In Part 1 of Choosing the Right Bathroom Fixtures, we covered the sink and the faucet.
We’ll continue on with the shower, tub, and toilet in the second part. All of which are essential fixtures of the bathroom that deserve your full time and attention.
Choosing the Right Shower for Your Bathroom
Perhaps the area of the bathroom that has seen the most innovation in recent years is the shower. It has gone from a simple soap-and shampoo spot to an authentic at-home spa. No matter what you want from your shower, chances are there is a manufacturer out there that has exactly what you want -- or can make it for you.
Many showers are prefabricated, but they can also be custom designed and built on-site. Custom showers are framed like walls and finished with a variety of materials, including ceramic tile, glass block and marble. Another common feature on these units is walls and doors made of safety glass.
Prefabricated units, which are less expensive than custom-made models, are usually manufactured of molded plastics like acrylic or fiberglass. They are available in a wide range of colors, shapes and sizes.
Whether your choose a custom or prefabricated shower, you’ll find a wide range of accessories available, including multiple massaging showerheads, an adjustable handheld sprayer mounted on a sliding bar, a seat, overhead lighting, a mirror and even sound systems. Some “smart” faucets can even be preprogrammed to control both the temperature and the volume of the water flow.
There are so many options available today in showerheads that these fixtures make up a category unto themselves. Satisfying the demand for more luxurious baths, manufacturers have heeded the call for showers that offer multiple nozzles and massaging sprayers with differing spray options.
Now one shower head can bath you in a rain-like shower while another massages your lower back. There are also showerheads that slide on a pipe to different heights to accommodate all users. And another option on some showerheads allows the head itself to be pivoted a full 360 degrees for the ultimate in positioning.
No longer a passing dream, the idea of spa-style shower in the home has been made a reality by savvy manufacturers in tune with the lifestyle demands of homeowners. Everything from lavish, complete shower systems to easy-to-install and maintain massaging showerheads are now available.
If you’re looking for true quality, you’ll want to consider one of the many high-end shower systems. The most complete include an enclosure of tempered glass and/or acrylic with designer colors and patterns and a variety of complementary trim choices.
Coordinating faucets and other fixtures add a stylish touch. These relaxing spa showers feature various combinations of sprays and nozzles that sooth, relax, invigorate and drench, according to your whim.
Most have at least one standard shower head, handheld sprayer and two to four body sprays or massage jets. The standard showerheads are often directionally adjustable or may telescope for exact placement of spray.
Both stationary and handheld sprayers offer adjustments for intensity and type of spray.
The body sprays on some are mounted on vertical runs that allow them to slide up or down as you choose. Thermostatically controlled water mixers maintain constant water temperature and pressure. Many of these complete shower systems also include storage ledges and may even have built-in seats.
Choosing the Right Tub for Your Bathroom
A bathtub is an essential element and probably the fixture people think of first when they imagine a luxurious bathroom. As life gets more and more complicated, we yearn to have time for ourselves and a place where we can relax.
Today, many people are rediscovering the restorative power of lounging in a tub filled with a soothing fragrance. And even if you personally prefer showers, it makes sense to include a tub in your plans -- if only for resale appeal.
When selecting a tub, make sure it will fit in the space properly, allowing enough room for other fixtures and basic bathroom traffic. Options range from 5-foot long remodeler tubs designed to fit into an existing tube recess to luxurious freestanding claw-foot models. An average size tub is 32 by 60 inches, but much larger models are available. Some manufacturers produce all-in-one units, which are usually acrylic and offer a tub and shower surround in a single piece.
The highest-quality tubs are made of enameled cast iron. But if you want an oversize tub, consider a fiberglass-reinforced acrylic model. These are not lightweight -- so you may to have to reinforce the floor -- and can be molded into comfortable forms, with built-in armrests, headrests and grab bars.
For the ultimate in luxury, opt for a soaking tub. These circular tubs, generally 29 to 32 inches high, take less time to fill than a whirlpool and don’t require an integral heater.
