White On White, Kohler Fixtures And Design

 

A bathroom remodel can be one of the most expensive investments in your home, but it’s well worth the cost to be assured your plumbing is secure while creating a relaxing oasis that suits your design style.

When is it time to consider remodeling your bathroom? Are your bathroom fixtures rusted, leaking or antiquated?  Does your porcelain or tile have chips and cracks? Are your fixtures and tile outdated, or worse yet, ugly?

Bathrooms are one of the most expensive rooms to remodel in the home, mainly due to the sizeable plumbing fixtures and skilled craftsmen that are required to perform the work.  This is not a weekend warrior fix-up or handyman touch up job.   It should include a general contractor who also offers design services, such as our multi-faceted company provides for our clients.

Kohler shower fixtures

Kohler Shower Fixtures

The major components of a bathroom remodel are the tub and shower, toilet, sink, flooring and lighting.  Plumbing requires a master or journeyman plumber for re-piping the waste and water feed lines, correctly sizing fixtures to adequately service your needs and fit those of your existing bathroom without major alterations to your water service and waste systems.

It is also wise to have an electrician rewire older electric, install a sufficient number of GFCI safety outlets and a high quality ventilation fan during the rebuild process.  We often include waterproof lighting inside the shower.  The stage of rebuild is your opportunity to relocate and add lighting. Last, but not least, is an experienced tile installer to correctly build your tile floor, shower floor and walls to avoid future cracks and leaks.  Even though a bathroom remodel can be one of the most expensive investments in your home, it’s well worth the cost to incorporate your own design style while creating a relaxing oasis.

Tile art

Tile Art With Kohler Sinks, Faucets

That brings us to the point of product selection, which is often done with a qualified, experienced bathroom designer.  With so many products available on the market, homeowners may often purchase substandard items believing they have made a “good deal” which generally means they’ll need a replacement item a few months or years down the road.  Selecting quality products is key to quality construction and your finished bathroom design and function; the last thing you want is to pay the plumber to install a “cheaper” product today, and pay the plumber another fee to replace that product a short while later!  Unbeknownst to most homeowners, you can purchase a high quality product for much the same price as those sold in box stores or discount centers – you simply need to visit your local kitchen and bath showroom or plumbing supply house where these higher quality products are sold; they also offer sales and promotions which often enable you to purchase a higher quality designer product at lower pricing than standard, lower quality products at the box stores.  Don’t be misled by mass advertising gimmicks!

 

Vallelunga Livingston Tile

Vallelunga Livingston Tile

The first item we consider is analyzing the current design of your bathroom fixtures.  Are the fixtures installed in the proper places?  Did the prior owner or builder determine need, service and function or did they simply slap some fixtures into a room and give it the label “Bathroom”?  Do you need more storage opportunities or wish to give your bathroom a more inviting appearance? Does your exhaust fan make a whirring noise but not dispel moisture from the room and is your light fixture the standard light bar with bulbs stuck on front, what many of our clients call “Hollywood lights”?

What type of shower head is in your bathroom, the type that is located merely five feet off the floor and slaps water in your face, the type where you need to bend down in order to wash shampoo from the top of your head? Is your shower wall tile or fiberglass wall only five feet off the floor, causing splashed water to damage the drywall above that?  Also, is your toilet a guzzling water-wasting unit that oftentimes requires two flushes to vacate?  What style vanity cabinet is in your bathroom: a single door base unit with no drawers for personal item storage, or a unit with peeling, fake-wood laminated walls? Is your countertop and sink worn, cracked and otherwise unsightly? Faucets leaking?

Remodeling a bathroom is a complicated procedure and requires serious consideration as to what changes or updates are necessary, either to correct the existing inadequate plan, to revise location of each fixture or to simply replace existing fixtures with more updated, energy efficient and durable products than earlier versions.  The planning stage is key.

