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03.02.12 / Windows in Showers

It seems my favorite original element of the Underdog’s master bathroom – the window placement in the shower – isn’t everyone’s favorite. Several readers have brought up concerns about water pooling in the sill and/or possible water damage around the bathroom window.

Since my presence at the Underdog has been lacking due to pregnancy-related issues, last night I asked Handy Hubby to elaborate on the whole ‘window in the shower’ issue and how we, um, he addressed it to prevent water damage. If you don’t know it by now, HH is an engineer so he’s very thorough about any DIY project that we tackle. When I’m contemplating the aesthetics of our projects, HH is always working behind the scenes to bring my vision to life. In that way, we’re a good team.

Sure enough, after I decided that the window placement in the shower was staying because I liked the natural light it let in, HH was quick to research what needed to be done to avoid any water penetration around the window. He found the info here most helpful although he didn’t follow the instructions to T. To waterproof our shower window, we used these guidelines:

  • vinyl window housed in a wooden jamb We replaced the original aluminum window with a vinyl one. HH built a wood inset into the original cinder block jamb with pressure-treated lumber, ideal for wet and/or outdoor conditions.
  • locate window outside range of shower spray if possible The original placement of our window is off-center which makes its location closer to the back of the shower as opposed to right under the shower head.
  • install cementboard/backerboard right up to the window’s wood jamb then line inset with a waterproof membrane We chose to continue the shower’s backerboard along the entire window inset and forgo the waterproof membrane.
  • use a pitched sill to allow water to drain away from the window HH built the bottom ledge of the wood inset so that it sloped towards the shower.
  • install tile over the entire area in the same manner as the rest of the shower HH continued the shower tile into the window inset.
  • after grouting and sealing, use a high quality silicone caulk anywhere two planes meet HH plans to do this step once grouting and sealing are complete.
  • check the area annually for cracked joints and re-grout or re-caulk as needed We’ll be sure to check the window for any signs of expansion or contraction and address them accordingly.

Even with those precautions taken to avoid water damage, it eases our minds more to know that while water had seeped through some of the cracked original tile along the back shower wall, there were no signs of water penetration or water damage along or near the window. {We know this because we gutted the bathroom which allowed us to see behind the walls.}

Fingers crossed that our waterproofing methods will be just as good – if not better – than those put into place 50+ years ago when the original tile was installed. I hope that clears up any questions about how/why we’re okay with a window in a wet space. We didn’t go about it all willy-nilly.

One other reader concern that came up in regards to the shower window was lack of privacy. While we don’t have neighbors or a busy street or passerby right outside the bathroom window {the window actually looks out onto our private backyard}, we don’t feel comfortable with the idea of taking a shower just inside a window at ground level either. If we were the only house on a spread of land with a great view or if the bathroom was located on the second level of our house {which ain’t happenin’ since the Underdog is a single story rancher}, then maybe we’d be more apt to let it all hang out.

Our solution was to have a window with ‘full privacy’ or ‘obscured’ glass installed. Technically, it’s not frosted glass. It’s more of a textured, opaque glass. Functionally, it’s a lot like glass block – it allows natural light to pass through but provides privacy as well. As much as I enjoy sharing our renovation projects, life goals, family tidbits, design-related mumbo jumbo and even embarrassing images of myself working out, I draw the oversharing line at baring it all for anyone who happens to peep in my shower window!

I’m not forcing anyone to put a window in their shower if they aren’t okay with it due to water damage or privacy concerns. But, man, those images of showers with windows are pretty inspiring, aren’t they? I live in Ohio so a window in my shower is the closest I’ll ever get to an outdoor shower…something I’d totally go for if I had a secluded home in a warmer climate.

**FYI – I made Apartment Therapy’s 2012 ‘The Homies’ list. I’ve always found it ironic when bloggers beg readers to vote for them {I mean, if you’re truly the best then why the need to beg?} so I won’t do it. But HH just found out that I made the list and thinks I should at least mention it on the blog in case you guys didn’t know about it. After all, he didn’t. Here’s the link. Voting ends March 2nd, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST. If you wanna vote for me, vote for me. If you wanna vote for someone else, vote for someone else. If you don’t wanna vote at all, carry on with your bizness peeps.**

Happy Friday!

images: 1 & 6) Dana Miller for House*Tweaking  2) House & Home via DecorPad  3) unknown – help!  4) Belinda Graham for The Happy Home  5) Thomas Story for Sunset Magazine  7) Bosworth Hoedemaker via DecorPad

47 Comments

02.March.2012

Funny – I grew up in a 1920s house in Florida. There was a window in the shower. (There were windows in every room for venilation – hot, humid and no A/C – and that was the only exterior wall in our tiny (and only) bathroom.) It didn’t even occur to me to question it. Dad did a remodel of that bathoom in the 80s. I’ll have to ask him what he did, because my parents still live thre and the wall is still fine. And, we pulled a curtain shut to shower, opened it to release the steam when we were done. No privacy issues.

p.s. I thought I’d like an outdoor shower until my sister had one. Ugh, what a hassle.

