Oh, how we love our showers. The feel of warm water caressing our bodies and relieving our stress makes one feel new again. A long relaxing shower may be the best part of our day. Showers cleanse our bodies and free our minds. Some of our best ideas are hatched during an early morning shower.
But, as we all know, we must conserve water to save our planet. In 1992, the EPA passed a water conservation law stating that manufacturers cannot sell a showerhead that uses more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. The wonderful showerheads that drenched us with fire-hose force were outlawed forever. For years, many of us settled for an anemic showering experience for the sake of lowering our water usage.
Manufacturers know how much we love our showers and set out to invent a showerhead that would use the prescribed 2.5 gallons per minute, yet would feel like the showers of yesteryear.
But, could that even be possible?
One manufacturer thought outside the box and invented a shower system with no moving parts that could reignite our passion for an indulgent shower AND meet the EPA’s water conservation limits.
The Delta Faucet Company designed a system they call H2O Kinetics. Some of these showerheads can operate on as little as 1.5 gallons per minute, 36% less water usage than a standard 2.5 gallon per minute showerhead. The water is routed through specially designed channels creating a unique wide-angle wave pattern that gives the feeling of a high volume showerhead. This internal system, which requires no moving parts (think quiet), controls the speed, movement, and droplet size of the water. The water exits the showerhead as an oscillating stream creating a fan of water with large droplets.
See How H20 Kinetics Works:
This innovative design keeps the showerhead nozzles clean because the water oscillates as it leaves the showerhead, self-cleaning as it is used. You’ll never lose shower pressure because of a lime-clogged showerhead.
If you’re thinking of changing your showerhead and saving the earth, make sure the one you choose has the H20 Kinetic feature—not all Delta showerheads have this feature. On top of being environmentally friendly, these reasonably priced showerheads are very highly rated for performance.
So, go ahead, indulge in a glorious shower with plenty of pressure to relax, and cleanse, and feel good about saving water.
Every bathroom needs a sink, but is a stand-alone sink or a vanity the best choice? Seems like a simple question until you look closer. Each type of sink has specific features. Understanding the pros and cons of each will help you chose a bathroom sink that will suit your needs.
Wall-hung sinks come in various sizes and configurations.
With corner sinks starting at just 12” x 12”,wall-hung sinks work well in tight spaces.
The sink can be installed at any height, so it can be adapted for a wheel chair, a small child, or a tall adult. Wall-hung sinks that are wide and deep are better suited for wheel chair accessibility.
Pedestal sinks, like wall hung sinks, require little room. Corner units start at just 17” x 17”.
Pedestal sinks come in two parts, a bowl and a base. The bowl and base may come packaged together as one unit, or some manufacturers offer interchangeable bowls and bases. Designs range from sleek and modern to ornate traditional.
A pedestal sink can set the design tone for the bathroom. The drawback is that pedestal sinks offer very little if any counter top space. A small shelf installed above the sink could provide space for toiletries.
If you change the type of sink you currently have, the rough plumbing may need to be relocated. Stand-alone sinks and pedestal sinks leave the plumbing exposed, so the plumbing should be positioned correctly and the plumbing work should be neat. You may opt to buy more expensive valves and a trap with a nice finish to dress up the exposed plumbing or you can hide them with plastic covers, but the plastic looks institutional.
Vanity tops, which sit on a vanity cabinet, allow for countertop space. Vanity cabinets offer storage and style. The cabinet is a great place to store cleaning products and various supplies.
Double Sink Vanity Top
Cabinets are manufactured in just about any style and finish imaginable. A unique vanity cabinet can make a statement and be the focal point of the bathroom.
Vanity tops come in a wide variety of materials, patterns, and finishes. The most popular tops are cultured (man-made) marble, solid surface (acrylic-think Corian), granite, and quartz (man-made stone composite). All are durable and each has pluses and minuses. Competition has forced manufacturers and fabricators to price aggressively; therefore solid surface, granite, and quartz are priced similarly.
Cultured Marble – Pros: Inexpensive, easy to clean, non-porous, and includes an integral bowl. Cons: Scratches easily and tends to yellow over time.
Solid Surface – Pros: Large color and pattern selection, durable. Solid Surface can be fabricated for an integral bowl, drop-in bowl, under-mount bowl, or vessel sink. Cons: the surface finish is matte and although non-porous, cleaning is more difficult. The material scratches, but can be buffed out easily.
Granite – Pros: Granite patterns are unique because they are a natural material designed by Mother Nature. Some patterns are consistent and some are bold. Few light colors are available. Granite is easy to clean, but should be sealed. Some fabricators offer a professional sealer that lasts for years. Granite can be fabricated for a drop-in bowl, under-mount bowl, or vessel sink. Cons: The surface is porous, can have pits, and will absorb some liquids potentially causing stains.
Quartz – Pros: Made from crushed quartz and resin, the surface is non-porous, hard to scratch, doesn’t need to be sealed, and comes in a variety of beautiful finishes, which being man-made, are more consistent than most granites. Quartz can be fabricated for a drop-in bowl, under-mount bowl, or vessel sink. Cons: None
Types of Sink Bowls:
An Integral Bowl – is a bowl made from the same material as the vanity top. These bowls are found in cultured marble and solid surface tops. An integral bowl creates a seamless appearance and is easy to clean.
