Despite traditionally being one of the smaller rooms in a home, you have a myriad of choices when renovating or remodeling bathroom features. Your remodeling project may include all or some of these features, so remember to plan where you invest your money wisely. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the bathroom features available, but a quick guide to help familiarize you with some common remodeling components.
Take a look at some the options:
When selecting sinks, you’ll face an almost endless supply of styles, features and accessories. Some bathrooms even have two separate sinks. If you’re installing a new sink, you’ll first want to measure your available space to see what will fit best. A good rule of thumb is that the space in front of the sink and its cabinet or pedestal needs to be about 30 inches to allow for clearance.
Most sinks come in one of two styles, complete sink systems that feature an integrated faucet, spout or handle or sinks that feature three-hole setups to allow you to select your own sink fixtures. When choosing a sink that can receive differing types of hardware, purchase or select the fixture first to ensure it will fit in the new sink.
Depending on what style of vanity or countertop the sink will be installed in, you have several mounting options available.
- Drop-in. This sink requires that the countertop or vanity have an adequately sized or custom-cut hole to ensure the sink can be dropped in and that the sink’s rim, which supports the sink by resting its lip over the surface, sits flush against the surface.
- Under-mount. Unlike drop-in sinks, under-mount sinks are installed directly beneath the countertop surface so that the sink’s bowl begins beneath the surface.
- One-piece. These sinks often feature pedestal setups where the sink, typically porcelain, is supported by a matching porcelain pedestal base.
- Vessel. These sinks are designed to appear much like a bowl or another freestanding vessel resting on a countertop. Vessel sinks often come prepackaged with their own integrated faucet system or vanity.
- Wall-mounted. These sinks offer a good option for working with the tighter confines of a smaller bathroom. However, depending on the model, they may require installing the water supply or drain lines so that they’re hidden behind the wall, which can make their installation more difficult and expensive.
The type of sink you choose will directly influence the type of material you pick for your new sink. For instance, vessel sinks often appear in a more unique variety of materials such as glass, hammered bronze, marble, copper and even wood. The most traditional material for a bathroom sink is vitreous porcelain. Cultured marble is another option for many sink types.
Faucets and other bathroom fixtures
Updating your sink’s hardware or other bathroom fixtures — such as the tub handles, control knobs or shower head — is a great way to give your bathroom a newer look without spending a lot of money on a total remodel. Several finishes are available for sink faucet fixtures and other bathroom fixtures, including chrome, brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, steel and brass. You should choose styles and finish carefully because of the strong impact faucets make to overall decor.
Installation of new countertops can help give any bathroom an instant upgrade and new look. (Photo courtesy of Stephen Seiple)
If your bathroom update or remodel includes installing new countertops, you’ll want to pick a winner. You certainly have many choices of material. As your first decision, you’ll likely pick a natural material such as granite or marble, or a synthetic one like manufactured quartz or Formica. Granite and marble countertops are popular choices and can provide an upscale look to a new bathroom, but they come with some drawbacks. Granite and marble countertops are often more expensive choices. Because they’re porous, natural stone countertops can also be susceptible to stains if they’re not sealed on a regular basis.
Synthetic stones such as manufactured quartz or other brand names such as Silestone or Caesarstone can offer the look and feel of natural stone at a reduced cost and with less maintenance. The most cost-friendly options include laminate countertops and ceramic tile countertops.
Because the time and cost of installing a new bathtub can be prohibitive, most homeowners typically replace this bathroom feature only during larger bathroom remodels. However, changing the look of a bathtub by changing a few key features can dramatically alter its appearance. For instance, adding a new tile bathtub surround or adding new fixtures will cost much less than completely replacing the entire unit. Refinishing an existing bathtub can achieve the look of a brand-new tub and will consume much less time and money than replacing one.
If you do decide to replace or renovate an existing bathtub or bathtub surround, plan to budget accordingly. Depending on the style, size and material you choose, a bathtub itself can range from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. When purchasing a new bathtub unit, don’t forget the additional costs of hardware, fixtures and installation, which is a job best left to a professional because faulty installation can result in water damage and mold or mildew growth.
Conventional bathtubs come in a range of materials including enamel-on-steel, cast iron, acrylic and fiberglass gel coat. More exotic options include composite materials, wood and cultured marble. Installation options include freestanding bathtubs, bathtubs installed into alcoves and those installed on platforms.
