Should You Remodel Your Bathroom? CREDIT JOSH GARSK / THIS OLD HOUSE MAGAZINE
A bath remodel is no small undertaking. So before you call someone in to start tearing up the tiles and picking out the tub, get a little advice from RiteWay Bathrooms, who make bathroom makeovers their bread and butter. With literally hundreds of remodels and new installs under our belt, we have a number of insider tricks for getting every detail right.
What about floors?
If you want an easy-care floor: Go for porcelain or glazed tiles, and avoid porous natural stone tiles like limestone. Unless sealed vigilantly, they'll absorb drips and spills and become stained over time.
If you want a nonslip floor: Choose tiles with textured surfaces, matte finishes, or sand-containing glazes. Another option: small tiles with lots of grout lines, which offer better "grip" than large tiles.
What about sealants and caulking?
Go for an acrylic or hybrid formula you can remove without the use of harsh chemicals so that replacement is easier. And make sure it contains a mildewcide that offers protection for five years or longer.
How much space do I need for a half bath?
Theoretically, you can fit a sink and toilet into an 11-square-foot spot and still meet national building codes. But for comfort's sake, look for an area that's 3 to 4 feet wide and 6 to 8 feet long.
What should I know about the wiring?
The 15-amp wiring in your prewar house's bathroom has likely been abused by years of high-power hair drying. So don't just swap in GFCI outlets. Replace the wiring too, with a dedicated 20-amp circuit and plenty of outlets for all the appliances you use, from electric razors and toothbrushes to hair-straightening irons.
Where should I place the mirrors, the towel racks, and toilet paper?
There are no hard-and-fast rules about how high to hang towel bars and robe hooks. There are dimensions above as a starting point. Decide where to put things early on so that you can add extra blocking where needed before finishing the walls. If you can, mark potential spots with painter's tape first, then adjust for comfort.
Unlike clunky over-the-showerhead organizers, a recessed cubby in a tub or shower surround gives shampoo and soap a permanent home and doesn't take up stall space. Size it to minimize tile cuts, and line the bottom with a leftover piece of stone or solid-surface countertop, not tile, so that you won't have to scrape away scum from grout lines. If you have kids, add an extra cubby around knee height so that they can suds up on their own.
Should you consider top notch toilets?
Don't settle for a wimpy flusher. Maximum Performance testing (MaP) gauges a toilet's ability to get the job done with just one push of the handle. Look for a loo with a MaP score of 500 or higher; this group includes many WaterSense-rated toilets, high-efficiency models that use as little as half of the 1.6-gallon-per-flush legal limit!
What about a Vanity + Sink?
While it takes up the most room, it offers the most utility. An average 30-inch vanity has nearly 15 cubic feet of storage (minus the sink bowl and pipes) and about 10 inches of countertop on each side. You'll need sufficient clearance to open cabinet doors or pull out drawers.
What kind of counter tops should I consider?
A quick look at the different counter tops you can select in your new bathroom...
Best for: High-end baths cared for by vigilant homeowners.
Pros: Natural beauty in every slab; allows for undermount sink; polished granite is highly stain and scratch resistant.
Cons: Must be sealed regularly; porous types, such as marble and limestone, will stain and etch if spilled toiletries and cleaners aren't wiped up fast; honed surfaces can show water and oil marks.
Best for: Countertops with unusual shapes or dimensions.
Pros: Whether a straight resin (solid surface) or one made with marble dust (cultured marble), these can be formed as a single, seamless piece, often including the sink; comes in a wide variety of colors; needs no sealing.
Cons: Can lack the upscale feel and beauty of natural stone.
Best for: Baths on a tight budget or short project timetable.
Pros: Affordable; available in prefab slabs at home centers; stain and scratch resistant; huge variety of colors, finishes, and textures.
Cons: Can delaminate over time; the look can be downscale; can't accommodate undermount sinks.
Hate those cold bathroom floors?
Radiant heat beneath tiles makes them toasty underfoot. But you don't need to have it throughout your house; you can simply add an electric mat to boost a bath's existing heating system. It can take as long as 45 minutes to warm up, so put it on a programmable thermostat to chase away the chill by the time your alarm clock goes off.
Never run out of hot water!
Interested in a soaker tub or multi-head shower? You may need a bigger water heater. Tank-style heaters are labeled with a first hour rating (FHR), a measure of how much hot water it produces in an hour. To help determine your FHR, use the list below to calculate your family's hot-water consumption in the bath each morning.
Handheld showers and easy-to-grip lever faucets suit people of all abilities and can be put in any time. But plan permanent features early on. Grab bars should be secured to blocking between wall studs and placed 33 to 36 inches off the floor. Other things to consider: a barrier-free shower, walk-in bathtubs, a wider doorway, and a lower sink height.
A must - Skip the Wallpaper!
It just won't stand up to humidity. Consider wainscoting as a nontile wall covering instead.
Have you thought about your vent?
A fan is a must, but don't let it be an afterthought.
For a master bath: Splurge on an ultraquiet unit that won't wake up your mate during night trips. Make sure it has enough power for back-to-back showers, and put it on a timer so that you can let it run for 20 minutes to banish steam after you're done.
For a family or guest bath: A model with mid-range noise level and power will save you a few bucks. Or, spend a bit more for one with a humidity sensor so that you don't have to rely on kids or guests to turn it on.
For a powder room: Install a loud fan for maximum sound privacy near public areas. Opt for one with a built-in light, or wire it to a light switch so that it will turn on automatically.