Integral Sink (Made of Polished Concrete)
A Drop-in Sink – is installed just the way it sounds; it is dropped into a cutout in a counter top. The sink has a lip or rim that rests on the counter top. A sealant is used between the sink rim and the counter top to prevent water from leaking under the sink. The drop-in is the least popular sink because of the rim, which makes cleaning more difficult and uses up counter top space.
An Under-mount Sink – is installed under the counter top. This installation method requires a finished sink cutout. Brackets and a sealant are used to hold the sink to the bottom of the counter top resulting in a very clean look without a sink rim. Cleaning your vanity top is easy without a sink lip to catch the grime- just wipe the mess straight into the sink. Installing an under-mount sink is tricky, so the vanity top fabricator usually does the installation.
Vessel Sinks – have gained popularity in the past 10 years probably because they look unusual. You’ll find vessel sinks made from glass, porcelain, metal, clay, stone, and wood. Some are a handcrafted one-of-a-kind while others are mass-produced. The bowl sits on the countertop (using up countertop space), which requires a special faucet that is mounted on the wall behind the sink. The look can be very dramatic and stylish. Vessels along with the wall-mounted faucet can be expensive.
Whether you choose a stand-alone sink or a vanity top and sink, good design considers the relationship between the faucet and the sink. The ideal combination is a sink that is deep enough to keep the water from splashing out and a faucet with a spout that directs the water towards the front of sink. This combination allows room for your hands to get directly under the spout without banging your hands into the back of the sink bowl.
Consider lever type handles when choosing a faucet. Lever handles are much easier to use than a knob handle.
Stand-alone sink or vanity top? The decision is personal as each household has different needs. Are you looking for something functional, or do you want to wow your guests with your one-of-a-kind handmade vessel sink in your powder room? Since bathroom remodeling is a project rarely repeated, consider what your future needs might be. Will your family grow, or do you plan to stay in your house for a long time? Designing a bathroom that will be serviceable as your needs change will ensure that you’ll enjoy your bathroom for years to come.
3 Things To Consider When Choosing Small Bathroom Vanities
By Tim Koehler There are a lot of small bathroom vanities out there. The trick is to find the right size and style. You don’t want to install a cabinet that looks like brown shoes when your bathroom is a black tuxedo.To find just the right size, consider 3 things: size, style and function.
Size is the most important decision when looking for small bathroom vanities. If it’s is too small or too large, it will look out of place. How do you find the right size? First measure your existing vanity or sink. This will give you a reference point. Does the current cabinet look proportional to you? Never cram a larger cabinet in to get more counter space unless you don’t care about the look. Be aware of clearances. Is your vanity or sink easy to get around or is it in the way? The diagram to the right shows standard clearances. Don’t crowd the toilet. The standard clearance from an opposing wall is 36”. If you are tight on space, you may need a shallow depth cabinet.
Designer Tip: The taller an object is, the larger it appears. If you are looking for a vanity for a powder room that is not used much, you may want to consider a lower height of 30 to 32”. A height of 36” or more (back-saver height) is a better choice for a master bath.
Style is an important consideration because you want your new cabinet to blend in with your home’s décor. An ornate Victorian style would not work well in a contemporary home. When shopping, look for a style that will be timeless so you’ll enjoy it for years to come. Consider a wall hung sink or a console sink for a different look. Small bathroom vanities afford little storage, so you won’t be giving up much to get a unique look. In addition, you’ll give the room a larger feel.
Function is the final consideration. In other words, how will the sink be used? A sink in a powder room that is used solely for washing hands should have different considerations than a sink that is used for every day grooming. Small bathroom vanities and sinks have varying top configurations that allow more or less counter top space. For instance, under-mount bowls allow for more usable counter top space. If you do choose a vanity or sink with minimal counter space, consider installing a shelf above the vanity or sink for grooming supplies, etc.
Installation of small bathroom vanities is not hard if you have some basic carpentry skills. The trickiest part will be measuring and accurate cutting for the plumbing lines. The cabinet must be installed plumb (vertical) and level (horizontal). Use a level to check the top and sides. You may need to use a shim under the cabinet to get it level. A tapered wood shim works best.
Once you have the cabinet level, mark the shim and cut it to length. Put a dab of adhesive on the shim to keep it in place. Attach the cabinet to the wall using a wood screw through the back. Pre-drill the cabinet to avoid cracking or splitting the wood. You must screw into a stud or wood framing member behind the wall.
By Tim Koehler It may come as a surprise, but bathroom vanities and sinks were popular even before indoor plumbing was available. For the sake of hygiene, our ancestors procured a pitcher of water and a wash basin was kept on a chest of drawers in the bedroom for washing. The pitcher was filled several times a day with fresh water. Once the hands and face were washed, the water in the basin was thrown out the window.
Originally, the term “vanity” was used to describe a vanity table kept in the bedroom where women sat to apply cosmetics. It was a small table (sometimes kidney shaped) with a drawer on either side. Over time, the name “vanity” became attached to the cabinetry used to house the lavatory sink.
At the turn of the 20th Century when indoor plumbing became popular, a room in the home was designated as the bathroom. Pedestal and wall hung sinks were common. A sink with hot and cold running water was a welcome addition to the bathroom, but the bathroom lacked storage.
