If the winter holidays have meant more traffic in your home – kids home from college, grandparents visiting, friends in and out – you may be thinking that all you want for Christmas or Hanukkah is a new bathroom.
The first decision on your list will be whether to remodel a current bathroom, create or expand an existing bath by carving out space from an adjacent room, or adding on so that the footprint of your home is altered with, say, a large master bath. The latter will likely bear the biggest budget, but it may be worth it. If remodeling, one of the biggest ticket items is likely to be moving plumbing, and some homeowners avoid it for that reason. But, if rerouting plumbing will result in the bathroom of your dreams, it may well be the best decision.
Regardless of whether you remodel, expand, or build from the ground up, following are additional considerations that should receive decision-making priority.
As for layout, avoid skimping on space, as dual users need approximately 3 feet to 4 feet of space to avoid having to squeeze pass each other. Also, make sure the toilet is not the first thing people see when passing by the door. Toilets definitely make a statement, but probably not the one you desire. If at all possible, try to conceal it in its own water closet or behind a wall, which is nice for privacy as well. And if it cannot be hidden, perhaps choose one of the new styles that look almost like sculpture.
The focal point of bathrooms is ideally a beautiful shower and/or tub. Though frosted glass was once popular for showers – and they do provide more privacy – most owners of remodeled or newly constructed bath are opting for clear glass. Clear glass allows all of those ceramic and marble design dollars to be shown off to advantage. Similarly, most homeowners favor frameless or semi-frameless showers, with the former costing a bit more.
In terms of function, showers with spa-like amenities for relaxation are replacing jetted tubs. Consider dual rainfall shower heads, multiple spray nozzles, and steam. At the very least, include niches for shower products – no one wants those on the floor or in a shower caddy – and some type of seating.
Overall, tubs are generally not included in every bathroom nowadays. They are more difficult to clean and, for some, to step into. When tubs are included in the design, more homeowners are choosing smaller ones, at 5 feet to 6 feet, and freestanding styles, like claw or pedestal. In any case, for durability we recommend choosing a cast iron or engineered stone material over fiberglass.
Though dressing tables or vanities are not as common anymore, double undermounted or integral sinks – provided you can devote about 6 feet of counter space to the sink area – are popular for designating personal space and ample elbow room. More homeowners still choose vanities over pedestal sinks. However, there are many pedestal styles available with handsome under-sink storage. Vessel sinks look terrific but, often, because of the splash factor, aren’t practical. If you choose one, be sure your counter height is low enough to accommodate the raised sides.
As in a kitchen, the best material for your countertop is critical. But without as much wear and tear, bathroom countertops may not need to be quite as durable. Yet hot appliances, like curling irons, still need to be considered. Weigh the pros and cons of granite vs. marble, quartz, and solid surfaces before making a decision. Comparisons are readily available online. Whichever material you choose, consider a grommet through which cords can be threaded for a neater countertop appearance.
Also, as in kitchens, a combination of task, ambient, and accent lighting is ideal. Washing faces with light from above and in front, about at eye level, minimizes unattractive shadows. Sconces, perhaps set into mirrors, are ideal. For the shower, consider a waterproof recessed style. As for mirrors, most homeowners are choosing to frame them, even if large. And, if at all possible, include a window in the design for natural light. If there’s no exterior wall for a window, a solar tube is a good alternative. An operable style will also allow moisture to escape.
Exhaust fans provide that function as well, but should be vented to the outside, not into the attic. They also need to be the correct size for the job, especially if your shower includes steam. Consider carefully the noise level of your fan because, while a quiet fan may seem preferable, the noise level can provide privacy in bathrooms, especially those adjacent to more public spaces.
For walls, avoid wallpaper which, generally, can’t withstand the moisture level in a full bath, though it can work well in a powder room. When choosing paint, select an eggshell finish for durability.
On floors, ceramic and stone are the most popular choices for aesthetics and function. Wood looks and feels warmer, but is not impervious to water. However, many ceramic tiles with a very convincing wood look are available in today’s market in a wide range of finishes. Properly installed heated floors keep toes toasty warm.
And for faucets and cabinetry hardware, the most popular and timeless finishes are still brushed nickel or polished chrome. But there are others, like oiled bronze for an Old World feel, to consider.
Hopefully, these considerations will remove the naughty and preserve the nice when transforming your bathroom spaces.