once utilitarian rooms not much bigger than closets. Today, a stroll
through a bath showroom or a quick look through a home design book
or magazine will prove those days are long gone. Forget great rooms
and kitchens; bathrooms are the new frontier in home design.
Working couples, traditional, blended and extended
families, the young and old and physically disadvantaged– we
all have greater expectations for the places in which we live. We
want our bathrooms to be beautiful and functional, easy to clean
and a refuge from busy lives.
As a result, today’s bathrooms are bigger,
offer more features and use a wider variety of better materials – requiring
many more decisions to plan them
This free-standing cast-iron tub has a traditional feel, yet is right
at home in a contemporary setting.
wisely. To make the process less
daunting, Taunton Press author Andrew Wormer provides background
information on many types of products to consider for your bath.
Porcelain-enamel surfaces are durable, sanitary,
easy to clean and highly resistant to chemicals and corrosion. For
many, there’s no replacement for the solid quality of an enameled
cast-iron tub, which is why decades-old claw foot tubs that are in
good shape are a valuable salvage item.
Porcelain enamel starts out as a mixture of minerals,
such as silica, feldspar, and borax, which are heated into a molten
state and then drawn out and cooled into a glasslike ribbon. The
ribbon is pulverized to form “frit,” the particulate
sprayed onto the metal surface that is to be enameled. After the
frit is sprayed onto the metal surface, it is fired at a high temperature,
which fuses it to the underlying metal, creating a durable coating
that won’t easily chip or peel.
Different types of metals can be coated with porcelain
enamel, but cast-iron and steel are the two types you’re most
likely to encounter in the bathroom. Enameled-steel sinks were once
popular because they offered a less-expensive and lightweight alternative
to enameled cast-iron sinks. You don’t see them much anymore
except in junk yards because they proved to be prone to flexing and
Enameled-steel tubs are still manufactured, but
they’ve been largely replaced in the marketplace by fiberglass
and acrylic tubs. For the most part, vintage cast-iron fixtures,
unlike old steel fixtures, are worth salvaging because they can be
repaired or reglazed.
Colorful tile accents and curves soften the geometry
and ensure that this bathroom doesn’t feel
stark or clinical.
Ceramic tile’s variety, versatility, and
durability make it popular bathroom finish material. But how
do you whether
to choose a generic 4-in. by 4-in. white costs $1.00/sq. ft. or an almost identical-looking tile that needs
to be special ordered at ft.? Which tiles are best for floors? Do you
tile for the shower?
Permeability, or the ability to absorb moisture, is one comparing
tile. Vitreous tile has a dense body and negligible amount
of moisture. It’s
better suited or exterior installations than non-vitreous tile, softer and more
porous. Because non-vitreous tile a shorter period of time at a lower
expensive to manufacture (and therefore to buy) vitreous tile. In
practice, both vitreous and non-vitreous are used interchangeably
in the bathroom,
since glaze protects it against most moisture.
Texture should be another concern when choosing
tile. Although the shiny smooth surface of a polished or glazed material
may look great and be easy to can be slippery when wet. It’s
better to choose a has a textured or matte glaze for floors and save
tiles for the walls and countertops.
The best way to choose tile is to know what the
tile used for, pick out something you like at a tile store, some
samples home, and put them through a few scratching, rubbing, and
His-and-hers vanities have plenty
of storage room, while raising the dramatic glass countertops
provides a clear view of the stylish glass sink basins.
When choosing a bathroom sink, consider the type of use it will
receive. For example, powder-room sinks that are used only occasionally
by careful guests don’t need frequent or vigorous cleaning with harsh or abrasive chemicals. Family-bathroom sinks, on the other
hand, are under almost constant use and abuse: toothpaste, cosmetics,
nail-polish remover, sometimes even the paws and claws of a small dog
or cat receiving an involuntary bath.
Vitreous-china pedestal and wall-mounted sinks have been an enduring
choice for family baths and powder rooms for years. For one thing,
they’re virtually impervious to any kind of cleanser that
you can throw at them.
Enameled cast iron sinks are still a popular choice, but don’t
confuse them with enameled stainless steel sinks. Cast iron is
quieter, tougher, and less apt to chip or crack. Brushed or polished
stainless-steel sinks are not all that common in the bathroom,
but their track record in the kitchen should make them good candidates if you don’t mind their rather industrial look.
Other metals sometimes used for powder-room sinks include pewter
and even silver, but these metals are softer and require considerable
care to keep them from scratching.