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02.March.2012

too funny – was scrolling down to comment “I had a window in my shower!!!” and there is my picture of said window in shower! ha! we never had a problem with it at all. although the water did fall before the window anyway – it’s a bit further away than these ones. But if it means you can’t have a window in the bathroom because of layout issues, it’d be worth it to me to risk the damage and fix it later if need be because I need my natural light – esp in a bathroom! We also had no problems with privacy – unless someone opened the window from the bottom and you forgot to pull it down again – as we had the privacy glass. So all good from someone who’s been there, done that! x

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02.March.2012

I love this post – we are planning on renovating our master bath within the next couple of years, and once we move some things around we will have a window in our shower. I’m definitely going to be showing your waterproofing info to my husband so we can make sure to do it right when the time comes! :)

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02.March.2012

You have my vote! Love your blog!

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02.March.2012

The window in our bathroom is nice because of the extra light it lets into the shower, but it also makes it a wee bit colder in there. And this is a nice vinyl window. Perhaps the location, right near the shower stream, is what makes it so gross to me. I am forever scrubbing it with different stuff to get it clean. Also, it now opens into the playroom instead of into the backyard, so I can scare the bejebus out of my daughter by flinging it open! Probably not the intended purpose….

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02.March.2012

I found your site right when you started on the Underdog, and I have LOVED watching the transformation! We bought our first home five years ago, a 1920′s bungalow, and have spent many a weekend making it our own. One of my favorite things about our house is the window in the shower – natural light and fresh air, YES, PLEASE. I can’t wait to see the finished product, and congratulations on your new addition!

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02.March.2012

Our current house has no window in the bathroom at all let alone a lovely shower window. It’s miserable. But we did have a frosted window in the shower at our last place and I loved it. I found that I never turned on the lights in the daytime, I just enjoyed using the natural light. It’s more relaxing somehow. So, I’m all over that shower window, love it!!

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02.March.2012

In our first (starter) home we also had a window in the shower. When we finally updated the bathroom we tiled the entire window sill area. It was beautiful!
We also replaced the salmon pink tub, toilet and sink! They were not beautiful!

Keep up the great work.

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02.March.2012

I have a very small bathroom, similar to the layout of yours, Dana. The previous owners put in a bath fitter before selling, and I think that there is pink tile underneath. I might tackle a re-tile someday (maybe? Who knows, the tub could be pink too!) but since it’s our only bathroom, for now the only thing I have done to it is take down the vinyl window “curtain” and put up the clear plastic sheets with texture that you can get from places like Home Depot. Its the same texture as your window, (just not real glass). And it is a little more of a bother to clean than a tile wall would be, but I wouldn’t give up the light for anything.

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02.March.2012

The privacy issue is what made us get glass block…wish I would have thought of doing textured glass like yours! Looks great.

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02.March.2012

Dana – have you guys tested the privacy window? We had the glass in our window replaced with a newer privacy glass and it turned out to be not private AT ALL from the outside looking in!!!! Much to my horror we/I had been giving any of the backyard neighbors a view (if they were creepy enough to be out in their yards at o’dark thirty!) I love having a window in the bathroom but when we redid it last year we put in a shorter window, higher up – just to avoid to the peep show issues! :)

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02.March.2012

I still look back on the showers I had with windows in them. One even had a commanding view of the Hancock building. Best view in the apartment! What a treat to look out while showering. Being on 4th or 5th floor meant no privacy concerns, and the window was head height. In Boston, lots of places have windows like yours – since they needed the light!

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02.March.2012

I personally love the look of windows in showers but did wonder how it would actually hold up with water, dampness, etc. Thanks for all the information!

My parents have to gut one of the bathrooms with a window in the shower since the drywall started to rot away. The shower is on a side of their home where there is never any sunlight, there are huge oak trees right next to that wall of the house and they live in Florida where humidity is sky high year-around. Triple whammy, I suppose.

