Building consent needed for wet area showers

Reproduced from Codewords 37, May 2009, Department of Building and Housing

Installing 'wet area' showers1 is work that requires a building consent. However, the Department of Building and Housing has become aware that a number of building consent authorities (BCAs) are inconsistent in their approach. This article provides background information for BCAs to consider when approving wet area showers.

The Department has also published guidance 'Building work that does not require a building consent: A guide to Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004 November 2008'.

In this publication, exemptions (ad) Alterations to Sanitary Plumbing and (af) Improving Access for People with Disabilities clearly state that wet area showers are not exempt from requiring a consent. An example provided under exemption (ad) states 'Installing a wet area shower requires a building consent. This is because the construction of the wet area shower includes critical building work, such as waterproof membranes'.

Level-entry or wet area showers are installed for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • adapting a house for a person with a long-term disability
  • after an accident when a person has a temporary disability
  • for elderly parents who have come to live with their family
  • because a homeowner chooses to.

Installing wet area showers is not exempt building work because it is not 'low risk'. This is because a number of critical design elements (such as the substructure for the tanking or the waterproofing) need to be carefully considered, and the consequences of not getting it right are significant.

A wet area shower must be constructed so that water cannot enter the building fabric, which could cause dampness and a health hazard and could eventually decay, affecting the structural integrity of the house.

In addition, the installation of a wet area shower is more complex than work which is exempt under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004, such as:

  • replacing an existing shower with a stand alone or ready-made shower
  • replacing sanitary fixtures in the same room
  • moving a toilet.

Wet area showers require more building work than when a stand alone or ready-made shower is installed, for example:

  • floor, subfloor, and walls designed for protection from additional water exposure
  • containment and fall to shower floor waste, which may require furring of joists
  • tanking membrane under the floor covering and behind shower wall coverings
  • waterproof finish to shower walls and floor, such as tiles over a tanking membrane or vinyl.

The building consent and inspection process provides an assurance to homeowners that the building complies with the Building Code.

1 The floor of 'wet area' or 'level-entry' showers is a continuation of the floor of the bathroom, rather than a separate raised shower tray or cubicle.

Accessibility requirements

Providing facilities for people with disabilities is not a Building Code requirement for houses.

This means a wet area shower installed in a house is not required to meet all the provisions of G1/AS1 or NZS 4121. The shower can be designed to suit the disabilities of the person intending to use the shower, for example it may not need a fixed seat.

Level-entry showers can be, but are not always, accessible showers.

Published in building.