Wet area showers need building consent

Installing 'wet area' showers is work that requires a building consent, although there are some inconsistencies in the approval approach of building consent authorities (BCAs).

This information was confirmed as current in February 2016. It originally appeared in Codewords newsletters prior to January 2014.

  • Published on 1 May 2009
  • Of interest to Homeowners, Building consent authorities, People with disabilities, Designers
  • 1st edition

A wet area shower is one where the floor of the 'wet area' or 'level-entry' shower is a continuation of the floor of the bathroom, rather than a separate raised shower tray or cubicle.

MBIE has also published guidance 'Building work that does not require a building consent: A guide to Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004 Third Edition 2014'. In this publication, exemption (35) Alterations to Existing Sanitary Plumbing (excluding water heaters) clearly states that wet area showers are not exempt from requiring a consent. An example provided under exemption (35) states 'Installing a tiled 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'.

Check if you need consents includes Building work that does not require a building consent for download.

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
  • homeowner choice or preference.

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.

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.

All guidance related to E1 Surface water

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: