Bathroom Details — Who Needs Them, And Why?
You need to know what bathroom details you want to help you avoid confusion and frustration. So you make great decisions for a safe, functional, and relaxing personal retreat! There’s so much that you can include in your new master or guest bathroom, so many details to think about. Do you know that remodeling a master bathroom can be a higher investment per square foot than a kitchen? That’s why it’s important to use these important bathroom details, to make informed decisions about everything, and avoid expensive mistakes!
When homeowners are thinking about remodeling a master (or guest) bathroom, the first inclination is to look at countertop materials and tile immediately. This is okay, but it may lead to confusion and delay other more important decisions, like plumbing fixtures and plumbing fittings, and cabinetry. Your first decision for your bathroom remodel is: what style do you want? If you didn’t read my blog (or listen to my podcast), “Essential Details Are Critical For Your New Kitchen,” I suggest that you read at least the first part, where I list the different styles to choose from.
A standard bathroom includes a toilet, a lavatory sink, cabinetry, a tub and/or shower, plumbing fittings, and finishes (countertop/backsplash, floors, walls). What’s the big deal about bathroom details? Let’s look at each one of these items separately:
Yes, you can have a toilet that’s similar to the one you have now, but your new toilet will be equipped with water-saving features that will save you money. Your investment can be less than $200 for a white, two-piece, short-front toilet with an exposed P-trap on the side below the bowl. Your investment can grow exponentially if you want a toilet with the following features and benefits:
- Wall-mount that can be installed at any height, and easy to clean underneath;
- Floor-mount with a skirt that hides the ugly P-trap that’s easier to clean than a non-skirted toilet;
- An elongated bowl that provides better ergonomics;
- Dual-flush buttons that provide extra water-saving;
- Bidet seat that provides better personal hygiene and is healthier than using tissue;
- High-fashion color;
Several manufacturers offer a wide range of toilet styles, including models that provide ultimate personal hygiene and luxury:
If you want to be scandalized by really expensive toilets, here’s the article to read: https://moneyinc.com/the-five-most-expensive-toilets-in-the-world/
The word “lavatory” is derived from 1325–75 Middle English lavatorie which came from Late Latin lavātōrium washing-place, equivalent to Latin lavā(re) to wash. “Lavatory” in Britain refers to a flushing toilet. Americans use “sink,” whether it’s for a kitchen or a bathroom. Sinks are available in four shapes: (1) Oval; (2) Rectangular; (3) Round; and (4) Square.
There are six specific installation methods:
- Top-mount that’s set into the countertop with the rim exposed;
- Top-mount “vessel” that has the entire sink sits on top of the countertop;
- Under-mount that’s installed under the countertop (NOTE: the rim must be flat and unfinished;
- Under-mount with front edge overhang that’s often referred to as “European” style;
- Integral that’s manufactured from and part of a solid surface countertop, i.e., Corian;
- Wall-mount with or without a supporting pedestal or legs.
Vessel sinks have been very popular for several years. Vessel sinks are wonderful for powder rooms that don’t get used often – and they make a great focal point. There are limitations or requirements to keep in mind if you’re interested in vessel sinks:
- If the bowl is tall, you’ll need to lower your countertop so the top of the bowl is at the height your countertop would be (more about this in the cabinet section).
- They require a taller faucet than normal or mounting the filler and valves on the wall.
- Think about how difficult it might be to clean the base of the vessel sink; I recommend that you resist the typical round (or oval) bowl that creates a tight “V” where the sink meets the countertop because you’ll have to use a Q-tip to clean the area.
Sinks can be made from a plethora of materials: Brass, bronze, ceramic, copper, glass, porcelain, resin, solid surface (i.e., Corian), stainless steel, stone, and wood. Your investment in a lavatory sink can range from a low of $150 to over $1,000.
Cabinets can be any style, made of natural wood or painted wood. Homeowners prefer kitchen-height cabinets (36” finished countertop height) over shorter heights (30” – 33” finished countertop height) for two main reasons:
- Provides more storage, equivalent to one more drawer;
- Reduces back strain, no cantilevering of the body when bending over the sink.
All-in-one units that include the cabinet, countertop, lavatory sink, and faucet have grown in popularity because the decision-making time can be greatly reduced, and these units are competitively priced. But you may have to forego one or more features (like the countertop material or cabinet color) to get other features. An online search for “lavatory vanity cabinets” yielded 2,380,000 results! Popularity verified!
Tub or Shower:
The majority of homeowners remodeling a master bathroom prefer a large (two-person) shower to a tub-shower combination unless bathing is a necessity (usually requested by the wife). House Beautiful has an excellent article about this subject. If you have the room for a large shower and a separate tub, that’s great! However, your tub decision is a critical detail to consider. The popularity of free-standing tubs has grown in the past five years. Yes, they’re beautiful, but they’re unsafe because they require the bather to straddle the tub while getting in or out. Think about this: What if the floor or the tub is wet and slippery? The best way to enter and exit a tub is to sit on the edge and swing your legs in or out while you’re holding onto a grab bar. Most free-standing tubs do not support sitting on the edge.