Cultured-stone sinks that mimic the look of marble or granite
have been around for years. Some cultured-stone sinks are gel-coated
to give the sink its color and texture. Inexpensive gel-coated
sinks can crack and blister around the drain hole, while newer
cast-polymer sinks have a higher percentage of harder materials
like quartz and aren’t gel-coated, making them more durable (and
more expensive). And, of course, the stone-like qualities and workability
of solid-surface materials make products like Corian an excellent and popular choice
for sinks and combination sink/countertops.
Water splashes into this glass bowl sink from a minimalist wall-mounted
single-control faucet, which is available with different
surfaces – a stainless-steel self-rimmed sink, polished
chrome plumbing, a corner-mounted glass countertop, and
floor-to-ceiling mirrors – create a kaleidoscopic
Polished chrome has a long track record as a durable faucet finish
that won’t scratch or corrode. No matter how grimy chrome
bathroom fixtures become, they clean up easily with water, a sponge,
and some abrasive cleanser. In fact, chrome offers such great protection
that most faucets – even those with a brass finish– have
an underlying layer of chrome, which is electrochemically deposited
over a nickel plating.
Many people prefer the look of polished brass to chrome, but unprotected
brass oxidizes when it comes in contact with air. Clear protective
lacquer and epoxy coatings help control tarnishing, but they don’t
stand up well to abrasive cleansers. However, a new technology
called physical vapor deposition (PVD) offers a shiny brass finish
that has virtually the same durability as chrome. Different manufacturers
call their PVD brass finishes by different names, but most of them
offer lifetime warranties on the finish, which will likely replace
other brass finishes currently available.
Colored-epoxy finishes are also popular, particularly in white.
These finishes are baked on, durable, and easy to clean, though
not as scratch-resistant as either chrome or brass. Abrasive cleansers
should also be avoided with this type of finish.
Although they may look identical
in the showroom, acrylic shower units are far more durable – and
Most molded-plastic tubs and showers sold today are referred to
as either fiberglass or acrylic. While acrylic units are manufactured
of essentially the same materials and look identical to fiberglass
units on the showroom floor, the difference is in the surface that
you can see when the tub or shower is installed.
Fiberglass units start out on a mold that is first sprayed with
a thin (1/64-in.) layer of pigmented polyester resin, called a gel-coat.
Layers of fiberglass
– a mixture of resins and chopped or woven glass fibers – are then
added to the initial layer of gel-coat. until it is about 1/8-in. thick. Before
the unit is taken off the mold, various reinforcing “inclusions” – foam,
wood, even corrugated cardboard – are added for structural rigidity.
Acrylic units start out a bit differently. First, a 1/8-in.
thick sheet of acrylic is heated, stretched over a tub or shower
mold, then sucked into shape with vacuum pressure. After the acrylic
shell cools, the fiberglass reinforcing and inclusions are added
to give it strength and rigidity.
Besides cost – acrylic tubs are at least twice as much as
comparable fiberglass models – you can usually distinguish
acrylic units from fiberglass ones by their ceilings. Because they
are vacuum molded, acrylic shells need to be closed on all sides
during the manufacturing process (though some manufacturers later
remove the ceiling on some models). An acrylic tub or shower is more
durable and harder to scratch than a comparable gel-coated fiberglass
tub. Slight scratches in acrylic tubs can be sanded and buffed out;
darker and brighter colors are less likely to fade.
This Ornately sculpted two-piece
toilet has Victorian charm while a personal hygiene system
features two elctonically controlled self-cleaning bidet
nozzles and a warm air dryer.
Let’s face it: The bar has been raised on
our bathroom expectations. Where simple tubs and showers were once
enough, now we need whirlpools, hydro-massage, and steam. So it’s
little wonder that we now expect more from our toilets than a simple
At the same time that manufacturers are wrestling
with the performance of their low-flush toilets, they’ve also
come up with some interesting innovations. For example, electrically
heated toilet seats are relatively common now, a feature that many
will appreciate on a cold morning. Some specialty toilets have hydraulically
operated seats that lift and lower automatically, a useful feature
for elderly and disabled users who have difficulty getting up from
a seated position. Another new feature is a soft-closing seat system that
prevents toilet seats from slamming down onto the toilet accidentally.
Now, if they could only come up with a system that
would clean the toilet automatically. Actually, the new personal
hygiene systems are automatic cleaning systems, but they clean the
body instead of the toilet. Basically an alternative to a bidet,
personal hygiene systems come in different configurations ranging
from add-on toilet seats to self-contained toilets with shower/bathing
functions. They work by directing a warm stream of water through
a handheld wand or an automatically retracting nozzle toward the
pelvic region. Some also provide an automatic air-drying function.