Bathroom vanities and sinks changed dramatically in the 50’s and 60’s. Cabinetry was introduced to house the sink, hide the plumbing pipes and give much needed storage. Now referred to as vanities, they were very basic with little design or style. The cabinets were made of wood or metal and featured a laminated top. Some designs included drawers. The doors and drawers were plain with simple hardware.
In the 70’s, the double bowl vanity became popular. Vanities took on the look of kitchen cabinets with raised panel doors and stylish hardware. Designers created dramatic looks with custom as well as stock cabinetry. The sky was the limit.
Bathroom Vanities and Sinks Have Come A Long Way
Now, bathroom vanities and sinks come in hundreds of styles and finishes. You can find vanities in every imaginable wood species and laminate. Theme designs ranging from rustic bathroom vanities, contemporary vanities, to very ornate, classic, traditional vanities with hand carvings are readily available. Some manufacturers even specialize in small bathroom vanities. You can find cheap vanities, expensive ones and anything in between.
A recent trend is using an antique chest as a vanity cabinet. Just cut a hole in the top, install a sink and voila! You have an attractive looking antique vanity for a reasonable price. Unless, of course, you bought an expensive antique chest! Remember, you may have to eliminate drawers or reconfigure them to allow for the plumbing.
When choosing a bathroom vanity, there are several things to keep in mind:
• Lighter colors make a room look bigger.
• A taller vanity (34” or more) is more comfortable than the 30” height.
• Vanity cabinets are typically 18” or 21” deep.
• Add drawers where you can.
• Make sure your new vanity or sink will fit in the available space.
• Choose a style and finish that will complement your existing decor.
You can find custom and specialty bathroom vanities and sinks online. Several years ago, importers started bringing beautiful vanity pieces into this country at very affordable prices. You no longer have to order from a custom shop to get a high-end look.
You can top your new vanity off with a variety of counter tops. Choose from cultured marble, solid surface, granite, quartz or an array of man-made, engineered stone. Sinks can be mounted as a “drop-in” or mounted from the top or they can be “under-mounted” which means mounted from underneath.
Do some research at your local cabinet shop or online and see what’s new in bathroom vanities and sinks.
By Tim Koehler There are many types of shower bases, sometimes called a shower pan, available but some guarantee a more leak-proof installation and are easier to install for do-it-yourselfers. Common shower bases used for bathroom remodeling include: standard precast bases, custom precast, tile ready and built-on-site tile bases. The standard precast bases and custom precast are the easiest to install for the do-it-yourselfer. I’ll go over the techniques for installing each type of shower bases. These are the same for shower pan installation.
Shower Base / Pan types:
A standard precast base is a self-contained, manufactured base that has a curb or curbs, a drain pocket and tile flanges on the sides that don’t have a curb. It is ready to install and creates a solid, leak proof shower floor. These are manufactured in acrylic, fiberglass and assorted solid surface products. The precast shower base/pan is a perfect choice for the do-it-yourselfer.
A custom pre-cast base is similar to the standard pre-cast base except you can get the exact size you need with the drain located in just about any position.You can also specify which side or sides you want a curb. These are generally used to replace tile shower bases. They are also great for larger showers or showers with angles.
A Tile- Ready Shower Base/ Shower Pan is a pre-made base that is designed to have ceramic tile installed on the top of the base as the finished floor. It is a self-contained base that has a drain pocket, the proper slope and a flange on the sides that don’t have a curb. Some bases have the curb built-in. This costs a little more but is worth the money. It’s a time saver and it assures a leak-proof installation. Check out www.showerbase.com. Their shower pan / bases are some of the best on the market. A tile shower base is tricky for the do-it-yourselfer, but this makes it about as easy as it gets.
A Built-On-Site Tile Base is time consuming and tricky. If you have never built a tile base from scratch, I would recommend leaving it to the professionals. This is my least favorite shower base system – probably because my company has torn out hundreds of them, and every one of them had a leak. There are many better options today. If this is your choice, my advice would be to hire the best tile setter you can find and hope it never leaks.
Standard precast, custom precast, and tile ready shower pan / bases have very similar installation procedures.
Before installing any shower pan / base, there are a few things you should check. 1) The floor must be solid. Check out the floor joists and make sure there is no water damage, insect infestation, or mold. If the subfloor shows no sign of water damage but feels squishy underfoot, add another layer of subfloor to strengthen it.
2) The floor must also be level left to right and front to back for the base to drain properly. If it’s not level you will need to do some carpentry work to get it leveled. If the floor is slightly out of level, you can use a fast setting floor leveling compound.
3) You should check the drain. If it is galvanized pipe, this would be a good time to change it to PVC (plastic). Check the location of the drain on the floor against the location of the drain pocket on the shower base. Do they line up? If not you must change the location of the drain line.
If you are replacing a shower pan / base, I highly recommend that you use a pre-cast base because it is easier to install and the chances for a leak are greatly reduced. Most pre-cast bases come in standard sizes. Measure your shower floor to see if it will accept a standard shower base and drain location. If not, you’ll have to order a custom base.
Installing a Standard Precast Base, Custom Pre-cast, and Tile Ready Base:
If your floor is structurally sound and level, you are ready to install your shower base (or shower pan). I would suggest that you dry fit (install without adhesive) your shower base to make sure your base fits properly and the drain lines up. Once you have done your dry fit, you are ready to set the base permanently.