Basco shower doors

Basco Shower Doors With White Tile

We provide our clients with plans for designing, organizing, and remodeling their bathrooms, so they can transform their space into a stylish, functional and relaxing oasis. It’s important to remember the design of your bathroom dictates its overall mood and energy. Tiled walls give it a clean, refined look, while certain colors and styles can make it more inviting. Need more storage? Utilize maximum space in planning by adding coordinating cabinetry and shelving design, or installing functional vanity furniture.  Need to brighten up an otherwise dark bathroom? Rethink the existing window opening, can it be enlarged while maintaining architectural integrity? Also consider installing a skylight, or task and mood lighting to create more light.

   TUBS AND SHOWERS

Depending on the overall size of your bathroom, you may select a shower stall with separate tub, a tub/shower combination or simply a shower (today’s homes no longer require a tub in every bathroom). You can enclose a separate shower stall with frameless glass doors for a sleek look and install unusual patterned floor drains for interest.

Level Wave tile with frameless shower

Level Wave tile with frameless shower

Consider an open shower with tiled walls that contain the spray of water.  Tiled shower walls are the preferred choice of luxurious bathrooms; installing steam showers that act like saunas create a spa effect are another item, though the units aren’t inexpensive.

Hydrosystem free-standing tub Michaelangelo

Hydrosystem free-standing tub Michaelangelo

Soak and claw leg tubs make interesting choices, while selecting jetted tubs with high-pressure water jets should be purchased from higher end manufacturers who supply more durable, lasting components than standard builder-grade/new construction units often found in box stores.  Many homeowners we know have had the frustrating experience of owning a cheaper model jet tub which no longer has a functioning blower motor!  We’ve also found most clients prefer a soak or jetted tub mounted within a tub deck: this allows for customizing your deck with unique tile patterns, and usable deck-top space for towels and bathing soaps.

Today’s shower fixtures have become a specialty extension of the bathroom with a multitude of options in metal finishes, styles, utility and function.  Most commonly selected are the “rain shower” shower heads that are mounted higher with wider heads (often 8” across) and many nozzles enhancing your shower experience to create a more soothing, all-over, spa-like shower.

Body showers

Body showers by Kohler

Another popular shower feature is the use of body showers, which align beneath the shower head for direct body spray.  However, the addition of these body spray units creates demand on water supply and pressure, which are rarely found in homes with private wells.  Although the majority of people in the United States use water provided by public suppliers, about 14 percent of the population (or 42.9 million people) supply their own water from private wells for domestic use. (All water use information is from the most recent report Estimated use of water in the United States in 2005 published by the USGS).  Those homeowners who are on well water wishing to install multiple shower head units commonly require a water booster pump be installed to increase pressure in order to provide adequate water supply.  If this is not considered prior to the installation of multiple body showers, homeowners are unpleasantly surprised when their shower heads dribble instead of spray! and learn they must now purchase an additional pump unit in order to have functioning spray heads.  So well owners, take note!

Another more recent transformation we’ve been providing our clients is removing their existing fiberglass tub/shower units and utilizing the existing footprint to create more elaborate, spacious shower units with built-in seats.  If you consider most tubs are about 5 feet long and 30 or more inches wide, you can imagine the luxury of having that much space solely for your showering needs!  This enables us to re-use existing piping locations to keep costs to you lower.  Most homeowners prefer to use a soak or jetted tub in one bathroom and really don’t need the tub in the tub/shower combination units: hence these alternative modifications.

Hydrosystem Picasso tub with stone wall, shower

Hydrosystem Picasso tub with stone wall, shower

Probably one of the most overlooked but interesting sections of a newly tiled shower unit is the floor.  We enjoy creating unique designs for our clients and bring this item to their attention:  it’s one of the larger spaces viewable to the eye and when designed with interesting mosaic patterns and materials, will pull the entire shower together in a classic creation.  Our clients are ecstatic when they have real pebble stone floors or multi-color 1 inch slate mosaics or marbles which create interest while giving them the over-the-top look you can’t find elsewhere!