Anyways, I agree with you about making sure you do all your research beforehand and deciding if window showers are your cup of tea. :)

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02.March.2012

Our home was built in 1951, and we have a window in the shower. We just re-did the bathroom, and used tiles like yours, but they have a gauze like texture to them (same size though). We gutted the bathroom cuz I thought we had a major mold problem due to the window. Turns out, in 60+ years, there was just one little spot of mold. Anywho, nice design, and HH is right, it’ll be fine with the right steps!

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I LOVE windows in showers. So gorgeous. Even with the extra work up front and maintenance, I would KILL for a window in my shower. Sigh.

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I’m completely with you! We had a window in the shower of our old bungalow, and when we quick-remodeled it just prior to our sale, we left the window and just replaced it with a glass block window. (If we had planned to stay there I may have gone with a full obscured glass window like yours for a more seamless look, but we were all about speed and cost efficiency at that point.) Our realtor said that many buyers kept saying how they loved the “natural light” in the bathroom. I think it made all the difference- http://oneprojectatatime.blogspot.com/2011/01/bathroom-emergency.html

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02.March.2012

Love the window! Your blog is so inspiring! You and HH are the flip of me and my non-but still wonderful-HH, I’m the engineer and he’s the pharmacist! Good luck cooking #3 and continued work on The Underdog, I looking forward to seeing more.

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02.March.2012

Oh, I am so excited for you! I think you will love the shower window and never want to live without one again. I had a shower window in one of my apartments, and I adored it. The extra light was great, but I also loved being in a hot shower in the winter and leaving the window open to let the brisk air in. It’s the little things.

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02.March.2012

I voted for you days ago! Good luck! I hope you make it to the top six!

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02.March.2012

The third image from the bottom is gorgeous!

~tara
http://www.aslongasitsfancy.com

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02.March.2012

Windows i showers or over the bathtub are very usual in Germany – can’t think of anyone who doesn’t have them. No problems with it. Ever.
Jule

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Found you through the homies and am currently reading through your archives :) Just wanted to say hi and that you’ve got a new reader!
Elisa

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02.March.2012

I had a window in my shower in the first apartment I ever lived in, and it was heaven. The window looked out into a vacant, tree filled lot so it was very private. I used to open the window a bit in the summer. Showering in the morning to bird songs and early morning light was the best experience. Even if you don’t open your window, just showering in natural light is SUCH a pleasant way to start your day. Enjoy it!

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02.March.2012

Dana, first off… I don’t comment often but absolutely love your blog! You guys are doing some amazing work on the Underdog. My hubs and I have been renovating our 1952 ranch and recently renovated our master bath. Part of that reno included moving a window in the shower… we followed a lot of the advice you gave above (except added a frosted vinyl to the glass instead of frosted glass) and have had no problems in the 6-8 months the reno has been completed! In fact, we love the natural light it gives us in the room! So I’m sure you’ll love it too : )

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02.March.2012

I have a nice big window in my current apartment’s shower, and we’ve had no issues with water seeping or mildew. I’m sure the building took the necessary precautions (as you described), and the entire thing is tiled in the same marble as the rest of the shower. It’s a very deep sill (maybe 6-8″) and we have a nice fern on it since they like mist and humidity. We like to leave the shower curtain open when not showering so we can get the light from the shower window. Congrats on such great progress on the house!

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02.March.2012

I love windows in the shower — light, light, and more light — glad you guys were able to make it work.

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02.March.2012

I had a window in the shower and loved it. It was head high, ran the length of the shower and had a view of the ocean. Cracking the window worked as well as an exhaust fan with the added bonus of fresh air and natural light. The house recently had a major renovation and the window in the shower remains. My current bathroom does not have a window, maybe that is why I shower outside as often as I can?

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“We chose to continue the shower’s backerboard along the entire window inset and forgo the waterproof membrane.”

Dang that is just too bad. I didn’t comment on it before but I feel like I need to now for all of the readers who are going to use this advice as gospel. There are so many better waterproofing solutions out there that should be seriously considered for people remodeling their bathrooms. For $75 and one day you could have had a completely waterproof shower and window with no issues whatsoever instead of gambling that is should work. Don’t get me wrong this is exactly the way many tilers have and still do waterproof showers but it’s old school and not the best solution with today’s modern technology.

1) Pressure treated wood still rots when it gets wet it just is slower to do so. Walk around outside you’ll find lots of rotting pressure treated wood. In this installation there is no guarantee that the pressure treated wood won’t be getting wet eventually.

2) Cementitious grout is porous not waterproof. Which means everything behind the tile will get wet up to the waterproofing membrane. This is why cement board is used to tile on because it can get wet. Note epoxy and urethane grout are waterproof unlike standard cementitious grout.