Most manufacturers suggest using either a thin-set compound or silicone adhesive to set the base to the floor. Read the manufactures directions to make sure you set the base correctly. Thin-set can be used as an adhesive and it also gives support to the base where it is the weakest, the drain pocket. Some bases are considered self-leveling so no additional support is required. If a shower base is self-leveled, silicone may be the only adhesive required.
Once the thin-set or silicone sets the base should not move. Some manufacturers suggest you screw the base in place by installing screws through the tile flange into the studs. I would be very cautious of this. If the screw is pulled too tightly against the framing, it could stress-crack the base or twist it. This could cause it to be pulled out of level and not drain properly.
If you are installing a tile ready shower base, you have one more step. You have to install the ceramic tile on the shower base as the finished floor. Once you have installed the tile and grouted it you will have a beautiful tile floor that will never leak.
Replacing your shower base? There are many different types of shower bases, and each of them come with their own pros and cons. Some of them make easy DIY projects, and some of them should not be attempted by amateurs. Read on and I’ll walk you through the different types of bases, price levels, pros and cons, and installation tips to help you choose the right shower base for your home.
Pre-cast Shower Base
comes in various shapes and sizes and are ready to install. Neo angle bases are made to fit in a corner. They come with a curb or curbs, tile flanges and a built-in drain pocket. These are easy to install for the do-it-yourselfer. They are available in many different materials. Some manufacturers will make a custom pre-cast base to fit most any size, shape and drain location. For instance a 60 x 32 shower base is the same size as a standard bathtub and the drain location can be left or right.
Note: Read manufacturer’s installation instructions thoroughly before installing. The entire success of your project depends on a good installation of the base. Do not install pre-cast bases out of level. Most manufacturers require some type of fast setting cement to be installed under the belly of the base for added support.
What every pre-cast base must have:
• Adequate slope: There must be adequate slope from all points of the perimeter towards the drain to allow water to flow into the drain. The recommended minimum is ¼” slope for every 12” of length. Tip: water test before installing.
• Tile flange: This assures a watertight seal where the wall surround meets the base. A flange should be located on all non-curbed sides of a base. It is about 1/2” tall, and the wall material is installed over top of the flange.
• Slip resistance: For safety, the bottom or shower floor should not be slick but must have some texture to give some resistance. A surface that is easy to clean: Some manufacturers have rough, slip resistant floors that collect soap scum and are hard to keep clean.
• A good warranty: Keep in mind, if your base fails, the walls will have to be torn out to replace it.
Acrylic Shower Base
is made by thermo-forming acrylic over a fiberglass substrate.
• Pros: Acrylic is lightweight, non porous, easy to clean and comes in a variety of sizes and colors. Acrylic is a very tough and durable man made plastic. Corian counter tops are made of acrylic as are airplane windshields, skylights, and outdoor signs. The color goes the whole way through the material so if you do scratch the surface, it will not be a different color. Light scratches and blemishes can be buffed out with a polish. The gloss finish will last a lifetime and can be repaired
• Cons: Certain cleaners are caustic and will cause significant damage to the finish. Often, this type of surface damage is not repairable. Acrylic is more expensive than fiberglass.
Fiberglass Shower Base
is a fiberglass substrate with a sprayed-on gel-coat finish.
• Pros: Fiberglass is lightweight and less expensive. It has an attractive gloss finish.
• Cons: There are not as many choices for sizes and colors. Fiberglass has a thin gel coat finish which is sprayed on. The thickness of the finish may not be consistent and the color is only as deep as the gel coat. A scratch may show a different color than the finish. Over a period of time the finish tends to wear and stain. Once it is stained, it is difficult to clean.
Solid Surface Shower Base
is made of different composites. It can be cast or compression molded. If you are looking for this type of shower base, the most important consideration is the reputation of the company and the warranty. Swanstone is a good example of a solid surface base.
• Pros: Solid surface means the material is consistent throughout and the finish is not sprayed on. Solid surface is sturdier than acrylic or fiberglass. Some are manufactured to standard sizes and some are custom made sizes.
• Cons: These bases are usually more expensive but are worth the extra money Allow adequate lead time and take measurements carefully. Solid surfaces bases may take up to 6 weeks or more to get. Since they are made to your exact measurements, they cannot be returned.
Cultured Marble Shower Base
is a man-made composite consisting of crushed limestone and resin (high-tech glue). The finish is a gel coat. It is sprayed on and air hardens. The finish can resemble real marble or not.
• Pros: It has a luxurious, high gloss look and is resistant to most shampoos, soaps, hair dyes, and make-up but it will scratch easily. Many design configurations and sizes are available. Color choices range from solid colors to marble and granite patterns. Typically you would purchase these from a local manufacturer.
• Cons: Cultured marble is heavy. It can chip easily but it can be repaired. Lighter colors can yellow after a period of time. Some bases do not have a tile flange. I would not recommend any shower base without a tile flange because this system relies on a caulk joint to seal the joint. If the caulking shrinks or separates, water will get behind the surround.