SINKS

The basic options for sinks are vanity sinks, pedestal sinks, vessel sinks and wall-mount sinks. Wall-mount sinks and pedestals save space in small

Toto pedestal sink

Toto Sanagloss pedestal sink, tub and skirted toilet

bathrooms, although pedestals are more widely regarded for the architectural design, while the benefit to wall-mount sinks are easy cleaning beneath the sink while saving space.  More popular are vanity base sink styles, affording storage and function in addition to the sink.  Master bathrooms typically have double-vanity sinks so that there are multiple sinks and spacious counter space.

There are two options for vanity counter sinks:  one is the vessel sink which sits above the counter but requires higher faucet placement to adjust for the height increase.  The other option is a counter-installed lavatory sink which can be installed either as a drop-in (aka top-mount) unit or an under-mount unit affixed beneath the counter sink opening for a clean-line appearance.  With a distinct or specialty sink style, such as those provided

 

Undermount sinks in marble

Kohler undermount sinks in marble countertops

by Kohler Bath Designs, go with separate vanity and sink pieces to display the units with a more elegant, furniture-like appearance. Counter options include granite and marble, which we discount for our clientele to offer them affordable, yet beautiful, durable countertops.

Sinks come in a range of materials and colors.  Porcelain over cast iron comes in many colors, and they’re durable and heavy.  They resist damage and retain heat, and the porcelain surface is smooth and easy to clean.  Today, many manufacturers, such as TOTO, USA offer a tightly sealed surface known as Sanagloss, which provides a more sanitary, easy-to-clean super smooth glaze that is combined with ionic chemistry to reduce bacteria growth, prevent staining, scaling and lime build up.  With the catalyzed ionic barrier, it actually repels particles while the smooth sealed finish creates a slipper surface to which particles won’t easily cling: your sink will maintain superb cleanliness!

(This finish is also available on Toto toilets, which we’ll discuss in the next section)

Copper Elkay sink

Copper Elkay sink

Copper sinks are becoming more popular not only because of their good looks, but because of their health benefits.  More sanitary than other sinks,  bacteria and viruses can only live on them for a few hours. They also have what is called a living finish, which means they change in color and texture over time. You’ve often admired copper roofs and their beautiful patina over time, imagine this look in your bathroom!  They’re easily cleaned by washing with gentle soap, water, and a nonabrasive sponge; however, copper sinks should be dried when you use them to avoid water spots, and you should leave water running when you work with acidic materials that can damage the finish. Copper sinks are also durable and they don’t tarnish or rust.

Granite composite sinks are a synthetic material made under different brand names, such as Blanco Sinks. They are scratch, chip, and heat resistant, and since they have the same color throughout the sink, if they do somehow get scratched, it won’t be noticeable. Unfortunately, at this time, they’re only available in a few colors.

China sinks are easy to clean and have minimal water absorpotion.  However, they are prone to chipping.  Similarly, glass sinks come in a vast array of colors, but easily prone to chipping or cracking, it’s not often we install them in our homeowners’ bathrooms.  Enameled steel looks similar to porcelain, but again we run into the possibility of chipping, which can even lead to the creation of rust!

Elkay stainless bath sink Stainless steel may be durable, easy to clean but it appears clinical, cold as steel and would be more suitable in a kitchen setting.  However, with the correct coordinating products incorporated into the design, adding warm colors in the bathroom, the silvery materials can be utilized as a dressy component.  A qualified designer will be able to challenge this option.

Rohl "Wave" faucet

Rohl “Wave” faucet

FAUCETS

Rohl high arc lav faucet

Rohl high arc lav faucet

Faucets come in an array of metals and designs, but we most often advise our clients to select the high arc faucets for more ease in accessing the sink.  We also try to promote 8 inch wide handle valves to enhance the faucet fixtures and provide a more balanced design.

