Bathroom remodeling is one of the most popular home improvement projects. Whether adding a new bath or remodeling an old one, there are a number of things to keep in mind to make sure you get the most out of the project.
Bathrooms are typically among the smallest rooms in the house, yet we use them for many daily routines. Often, several household members want to use the bathroom at about the same time. Everyone wants a fully functional bathroom that is pleasing to the eye and easy to keep clean. That’s a lot to ask of a room that is only a bit bigger than a closet. For these reasons, good design has become increasingly important to a successful bathroom remodeling project.
There are several resources to help you arrive at a design that fits your needs. For good ideas, you can check out show rooms at both specialty dealers and at the big home center stores. You’ll also find many magazines on remodeling at home center stores and even your local grocery store. Builders’ model homes can be a great source for ideas as well. One advantage of copying a builder is that you can be reasonably sure that the builder won’t display something unless they’re sure it is popular. Incorporating popular features into your project will pay off at resale time.
For specific design help, you can turn to numerous new computer-based design tools. You’ll also find that most places that sell cabinets also provide design help. The level of design skill at such locations tends to vary widely from one designer to another, so watch your step. Many remodeling firms include design as part of their services.
Here are some answers to the most common questions about bathroom remodeling:
Q. I read somewhere that thousands of people get injured falling in their bathrooms. What can I do to prevent falls in my new bath?
A. Because bathrooms have so many fixtures crammed into a small space and because the surfaces are often wet, falls are very common. Bathtubs and toilets are two high-risk areas. To reduce risk, consider replacing a bathtub with a shower. Choose a shower that has a low threshold so someone with limited agility can get in and out easily. Ideally, the shower should be able to accommodate a wheel chair. The shower should be equipped with a seat and include a flexible hand-held shower head to make it easier to bathe.
For the rest of the bath, include sturdy boards (called blocking) inside all the walls. This blocking allows you to install strong handholds and grab bars wherever they can provide additional support to the person using the bathroom.
Choose a floor surface that doesn’t get too slick when wet. Don’t always trust the labels! Test a sample of the floor by wetting it.
Many people are choosing a toilet that has a higher seat because they find it much easier to use. The older, traditional seat is so low that many people find they have to lunge dangerously to sit down or stand up.
Q. I’m trying to decide between a fiberglass shower and a ceramic tile shower. Which is better?
A. Each has advantages. The fiberglass units are almost always less expensive. Because they have few (if any) joints, they are somewhat less susceptible to leaking. Their smoothness makes them easier to clean. Still, many people prefer ceramic tile. When installed properly, ceramic tile can last for a very long time. Many find ceramic tile more pleasing to look at and many people find it simply feels more substantial and permanent. The choice is yours.
Q. My mother uses a walker. When she comes to visit, she has a hard time navigating the bathroom door. What can I do?
A. Bathroom doors often present a problem for someone with limited mobility. There are several remedies to consider. Sometimes, simply switching the hinges to the other side of the door makes it easier to work with. Sometimes putting in a wider door helps. Consider changing from a door that swings into the cramped bathroom to a door that opens out into the hall. Often the best solution is to install a pocket door. A pocket door doesn’t swing at all, but slides into a pocket inside the wall next to the door. If you make changes, consider installing a lower threshold. The threshold is the little bump on the floor under the door. Traditional thresholds are high enough to trip or impede someone with limited agility.
Q. What is “scald protection,” and is it something I should put in my new bath?
A. There are a number of new devices that can make hot water flow from faucets, bathtubs, and showers much safer. Hot water can cause horrible burns. One common disaster is for someone to slip in the shower and on the way down, knock their head or hand against the hot or cold water faucet initiating a flow of dangerously hot water. Burns can be very serious. In some cases, the person who has fallen can’t readily get up and may suffer from substantial burns simply because they can’t get out of the lethal flow of steaming water. One very simple way to reduce this risk is to turn your hot water heater thermostat down to 120 degrees. If you find that you tend to run out of hot water at that setting, consider using a larger hot water tank rather than resetting the thermostat to a higher temperature. There are now special faucets that cut off when the water suddenly becomes too hot. A good plumber should be able to help you with either or both options.
Q. We were thinking about getting either a whirlpool tub in the bathroom or a hot tub in the back yard. Which is better?
A. People buy each for different reasons. A whirlpool in the bathroom is intended to be used for washing, soaking, and therapeutic massage. Most indoor tubs remain empty when not in use and are filled on demand using the house’s normal hot water supply. Most bathrooms can only accommodate a tub large enough for one person. Creating the space for the tub and installing it involve considerable expense. Many seniors have considerable trouble getting into and out of tubs, so make sure you install plenty of sturdy handholds and grab bars.
The outdoor hot tubs and spas are not usually hooked up to the plumbing, and the water is only changed occasionally, making them less appropriate for washing. Outdoor tubs are usually much larger and can accommodate anywhere from two to eight people depending on the tub. The tub usually includes a heater, which may have to be on for several hours, before the tub reaches the desired temperature. Most tubs are also equipped with filters and chlorinators just like a swimming pool. Surprisingly, most people report that having a tub out in the cold is quite comfortable. The cloud of steam keeps bathers warm on all but the windiest days.
Q. What features are currently the most popular in bathrooms?
A. Second sinks are very popular because they allow two people to use the bathroom at the same time. Some people are putting in separate toilets and even separate showers. Many people replace tubs with showers. Most people add storage space and counter space and improve the lighting. Nearly everyone elects to include an exhaust van—often incorporating a heater on a timer.