Custom Tile Shower Base
can be built from scratch or can be built from a kit that makes it easier for a do-it-yourselfer. A custom tile base is time consuming and can be tedious. If you are not handy and have limited patience, use a precast base. These bases are made by framing the outline of the shower base with standard 2 x 4 construction. Then the plumber installs the drain and the shower base liner. At this point many municipalities require an inspection.
Tip: apply for your permit before you start the job. Now, the tricky part is pouring the base. The cement base must be poured and worked so that there is adequate slope towards the drain. The cement must set for several days before you can start to set the tile.
Tip: Use a tile that has texture for a slip-resistant floor. This process must be done with great care. If you have a leak, the whole base has to be torn out. A large percentage of the tile shower bases my company has torn-out, were leaking.
• Pros:You can make any size or shape you want. This type of base is totally customizable. There are literally thousands of tile patterns and colors to choose from. One-of-a-kind designer looks are inexpensive and can be put together with stock tiles.
• Cons: This system is not do-it-yourself friendly – especially folding the corners of the liner. If don’t have experience, enlist the help of a tile contractor. You have to get this one right the first time. Tile showers are prone to leaking and leaks can go undetected for years. Grout can crack allowing water to seep in. It is porous, making it difficult to clean, so it should be sealed often.
Tile Shower Base Pan
is one piece with integrated drains and tile flanges or splash walls. They are leak proof, have the proper slope built-in and are easy to install. This base would be best described as a pre-cast base, which after installation is ready to have tile installed in the base. It is a great time saver and insures a leak proof installation.
Barrier Free or Walk-in Shower Base
are available in pre-cast and custom tile bases. They are designed to allow a person in a wheel chair or with limited leg mobility to enter the shower with easy access. They have a minimal curb or are “curb-less” which allows the wheel chair to roll over and enter the shower.
How To Choose the Right Shower or Bathtub Surround
By Tim Koehler Bathtub surrounds or shower wall surrounds need replacing? Fixing up to sell, remodeling or building your dream bathroom? Surrounds are available in many price levels. They can be tile installed on the job site or can be bought as a kit. Read on and I’ll walk you through the different types of surrounds, pros and cons, price levels, and give you some installation tips.
Tile Shower and Bathtub Surrounds
have been the standard for many years. Tile is perceived as high quality, and stock tile can be inexpensive. So you can have a high perceived value with a less expensive product. The most popular tiles for bathtubs and showers are ceramic, porcelain, and glass. Some of the newer tiles have the look of stone or marble. Tiles come in a variety of sizes so you can have different looks depending on the tile size.
• Pros: Tile is attractive and with some of the newer looks you can have a stunning, designer look on a budget. Durability is tile’s best quality. There are thousands of colors and patterns to choose from.
• Cons: Grout is tile’s worst enemy. It is porous, will stain easily and is hard to clean. It’s not flexible and if the house settles, which most houses do, the grout will crack and allow water to seep in. The best way to keep your tile wall looking new is to squeegee and dry it off after every shower. Grout requires maintenance. Buy the best quality grout sealer you can find and use it often. Tile work is labor intensive and is not easy to install for the inexperienced. Note: The smaller the tile, the more grout you will have to clean.
Bathtub Surround Kits
and shower surround kits are available in most home improvement stores. These are available in different materials such as ABS plastic, PVC, fiberglass, acrylic and solid surface. Some of the less expensive kits do not require any cutting or trimming. More expensive kits do require trimming to give a custom look. Wall surround prices vary greatly from a couple hundred dollars to thousands. There are so many types made of so many different materials that my comments are general and you should look closely at each manufacturer.
Fiberglass, ABS and PVC Plastic Surrounds
bathtub surrounds are the least expensive. These products are geared towards the do-it yourselfer and multi unit housing developments.
• Pros: Least expensive kits on the market. These kits are easy to cut and install with standard tools.
• Cons: The material is thin and the finish may be rough and porous making it difficult to clean. The end panels for this type of kit may not be deep enough to go past the end of the tub. If the panel does not form a “leg” around the tub and water leaks past the shower curtain or door, the sheetrock or plaster will be ruined in just a few weeks. Some kits come with trim pieces to finish off the edges. These can be unsightly and look cheap. Color choices and styles are limited. You can find these at most home improvement stores.
Cultured Marble Surrounds
bathtub surrounds are a man-made composite consisting of crushed limestone and resin (high tech glue). The finish is a gel coat. It is sprayed on and air hardens. The finish can resemble real marble or not.
• Pros: It has a luxurious, high gloss look and is resistant to most shampoos, soaps, hair dyes, and make-up but it will scratch easily. Color choices range from solid colors to marble and granite patterns. Typically you would purchase these from a local manufacturer. Manufacturers can make panels or individual pieces most any size you need. This works well for a design that requires some different size pieces. This material is relatively easy to keep clean especially if you use a car wax on it.
• Cons: Cultured marble is heavy. You may need two people to install it because of the weight. Cutting is messy because it is a limestone base and a masonry saw blade is used. It can chip easily but it can be repaired. Lighter colors can yellow after a period of time.
Acrylic Bathtub Surrounds
are higher quality. They are typically carried by professional remodelers or special ordered from home improvement stores.