However please take heed:  there’s an often undetected issue on the quality of materials used in manufacturing your faucets and shower fixtures to uninformed consumers.  Many faucet manufacturers have produced lower quality product lines specifically for big box store consumerism by sacrificing durability.  Compare the specifications (you can read these on-line) for a faucet sold by a large so-called discount store and those of high quality products sold by kitchen and bath stores, designer stores and plumbing supply houses.  The specs for the first state they are made of “other than metal” materials (hello, is this plastic?) while the other items are made of solid brass or copper, etc.  Which one do you think will last you longer and give you less headaches? And did you note the pricing is the same?   Also consider the quality of the electroplated finish of the first to the second, which does not corrode, tarnish or flake off.   Which one will you select?

 TOILETS

Energy-efficient toilets that flush with 1.6 gallons of water instead of common 5 gallons are a smart choice for any bathroom remodel. We also offer 1 gallon and 1.28 gallon dual-flush units in our showroom for our environmentally conscious clients.  You can find these modern innovations in contemporary, transitional and vintage/traditional styles.  Also, most manufacturers are transforming their lines to include mostly elongated bowl toilet models instead of the round bowls, due to popularity, consumer demand and simply for comfortable style.

Toto skirted toilet

Toto skirted toilet

A one-piece toilet, in which the tank and bowl are combined, is a sleek option for contemporary bathroom designs, but can be wieldy and heavy to carry. Two-piece toilets are separate, which is easier for carrying into your home. You can also find toilets that replicate old-fashioned models and can make an intriguing statement in your bathroom; a toilet with a 1920s-style chain-pull in which the tank mounts to the wall and connects to the toilet with a pipe adds period charm.

We also enjoy installing skirted toilets, which have been designed with the bowl and base having a symmetrical skirt, which is not only visually pleasing, but is wonderful for ease in cleaning!  There’s a little trap door on these units for you or the plumber to access the mounting bolts.

Not only are there many choices in design, eco-friendly and glazing finishes, there are a variety of flushing systems available depending on your needs.  Toto’s Double Cyclone toilets have no rim holes for a more consistent performance, cleaner bowl.

Toto Dual Flush Eco

Toto Dual Flush Eco

Dual Max by Toto is a two-flush option button that provides you the opportunity to use a meager .9 gallon (nine-tenths of a gallon) water flush for nominal use or 1.6 gallon water flush for regular use.  For powder rooms and bathrooms that are frequently used, this option is a natural choice.

FLOORS

A hard-surface floor in your bathroom prevents water damage. Budget-option vinyl comes in rolls and is easy for DIYers to install, and is available in a wide variety of prints to go with any decor. Granite and marble are popular choices for bathrooms and are the ultimate in luxury. A natural slate tile brings the look of nature inside and absorbs some of the surface

moisture, which prevents slipping. The moisture in the slate evaporates naturally, so you don’t have to worry about water damage.

The most common choice bath flooring is tile.  We advise our clients to select porcelain tile as it is similar in pricing but more durable than ceramic – it’s a harder product and doesn’t chip or crack  (See our news article “What’s the Difference Between Porcelain and Ceramic Tile?”) There’s an enormous array of choices in designs and patterns, colors and finishes in porcelain tile, many of which are reproductions of natural stone.  These reproductions have become so authentic it’s difficult to tell the difference between natural slate, travertine or marble and porcelain!

First item to consider after removing your old bath floor is the condition of sub-flooring.  In the event this has any amount of water damage or marks, replace with new plywood, and always make sure your sub floors are level.

Canyon Creek with slate floor

Canyon Creek with slate floor

 

The most important item in your bath floor installation is the use of cement board as your sub-floor.  Proper installation of this product enables movement and breathing of your home’s construction between the heating and cooling seasons.  If the boards  are too  tight together, they will buckle.

 

Travertine stone floor and walls

Travertine stone floor and walls

The second most important item in floor installation is proper thin-set (mortar) application.  We have seen more tiles with grout crackling and loose tiles (stone, porcelain or any thin-set type) because of inferior installations.  Unfortunately, the only way to correct this irritating condition is to completely remove the existing floor and re-install properly.  Be sure your installer is a reputable tradesman and places the correct amounts of thin-set on the cement board plus “butters” the back of each individual tile before setting.  Third item of importance is properly preparing your grout mixture and sealing for durability and preventing stains.

