaired these assemblies. I see them a lot and many appear destined to fail.

      1. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #18

        Rick,

        "I see them a lot and many appear destined to fail."

        I'd say that's a fair assessment.

  7. user_8675309 | | #11

    I have 2 bathrooms where I added a window in the shower. Added much needed light to an otherwise dark room and now I don't have to turn on the light during the daytime! I did put it up high to minimize water splash and also waterproofed the backer board before tiling.

    1. Expert Member
      Rick Evans | | #16

      Very cool Jon- well executed!

  8. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #12

    FWIW, here's a totally waterproof window in one of my bathrooms. It is the porthole from an old ship. It's awesome. It does bring some nice daylight into the shower. Waterproof against direct spray from inside, hurricane force winds and occasional submersion from the outside. You do need to polish the brass once a decade or so.

    1. Expert Member
      Rick Evans | | #15

      Peter, this is amazing!

  9. Expert Member
    ARMANDO COBO | | #13

    I often design showers with high, wide and short windows to bring light in. Usually 12"-18" tall, with header heights in the 8'-10', since most our ceiling heights are 10'-14'. The windows must be water-proof detailed and installed as good as the outside of the window, and always install a one piece sill, at a 1/4" slope min.
    Advise your clients that it's their responsibility to check for caulking, etc. If all these processes are not followed, it's not worth the headaches.

  10. Expert Member
    Rick Evans | | #14

    This has been a great discussion! Thanks so much everybody (Bill, John, Malcolm, Peter, Walter, Armando, Jon, Andy, etc) for your thoughts, expertise, and real life examples.

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