Yes, grab bars are an essential bathroom detail to include. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year about 235,000 people over age 15 visit emergency rooms because of injuries suffered in the bathroom, and almost 14 percent are hospitalized. More than a third of the injuries – about 78,000 – happen while bathing or showering.
These include your sink faucet and tub-shower water supply and water controls (valves). Your sink faucet is named by the type of water control:
- Dual control (valves on both sides)
- Single control (valve on the top or on the side)
Your investment in a sink faucet can range from $300 to over $1,500. It’s popular to have an electronic control in addition to the valve(s) that turns the water on or off when you wave your hand in front of it. Of course, you’ll pay extra for this feature, and it requires a dedicated outlet.
There are hundreds of different styles of plumbing fittings available, from ultra-contemporary to ultra-traditional and everything in between. The available finishes are also part of your decision, especially if you want all of your bathroom fittings to match. Not all manufacturers have the finish you like in the style that appeals to you, so you may end up buying all of your plumbing fittings from one manufacturer. Here’s a list of finishes to consider:
- Brass (antique, burnished, polished, satin); should have a “lifetime protective finish” to prevent tarnishing.
- Bronze (the finish may be affected by exposure to hard water).
- Chrome (brushed, polished, satin).
- Copper (the finish may be affected by exposure to hard water).
- Nickel (antique, black, brushed, polished).
- Powder-coated (black, red, white, and other colors).
- Stainless steel.
If your bathroom will include a new shower, you have many options available that can be confusing. Understanding the Different Types of Tub & Shower Valves is an excellent article to explain what valves are and how they work. There are also diverter valves that can switch different water supplies on and off for maximum control. Diverters can be a separate valve or they may be included with the temperature and pressure valve that turns the water on and off. Then there are choices for water distribution:
- Fixed shower heads with multiple types of spray
- “Standard” wall mount
- “Standard” wall mount with a removable personal showerhead (held in place with a magnet)
- Rainhead wall mount
- Rainhead ceiling mount
- Adjustable shower heads
- Personal shower heads on a slide bar; the latest innovation is a two-piece unit that’s held together magnetically
Here’s a list of bathroom plumbing manufacturers that I recommend to my clients:
Bathroom Finishes – Countertops:
Confusion creeps in when you think about all of your available choices and patterns for your bathroom countertop. You have to think about your color scheme, whether you want your countertop to blend or contrast. Of course, you must consider your investment, too, because your decision has to fit into your target budget. Several years ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Bathroom and Kitchen) Countertops – An Overview” that had three follow-up sections that detailed the pros and cons of the different types of countertops: 1/3, 2/3, and 3/3.
Bathroom Finishes – Floor, Walls, Backsplashes:
Your bathroom finishes can be anything you want them to be. For inspiration, visit the Houzz website, where you can see inspirational pictures. A certified bathroom designer knows about the best materials for your lifestyle and budget. You can find a certified bathroom designer at the National Kitchen and Bath Association website.
Safety and Accessibility:
Bathroom safety should be your highest priority, followed by function and appearance. Your bathroom flooring should have a texture for safety. Shiny tile or polished stone will become slippery like ice when wet. Matte or honed finishes can also be dangerous, as I discovered two weeks ago when I fell in our bathroom because there was a wet spot on the floor. A previous blog talks about why bathroom safety is so important. Curbless showers with linear drains are being requested by many homeowners. A recent project converted a powder room into a fully-accessible bathroom.
In this blog, I’ve covered the best bathroom details to help you. Remodeling a bathroom can be confusing and frustrating if you don’t have access to an experienced, certified bathroom designer. A qualified designer has the education, training, and experience to personally guide you through all of the important decisions. They will help you avoid all the negative feelings that you would have felt. A professional designer will prepare detailed plans reflecting all of your decisions, making the permit and construction easier. I hope my podcasts and blogs help you make informed decisions about all of the important details for your remodeling and building projects, to reduce stress, limit confusion and frustration.
Listen to the Podcast: Best Bathroom Details Help To Make Great Decisions
As a Certified Master Kitchen-Bath Designer, I will help you make all decisions for your remodeled bathroom. My goal is to help you achieve a personal haven of tranquility that reflects your lifestyle and priorities within a reasonable budget. I’d love to talk with you about your bathroom remodeling goals! Call me today!
Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ is a Homeowner Advocate who specializes in helping homeowners with remodeling and addition projects. She has been the principal of D. P. Design since April 1984. Diane is the author of the award-winning book “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling” and many design awards.