One piece of advice:  never install wood or cork in a bathroom.  Water causes woods (cork is wood!) to swell and you will have problems sooner than you can say “Jack Robinson”!

LIGHTING

Whatever your budget, you can dress up your bathroom with light selections that range in styles from classic to contemporary, with finishes from wrought iron to polished chrome or nickel to antiqued brasses or bronzes. Today’s lighting features include softer linen type shades, while many types of glass shades have been developed for a variety of looks and colors.  Vanity lighting strips with exposed bulbs used to be the only choice for homeowners (those “Hollywood” bulb lights!).  We now have sconces and wall lighting, recessed ceiling lights and lights combined with fan units for lighting.

Newport Brass Co., with seeded glass

Newport Brass Co., with seeded glass

You should provide task lighting over your mirrors and vanity area.  Romantic, downward-facing lights with shades using 60 lumens worth of lighting should be adequate for tasking (check your led light bulbs to assure you’re getting at least 60 lumens).   Bright pendant lights are a contemporary alternative feature you can place above your sink, but will not be conducive to full facial lighting when looking in the mirror since it is hung from the ceiling (above).

Your bathroom also needs a central light to illuminate the room for basic use. Choose a simple light fixture that includes an exhaust fan or expand your options by installing the exhaust fan and light separately.  Larger bathrooms can accommodate an elaborate chandelier.

Whatever your choices, please try to save yourself some money and help the environment while doing so by using LED light bulbs.  For information on this type of lighting energy, go to our website news article on “Budget Tip: How Much Energy and Money Can You Save Using LED Lights?”.

                                                                                       STORAGE

Finding places to add storage can be challenging, especially when installing a pedestal sink!  Adding a vanity tank topper over the toilet or on the wall is one way to store bath items.  Incorporating storage shelves in your tub deck is excellent for towel storage, while adding a tall linen cabinet at the end of your bathroom sink vanity is another good storage method.Sometimes we design vanity cabinetry with drawers and doors, plus another open shelf for towel storage.  A hotel towel rack is another nice feature for towel storage above the bath tub or other wall area.

 

FANS

As contractors, we are aware that bathroom fans are required for bathroom installations according to code and common sense.  If you have an older home, it is completely possible that your bathrooms do not have any type of exhaust fan installed.  Upgrading to a modern fan can help you clean the air in your bathroom while providing other functions like heat, night lights, and different fan speeds.

Panasonic has the leading, possibly best fans designed to quickly and quietly clean and dispel air from your bathroom. They are known for creating fans that are both quiet and energy efficient; from the first time you turn it on, you will realize that it is great at what it does, while the energy used will actually help you save money over many average bathroom fans.

We have an installed sample unit in our showroom for clients, which is open sided for easily viewing both sides of the working parts.  Clients push the on buttons for light, night light and fan.  When they don’t hear any noise from the fan, we ask them to step to the rear and be surprised feeling the high velocity air blowing from the vent, noting it could double as a hair-dryer!  Awesome units, we never have a problem convincing our clientele to install a Panasonic!

 

Last Piece of Advice:

Avoid trendy designs!!!  Remember 1950’s Pink and gray mosaic floor tiles, turquoise, aqua, yellow, salmon pink and black wall tiles?  How about hippy-ish 1960’s-1970’s bright yellow, orange and avocado green and flowery wallpapers?  We learn from past mistakes, so DON’T repeat bad habits!

Pink tub, black tiles 1950's....Yikes!

Pink tub, black tiles 1950’s….Yikes!

 

When selecting materials for your new bathroom design,  be smart and select items that stay within the realm of the colors of nature – they never go out of style.  Rather than invest much time and money into your bathroom with trendy current fad designs and materials, then it becomes “dated” in a few years, decide on more practical, long-lasting designs that both satisfy you in the near future and the long term.