If you’re willing to pay for a bit of luxury, enamel-coated cast-iron tubs offer elegance and durability. Although prices start at about $400, expect to pay closer to $1,500 for a luxury model, such as slipper-style tub with hand-painted details and claw-foot legs. Cast iron tubs are more durable than steel because they have a stronger metal and thicker finish.
Like steel, however, cast iron tends to be cold and draws heat away from the water. One last caveat: Some weigh in at more than 500 pounds without water, so be sure your floor can hold the weight. Often, homeowners will need to add reinforcement to floor joints to accommodate the burden.
For the same look and cost of cast iron at half the weight, try a tub made of composite materials. Combining the style and durability of cast iron in a higher material, these tubs are easier to install and warmer to the touch than cast iron counterparts.
Whirlpool tubs have gone from being the ultimate symbol of bathroom opulence to a standard piece of master suite equipment. And there have never been so many options to choose from.
Top-of-the-line whirlpools are made of enameled cast iron and hold a high-gloss finish indefinitely. However, acrylics are equally popular, since they maintain water temperature better than cast iron, are lightweight and can be molded into a range of shapes. Remodeler units fit right into a standard tube recess. If you want to splurge, larger deluxe models can accommodate two or more people and offer intensive massage options.
You might also consider enhancing your whirlpool bath by purchasing accessories like an integral heater to maintain the desired water temperature throughout your soak, and cascading faucet and a handheld sprayer. For a truly special experience, you’ll want to choose a tub with adjustable jets. Look for a jet system that allows you to change the direction of water flow and the air-to-water ratio. More air means a stronger massage, whereas more water creates a gentler effect.
Whichever type you choose, it’s a good idea to talk to your architect or contractor or contractor before you purchase a whirlpool tub. He or she may recommend that you purchase an additional hot-water heater and/or reinforce your bathroom floor prior to installation.
Choosing the Right Toilet for Your Bathroom
Once a necessity, now a design statement, the humble toilet has come a long way. Most of today’s models are made of beautiful yet durable vitreous china, a long-lasting and stain-resistant material, and offer much in the way of styling and performance.
In fact, the latest toilet units consume far less water than their predecessors did. To comply with the Comprehensive Energy Policy Act, a federal law that was enacted to conserve energy, toilet manufacturers within the United States must now use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush. That’s an estimated savings for a family of four of more than 10,000 gallons of water per year.
Another feature you’ll want to be sure to ask the dealer about: Today’s toilets often include flushing mechanisms that are less noisy than older models. And the innovations don’t end there. Some manufacturers now offer a line of remote-control, heated toilet seats and personal sanitizers.
When shopping around for a toilet you will find that, in general, they function in one of two ways: gravity flush and pressurized flush.
Gravity flush is the most common type of toilet. In this system, a tank is supported by and bolted onto a separate bowl. Water from the tank enters the blow via openings circling the rim. Gravity-fed pressure then forces the water and waste out of the bowl. With a pressurized flush, compressed air from a sealed chamber inside the tank forces water into and through the bowl. This type of mechanism is used in one-piece toilets because the tank on these models is often not high enough to create sufficient gravity-fed pressure. The downside to this system is that some units can be noisy.
If you are replacing a toilet, rather than starting from scratch, you’ll want to make sure your new toilet will fit properly in the vacated space. You don’t want to pay a plumber to move pipes if you don’t absolutely have to. You need to measure the existing rough-in, which is the same distance from the center of the floor drain to the surface of the wall, before you select your new toilet.
Most toilets have a 12-inch rough-in dimension, but some, particularly those in older houses, measure 10 or 14 inches.
Also keep in mind that if you are replacing a toilet that consumes more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush, you may need to hire a plumber to move the drain to accommodate one of today’s low-flush models.
Give enough time and consideration to all of your bathroom fixtures --sink, faucet, shower, tub, and toilet -- and you’ll have your dream bathroom before you know it!