3) Cement board is not waterproof so screwing cement board onto the wood jamb only gives you a better surface to tile on (wood expands and contracts) no waterproofing. So by skipping the wateproof membrane you essentially have no waterproofing in your window. Which is the worst location to not have waterproofing because it is a horizontal surface (angled yes but still the most likely area for water to sit).

Did you at least use a waterproofing membrane of some sort on the walls themselves? Cheap, old school waterproofing = roofing felt (aka tar paper) stapled to the studs overlapping as you go then install the cement board on top of that. Newer and better waterproofing options are applied on top of the cement board so the cement board never actually gets wet. There are multiple options in that style with the two most popular ones being a Kerdi membrane applied with thinset or a paint on option like Hydroban (one gallon of this is the $75 price I mentioned above) or RedGard. Either of these options could have been applied into the window jamb as well as on the walls to create a seamless waterproof membrane for your whole shower.

Another idea to consider would have been to use a solid surface for the sill of the window. Remnant pieces can be found at slab yards for small pieces like that. That would at least have prevented grout lines on the horizontal surface but the whole area would still need to be waterproofed.

Sorry your install really doesn’t sound much better than what was there before. Saying “we didn’t have water issues before so we shouldn’t have any later” is like saying “well I’ve never gotten in a car accident so I don’t need to wear my seat belt.”

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replied on March 3rd, 2012

Robin – Like I said, we didn’t follow the guidelines to a T. I spelled out exactly what we did. We do not disagree that there are added measures that can be taken to ensure total waterproofing in a bathroom. But in our case – dealing with an older bathroom that had no prior issues with water leaking around the shower/window where NO waterproofing measures had been taken during the original install – we feel the placement of the window {higher up and towards the back of the shower further from the shower spray} along with all the added precautions we’ve taken {new vinyl window, new intact tile, backerboard lined sill, sloped tiled sill} are adequate.

We feel reassured in our decision knowing that our shower tile install follows the DIY recommendations of The Tile Shop and the same steps that Young House Love used when they renovated a bathroom and tiled shower in their first home.

Whenever contemplating any DIY project, we know that if we ask 10 people how to do it we’ll probably get 10 different answers. And DIY guidelines are evolving all the time! What was recommended 20 years ago isn’t necessarily what is recommended now…just as today’s recommendations are sure to change as new products and techniques are developed. We are just normal people who enjoy home improvement/design with time, budget, experience and resource restrictions…and I happen to write about it all on this blog because it’s fun and rewarding to me. I have never claimed to be preaching the DIY ‘gospel’ and I’m pretty sure other readers are smart enough to know that. It’s not my way or the highway and I don’t think I’ve ever portrayed that.

I appreciate your comment. I would like to say that I don’t see the correlation between waterproofing a bathroom and wearing a seatbelt. I have been in a serious car accident before and I was wearing my seatbelt. It saved my life. I always always wear my seatbelt. Even in parking lots and driveways.

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02.March.2012

I like my shower window, too, just not the wooden windowsill.

Now I am debating…keep the vinyl window I already have there, or get glass block?

Thanks for the info and pics!

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02.March.2012

My parents’ house has a window in each shower. I never thought of that being weird, after all, windows keep the rain/elements out of your house just fine with proper installation, why not for the inside too?

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02.March.2012

Dana and HH I hope you didn’t take my comment/reply to Melissa yesterday “those windows in showers make you wonder” as being a knock towards your redo, I was speaking more of the original designers putting the shower on the outside/window wall.

I know it’s a space issue when you can’t have the tub the other way and that’s why they do it, in my Mom’s 1st house it was this way but they didn’t put a window in at all. I think it’s fine and way better than no window, but a lot of people have them with wooden windows and sills and that is always an upkeep issue. A window anywhere in the bathroom is great, just more factors when it’s in the tub/shower.

My bath window is there, but not in the shower – I just open the top of it so that I get fresh air, without having anyone see in. I have cafe rod height curtains I made out of towells on the bottom, sounds weird but is pretty cool I think and no one can see you if they are closed and I just pull the top window down to the top of the curtains. So, hopefully yours opens both ways too so your open view will be above you standing there. I love opening mine all times of the year! I could have done blinds that opened both ways and had the same open with privacy, but the house was full of dusty nasty blinds so I have tried to avoid them due to what I saw taking them out, in time I will like them again lol.

You guys are making one heck of a beautiful home!