Soaking or garden tubs are deeper than conventional bathtubs, allowing the bather to immerse almost completely in the water. Walk-in tubs may be an especially good idea if you’re remodeling a bathroom to include safety features for an older resident or someone with limited mobility. Whirlpool or Jacuzzi-style tubs feature multiple nozzles throughout the tub, which can provide a massaging effect.
There are many styles of shower heads available. If you choose a new shower head or system, consider hiring a plumber to install it, as water lines may need to be rearranged. (Photo courtesy of Terri Davis)
Like installing a new bathtub, converting or updating a shower space is a major undertaking with a bathroom remodel. If you’re planning to renovate or alter your home’s shower, don’t forget that hiring a plumber may be necessary for any drain or water supply pipe alterations. The range of configurations for shower enclosures and surrounds are almost endless, but here are a few setups to think about with your bathroom remodel.
One-piece shower units consist of almost every necessary shower component — drain pan, shower walls, glass door, plumbing and fixtures — all in a prepackaged, self-contained unit. These may be good product options if you’re seeking to install a new shower in an area such as a basement, as the one-piece configuration may cut down on time spent preparing the installation site or replumbing existing drain or supply lines. But if the unit begins to leak water or deteriorate overall, you may need to replace the entire system rather than just one component.
You can add glass shower doors and frames to an existing shower enclosure or bathtub/shower unit to give it new appeal while limiting the need for a whole-shower renovation. Be sure to think about all your options, including the metal frame materials, as they may corrode over time due to the constant exposure to water and steam. You may also need to clean glass shower walls and doors more often to prevent soap scum and mineral buildups.
Synthetic shower surrounds offer many of the same easy installation benefits of one-piece shower units and maintenance is very easy. Generally made of vinyl, plastic, acrylic or PVC, the panels can be applied over existing flat walls and are available in many patterns and colors.
Tile offers you the most in terms of decorative choices when building a new shower area. Tiles can be made of porcelain, granite and other stones, ceramic materials or even glass. With a huge array of colors, sizes and patterns, the design choices are nearly infinite. Hire an experienced, professional tile setter to get the best results and don’t forget that you need to clean and seal grout on a regular basis to prevent mildew growth.
Glass block can wall off a shower area for privacy. While you take a shower, its patterns obscure your form from others while still allowing light to penetrate into the stall and more natural light into the room. If your bathroom features a window near the shower area, glass block is a great way to provide privacy and natural light.
Nothing can add new functionality to a bathroom like new toilet, especially if your current setup features an outdated or inefficient model. While it may be tempting, changing the location of the toilet can incur more expense than it’s worth since it would take a significant amount of time and effort to plumb new sewer drain lines.
When shopping for new toilets, don’t forget to measure both the new unit and your existing space. Since all new toilets manufactured since the 1990s in the United States are required to use less than 1.6 gallons of water per flush, replacing an older toilet with a new one is an effective way to reduce your home’s overall water use.
Lighting and mirrors
Wall lighting, effective for eliminating shadows by the mirror, is generally used in conjunction with overhead lights. Wall lighting is particularly useful for illuminating areas that require extra light. Sconces installed on either side of the mirror provide additional light for grooming. Strip lights installed over the mirror also ensure adequate, even light for grooming tasks.
These lights are available in a number of modern designs. You can place recessed lighting anywhere, and it’s especially useful for lower ceilings. Recessed lights can be bright or dim and angled to highlight wall decorations.
Mirrors framed in wood add a warm and sophisticated note, whereas mirrors in new shapes and pieced together in artistic groupings offer a contemporary touch. If you have a smaller bathroom, you can add multiple mirrors to convey the illusion of more space.
You bathroom’s wall coverings need to be durable because of moisture, heat and cleaning requirements. Many homeowners choose gloss and semigloss paint and vinyl wallpaper for their water-repelling qualities. Wallpaper styles change quickly, and finding matching wallpaper down the road may be difficult.
Many bathrooms employ tile flooring due to its durability and waterproof characteristics. Much like any other tile option, you can choose from an endless array of patterns, sizes and textures. You’ll need to clean these floors regularly and seal the grout to prevent mildew from forming.
Vinyl flooring and linoleum floors are also waterproof, durable and easy-to-clean. Although possible, some flooring choices that may be used in other parts of the home may not work well in the bathroom, such as carpeting and wood flooring.