• Pros: The material is thicker, light weight, non-porous and has a finish that is smooth and easy to clean. A wide range of colors and patterns are available. Acrylic can be thermoformed with return edges so it can be installed over existing ceramic tile walls. It is a very tough and durable man made plastic. Corian counter tops are made of acrylic as are airplane windshields, skylights, and outdoor signs. The color goes the whole way through the material so if you do scratch the surface, it will not be a different color. Light scratches and blemishes can be buffed out with a polish. The finish will last a lifetime and can be repaired. Being of higher quality, it usually has a longer warranty.
• Cons: This product can be more difficult for a do-it-yourselfer to install. Only basic tools are required, but if you are trimming edges to go over existing tile walls, it can be tricky. Certain cleaners are caustic and will cause significant damage to the finish. Often, this type of surface damage is not repairable.
Solid Surface Surrounds
Bathtub surrounds are made of different man-made plastic composites. They can be cast or compression molded. Swanstone is a good example of a solid surface surround. Solid surface also includes engineered stones which are marble, granite, or quartz chips mixed with a resin (glue). Once it hardens, it is polished smooth.
• Pros: Solid surface is the most expensive wall surround because the material is much thicker than other products and it is consistent throughout. Solid surfaces are heavier than acrylic or fiberglass. Some are manufactured as standard kit sizes and some are custom made. Many colors and patterns including real stone patterns are available.
• Cons: These surrounds are the most expensive but are worth the extra money. They do require specialty tools for installation and, depending on the individual skill level, may not be do-it-yourself friendly. Allow adequate lead time; it may take up to 6 weeks or more to get.
Bathtub Surrounds – Installation tips:
• The surface that you are installing your wall surround over should be solid and free of any dirt or dust. Use cement board for tile. For wall panels use a moisture resistant wall board with a mold inhibitor in the facing as well as the core. Never use standard “sheet rock” or “dry wall”. If it comes in contact with moisture, it can be a breeding ground for mold.
• Check the walls for plumb (true vertical). The more walls are out of plumb, the more trimming will be required. In severe cases you may have to fir out the wall.
• Use the mastic (glue) that the manufacturer suggests. Sometimes silicone caulk is used as an adhesive. Apply adequate mastic. Once you have applied the mastic, pull the wall panel away from the wall to see if the panel and mastic have made good contact. Don’t leave the panel until the mastic has set up enough to hold the panel in place.
• Use high quality caulking. Buy the best you can – this is no place to go cheap. Re-caulking is a nasty job. Use a caulking tool for a nice even, slick look. They are available at any home improvement store.
• If you are installing bathtub surrounds over an existing bathtub, check the level of the tub. If the tub is out of level, this may be a sign of subfloor or structural problems. Make sure you check this out before installing.
Today, there are more bathroom flooring options than ever. Years ago, ceramic tile floors were the standard. Now you can find floors made of stone, wood, ceramic, carpet, and man-made composites. Every imaginable shape, size, color and texture is available.
The question is: Which type of floor suits your personal style and budget? What is the best floor for a bathroom?
You should consider the following features when choosing your bathroom flooring – comfort, safety, durability, design, and ease of cleaning.
Let’s look at the 6 top choices for bathroom flooring and see how they rate for the features I just mentioned.
Ceramic Tile Floors
Ceramic has become a generic word. A true ceramic tile is made from clay and a few other natural materials and is fired in an oven to make it hard. Most are glazed, which seals the tile, gives it a gloss, and makes it easy to clean. Stone tiles are a different product altogether (we’ll discuss those later). Non-glazed tiles are not recommended for bathroom flooring.
Ceramic Tile Flooring
Comfort: Ceramic tile floors are hard and cold, therefore not very comfortable. Installation is typically over a cement base. Heated tile flooring is an option that has gained popularity. Wiring is placed below the tiles when they are installed. The electric current can be controlled to make the floor toasty warm.
Safety: Ceramic can be very slippery when wet. Use a rubber-backed floor mat that is round, oval or curved to avoid tripping. You can also apply a slip-resistant floor finish.
Caution: Some imported tile contains lead. Cutting and sawing tiles causes lead dust, which is poisonous. Lead poisoning can cause serious health problems.
Durability: Ceramic is one of the most durable floors. With proper care it will last a lifetime. It can chip if something hard or sharp falls on it. The only repair for a chip is to replace the tile.
Design: Because it is available in so many shapes, sizes, colors and textures, design is limited only by your imagination. You can combine different tiles to come up with a truly personalized and unique design.
Ease of Cleaning: The tile itself is easy to clean but the grout is porous and can stain easily. Grout should be sealed after it has cured. The sealing process should be repeated often. See the tile manufacturer’s recommendations.
Resilient refers to flooring materials that have a firm surface yet will return to their original state (bounce back) when compressed by weight. The most common types of resilient bathroom flooring are sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tiles, linoleum, cork and rubber. These products range in price from very inexpensive to expensive. Sheet vinyl is the lowest priced option and rubber the highest.
Comfort: These types of floors are comfortable because the have a little “give” in them. Sheet vinyl will have more cushion than a luxury vinyl tile.
Safety: Resilient flooring can be slippery when wet therefore I would recommend a rubber-backed floor mat that is round, oval or curved to avoid tripping. You can also apply a slip-resistant floor finish.
Durability: Resilient flooring is designed to resist scuffing, staining, and is resistant to water. Many are designed for areas with much higher foot traffic than a bathroom and therefore will last a long time in a bathroom but not as long as ceramic. Inexpensive sheet vinyl will be the least durable.