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replied on March 3rd, 2012

Jason – No hard feelings at all! Sometimes when I see a comment/question repeatedly coming up, I’ll just write an entire post addressing them since it seems several readers have the same questions, concerns, ideas, opinions, etc. I read each and every comment left and value each one. Often times you readers will bring up ideas/concerns that I hadn’t thought of. It’s great feedback! Keep it up!

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02.March.2012

We have windows in the master shower and the guest shower. We have no problems with them and consider them one of the better features of our bathrooms. They let in light and you can open them on a hot summer day to get some fresh air while you’re steaming up the room. It is a nice way to bridge the gap between home and outdoors. They are also wonderful post-shower when wanting to let the steam out and discourage mildew/mold growth. For the record, the windows are higher up – I would say the bottom of the window is at 5 feet.

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02.March.2012

I used to have a window in my shower and I loved it! The way the light came in through the shower curtain made the whole room light up. It was great. I can’t remember the water damage to the window, but I’m sure there had to have been some since the house was very old and outdated.

Either way, your window looks lovely! How fun!

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03.March.2012

I personally love a window in my shower. We had one in our old home, we were on the ground level in a residential neighbourhood so it was a privacy window. I never felt like I was on display. I have to say it was the best way to air out the room if I had a hot steamy shower. I loved the light in the shower while showering – and unless you have potlights in there (which I am not sure I would recommend or like) all others are dark and dingy. We never had water problems with our window and we lived there for 10 years. If the window is installed correctly and you take the proper waterproofing measures it will last as long as you need it to. Lets face it tastes and styles in decor won’t last that long.

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03.March.2012

Dana, I want to ditto the comment about privacy that a previous commenter made. At night, with the bathroom lights on, the obscured glass doesn’t give much privacy. Silhouettes can still be seen. I have glass block in my shower, and it kind of creeps me out to shower in there at night. So I just shower in the dark, if I just have to have one at night!

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03.March.2012

I really wish we lived in the middle of nowhere sometimes so we could have a window in our bathroom. But yeah, I still don’t know if I’d be comfortable but it’d be gorgeous to have a window like that anyways.

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04.March.2012

Aren’t people funny/odd/weird/different ……. Anyway back to shower windows – I wouldn’t be without one – great for light/steam removal – and really if anyone can see in a little and gets an eyeful, I’m sure they wouldn’t be seeing any more than you see on a beach every day …

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Sounds like you’ve done a great job sealing the window against moisture infiltration. As long as you keep up with grout sealing on a regular basis, you should be in great shape. Kerdi membrane’s are great, but tough to install and there isn’t years and years of data on them yet.

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05.March.2012

Have you thought about putting a solar tube in the bathroom instead? We had a window in the guest bath at our last house, and it a nightmare – even when we installed a new vinyl window out of the splash range. Water still ended up on it. In our new place, we had solar tubes installed in our windowless bathrooms, and they are wonderful. The light is always “on” whenever the sun is out. We also installed one in the upstairs hall way. Wow! What a difference it made. We had them in windowless laundry room and pantry in our last house. I HIGHLY recommend your looking into them before the window is installed.

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replied on March 5th, 2012

Janette – The new vinyl window was installed months ago as we both quite like windows in bathrooms. HH and I love the idea of solar tubes though! They’d be great in dark hallways as well. My grandparents have a skylight in their second floor master bath {no standard windows in there} and it lets in the most amazing natural light. Thanks for the comment!

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06.March.2012

i had an apartment in college with a big tub and a bigger window right next to it…shocked at how often i think about how much i loved that combo! helped me relax after finals. i don’t remember it being gross, but this was in minnesota, so it was more cold than humid!

~sara

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11.March.2012

I love windows in showers only because it reminds me of my childhood home. It had one, facing our backyard (which neighbours couldn’t see in b/c of the trees) and it had a frosted window. I think there’s something really nice about the feeling of sunlight pouring into a shower. When we lived in our condo we didn’t have a window in the bathroom and it was just awful. I am pro window for the bathroom.

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01.November.2012

How far out of the “splash zone” is the window now? We’re about to start a full bath remodel and replace our current window in the shower area with a updated vinyl clad glass block window. Issue is it is going to get splashed pretty much every shower like the current one. Just looking for your (and HH’s) 2 cents on how much splash your new window receives.

Cheers!

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23.June.2014

I love the idea of having a window in the shower area, especially one that is more so artistic. It can completely transform any bathroom or shower area into something new and fresh. Plus, I love all the light it brings in! Thanks for sharing!

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18.August.2014

Natural light is so pretty in a bathroom. I think the vinyl replacement was very smart and they also look really good. Thank you for the tips on what to look for, it is very helpful to have a check list.

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