Design: Many different colors and patterns are available. You can get creative with luxury vinyl tiles by mixing and matching to create vinyl flooring patterns. Some luxury vinyl tile looks and feels much like real ceramic tile or stone.
Ease of Cleaning: Resilient floors resist stains and are easy to clean. Some floors have a top layer of wax, which increases its stain resistance and makes cleaning easy.
Wood flooring gives a bathroom a warm, inviting and natural look. It’s hard to beat the beauty of real wood. Many wood species including oak, maple, cherry, bamboo and cork are available as flooring. Most wood for floors are solid wood strips, usually ¾ of an inch thick. Engineered flooring is made with plywood or a composite base and a top layer of real wood veneer or solid wood. The top layer can be fairly thin and most often cannot be sanded and refinished. Since water will damage wood, it is not the ideal floor for a bathroom. Wood works well in powder rooms where there is less change of water laying on the floor.
Comfort: Wood floors are harder, as you might expect, but not as hard as ceramic tile. Wood tends to be warm.
Safety: Wet wood can get slippery, especially if it has a high gloss finish. Again, I would recommend a rubber-backed floor mat that is round, oval or curved to avoid tripping. You can also apply a slip-resistant floor finish.
Durability: For bathroom flooring, I would suggest ¾” thick solid wood. Newer, state of the art finishes last much longer than the finishes of the past. With proper care, a solid wood floor will last the life of the home especially since it can be sanded and refinished. Engineered wood flooring is not well suited for any area where water may lay on the floor.
Design: You can get very creative with wood. You can mix and match different wood species, plank sizes, and stains to create boarders, patterns, and contrasts for a one of a kind look. It may be hard to find a craftsman that has the skill level required since this is a lost art. Obviously, this takes more time and adds to the cost.
Ease of Cleaning: Wood floors are easy to care for. Use a cleaner recommended for wood floors. If you damp mop, use as little water as possible. The water left after damp mopping should evaporate in a few minutes. Never leave standing water on a wood floor.
Laminate flooring is made from a fiber core with a high or low pressure laminate or melamine wear layer on top. Laminate is printed to look like different types of wood, tile, or stone. Installation is fairly simple for anybody with basic carpentry skills. A bathroom floor could be installed in an afternoon. Prices range from very inexpensive to expensive, depending on the quality you chose. There is a big difference in quality, so talk with an experienced bathroom flooring professional before making your choice.
Comfort: Laminate flooring is considered a floating floor system which is installed over a thin mat. The mat provides a cushion effect and allows the flooring a little give which makes it comfortable under foot.
Safety: Most laminate flooring has a matte finish on it which gives a little more traction than flooring such as tile. Again, I would recommend a rubber-backed floor mat that is round, oval or curved to avoid tripping. I have not found where a slip-resistant finish can be applied to laminate floors. You could test it on a scrap piece of flooring before applying it to the floor.
Durability: This type floor can be durable but in my opinion it is not the best choice for bathroom flooring. If water lies on the floor and gets into the fiber core, it will absorb the water and begin to swell. When that happens, the only fix is to replace the floor. The wear layer should hold up depending on the quality you purchase.
Design: Laminate flooring comes in just about any look you could imagine. You can find it in patterns of wood, stone, and tile in many different colors. It is not feasible to mix and match different sizes and patterns.
Ease of Cleaning: This is one of the easiest floors to clean. Damp moping with a mild cleaner is all you really need. If you damp mop, use as little water as possible. The water left after damp mopping should evaporate in a few minutes. Never leave standing water on the floor.
There is nothing more beautiful than stone bathroom flooring. Stone includes granite, marble, slate, sandstone and limestone. Some of these are soft and some are very hard. They all have their pluses and minuses but in general they have a warm, earthy look, giving you a high-end, luxurious appearance and feel. Stone is no harder to install than ordinary tile except for softer stones, which can break during the cutting process. Stone can range from affordable to very expensive. Most home improvement stores carry some basic stone tiles. You can also find a wide range of stone tile at a store that specializes in tile flooring.
Comfort: You guessed it. Stone is a cold, hard floor making it one of the least comfortable floors to be on. A heating element can be installed under the stone in the installation process to warm the floor. Typically, heated floors are set on a timer so the floor has time to heat up before you enter the room. Slippers and rugs will help with the hardness factor.
Safety: Stone can be purchased with a polished or honed finish. A honed finish will give more slip resistance where as a polished finish will be very slippery when wet. You can apply a slip resistant floor finish to stone.
Durability: Stone is very durable and will last for the life of the house. The softer stones can scratch but this gives the floor some aged character.
Design: You can mix and match different sizes of stone to make interesting patterns. The colors of natural stone are subdued earth tones for the most part, so they are a good fit for bathrooms with that look.
Ease of Cleaning: Stone is the highest maintenance bathroom flooring and should be sealed often because it is, by nature, a porous material. That means it can absorb a certain amount of liquid which could stain the stone. The sealer will block the liquid from being absorbed and make it easier to clean. You should purchase cleaning and sealing products that are recommended for the specific type of stone you have.
Carpeting is the least desirable type of bathroom flooring. It is difficult to clean and will trap moisture, which can cause mold and mildew. While it is inexpensive to purchase and install, it is viewed to be unsanitary. If you must use carpet, use one with a protectant finish like Scotch Guard and install it loosely, without tack strips or padding, so it can be removed for cleaning. A better option would be any other type of flooring with multiple rugs.
Comfort: Carpeting is the most comfortable type of bathroom flooring. It is warm and has a cushiony feel that makes it comfortable to stand on.
Safety: Carpeting is the most slip resistant floor of all of the above providing it is installed permanently or with some type of backing that will keep it in place.
Durability: Carpet is not a very durable bathroom floor because water will mold and mildew the carpet, which will cause it to rot. It is hard to clean, which decreases the life span.
Design: Carpeting has very few design elements aside from color and texture.
Ease of Cleaning: Aside from being unsanitary, it is the most difficult to clean and keep clean. It is almost impossible to clean it in place. If it is installed loosely so it can be removed, you could have it professionally cleaned or rent a steam cleaner and do it yourself.
I hope this information helps you make a good decision for your bathroom flooring. You don’t want to do it over again, so choose wisely and make sure the floor is installed properly.
You should never start a bathroom remodeling project without a written budget in place. If you are not familiar with material and labor costs you may be in for a surprise.
A contractor can give you a firm price to the penny with the exception of unexpected conditions which would include; rotted framing, insect infestation, mold, etc. Check out Hiring a Contractor for more information.
If you are doing it yourself, you should make a list of everything you will need and a current price for each product. Include the costs of any subcontractors. Get bids – don’t guess! Don’t forget miscellaneous materials like sheet rock, finishing compound, plywood, lumber, nails, screws, caulking, paint, etc. They add up fast.
You should always include a little wiggle room in your bathroom remodeling budget for unforeseen expenses. Also, you may want to upgrade some materials as you shop. Fifteen percent should do the trick unless you decide to go crazy.
2. Lacking The Skills For The Project
Don’t over estimate your abilities. The TV shows make it look easier than it is. They show bits and pieces of the installation, not the whole process. TV shows have an expert on the job to guide the homeowner if they get stuck.
If you are handy and have successfully completed remodeling projects before, you should be okay. Unless you are proficient at plumbing and electrical, leave that to the pros. Sheet rock finishing is another tricky job.
3. Starting Before You Have The Materials Chosen
You should have all of your materials purchased and inspected for damage before you begin the work. Some materials require longer lead times and should be ordered well in advance. Not having your materials ready when you are will cause delays and frustration.
One of the most fun parts of bathroom remodeling is to select materials that suit your personal style. If you choose your materials as you go you will be limited to the selections the Home Improvement stores keep in stock.
If you are using a contractor ask him (or her) to have all materials delivered and inspected before they begin any work.
4. Not Having Sub-Contractors Scheduled
Any work that you are going to have sub-contracted should be lined up well in advance. Sub-contractors are typically not available on short notice. It is critical that you get firm prices from subcontractors to stay within your budget.
Typically, contractors see bathroom work as a small job and not as interesting as a larger job. This makes it important that you stay in contact with them and confirm their schedules frequently. You don’t want to wait for days for them to finish a job before they fit you in.
5. Not Allowing For Unforeseen Conditions
Unforeseen things will pop up. That is a given when it comes to remodeling. Rusted, deteriorated plumbing pipes, insect infestation, rotted subfloors or joists, and out of date wiring are just a few of the unexpected surprises that will cause delays and more money. Usually, these cannot be discovered until the work begins. Most building/remodeling codes require you to bring everything you touch up to code which will require more time.
When estimating your bathroom remodeling project, allow a few extra days for unanticipated conditions as well as additional room in the budget. The older the house, the more likely you’ll uncover additional work you hadn’t counted on.
6. Not Allowing Enough Time For the Project
As I mentioned before, TV shows make it look like a breeze. They never wait on materials, subcontractors or inspections and they can remodel a complete bathroom in a weekend. The reality is that it takes much more time especially if you are doing it yourself.
If you are hiring a contractor, he/she should be able to give you a reasonable estimate of the time it will take to complete the work. A contractor who specializes in bathroom remodeling should have no trouble giving you an accurate time estimate. If the contractor will not commit to a time frame, find another contractor.
If you are doing the work yourself, estimating the amount of time it will take is difficult. There are many variables in bathroom remodeling; skill level, subcontractors, material availability, municipal inspections, and the time you have available. Break each task down into small pieces and give a time value to each piece. Estimate conservatively how long you think it will take to complete that piece. Add another 25% and you may be close.
Keep in mind evening and weekend work tends to make the project drag on especially if this is your only bathroom.
“I have been remodeling my bathroom a little bit at a time. When I got finished, I realized I left the boring plate glass mirror. My bathroom looks great, but what can I do with the mirror? I had the walls faux painted and I’m afraid to remove the mirror for fear that I’ll either damage the paint removing the mirror or the new mirror won’t cover the same space.” – Elizabeth P.
“Elizabeth, You’re in luck. Mirror Mate makes a trim kit that can be applied right over your boring plate glass mirror. The company will cut the trim to your measurements, so you don’t need any tools for installation. Mirror Mate claims you can install their trim in 20 minutes. Turn your boring mirror into a designer mirror with 15 styles to choose from.