Category: Bathroom


Bob Vila Radio: Dual-Flush Toilets

Dual-flush toilets cut down on water use, saving you money while conserving a precious natural resource.

Back in the 1980s, a bright Australian fellow came up with the idea for dual-flush toilets. They’ve been around for awhile.

Dual-Flush Toilets

Photo: amazon.com

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But what you may not know is that many of the newer models have improvements that make some of the orginals seem like Model T’s. For one thing, trapways have been significantly enlarged, and the sides of the bowls made steeper. Dual-flushers also now employ technology that pushes the waste down the trap (instead of washing it down with extra water).

It’s true that dual-flush toilets are often a bit more expensive than conventional models, at least on the front end. But the savings you build up on water use—along with financial incentives some governments offer—are likely to make your wallet happy in the long run.

Before you buy, make sure you compare specs on the units you’re considering. Price doesn’t always mean better performance.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


How To: Install a Medicine Cabinet

Add beauty and storage to your bath by installing a medicine cabinet. Choose one that is wall-mounted—rather than inset—and the project becomes even more suitable for DIY.

How to Install a Medicine Cabinet

Photo: hgcinc.biz

Add storage to your bathroom—and in the process, give the space a jolt of fresh style—by installing a medicine cabinet. Even if you’re new to home improvement, installing a medicine cabinet makes for an excellent do-it-yourself project. That said, the process entails complexities best addressed through a careful, deliberate approach. Read on to learn how to install a medicine cabinet that mounts to the wall (as opposed to being recessed into the space between wall studs behind the drywall or plaster).

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Pipe locator
- Flush-mounted medicine cabinet with fixings
- Spirit level
- Pencil
- Drill
- Screwdriver

STEP 1
To install a medicine cabinet, you’ll need to drill into the walls. Since bathroom walls often conceal a warren of pipes and wires, it’s only prudent to make sure you won’t accidentally disturb any vital conduits of water or electricity (in the worst case, such a mistake could bring about extensive, expensive damage to your home). Stay on the safe side and run an electronic pipe locator over the area of the wall into which you are planning to drill. So long as the “coast is clear”, you can proceed.

How to Install a Medicine Cabinet - Chest Detail

Photo: signaturehardware.com

STEP 2
Next, position the medicine cabinet flush to the wall, approximately where you are planning to install it. Is the face of the cabinet mirrored? If so, pay close attention to the cabinet height; it should be at eye level. Finally, confirm that nothing (doors, fixtures, etc.) would be obstructed were the cabinet to be permanent.

STEP 3
Having determined the best place in which to install the medicine cabinet, enlist a friend to continue holding it in place. Meanwhile, reach for the spirit level, placing it on top of the cabinet (assuming there’s a ledge; if not, simply hold it against the top edge.) Make minor adjustments until you have gotten the cabinet to be perfectly level, then draw lines where the top and bottom edges of the frame meet the wall.

STEP 4
With your helper still holding the cabinet, open its door (or doors) and find the holes on the rear interior. On the wall, pencil an X-mark to correlate with each one of the installation holes that you identified on the cabinet. For the time being, take the cabinet away from the wall and set it aside at a safe distance.

STEP 5
Look at the hardware that came packaged with the cabinet; outfit your drill/driver with a bit whose size matches that of the hardware; then drill holes in the wall wherever you penciled an X-mark in Step 4. Tread carefully here; if the drilled holes are too large, then chances are the cabinet is going to wobble.

STEP 6
Position the cabinet back on the wall, matching its top and bottom edges to the pencil lines you drew in Step 3. While your helper holds the cabinet, screw the fasteners through each of the holes on the back of the cabinet. Don’t attach them tightly until you are satisfied the cabinet is precisely where you want it.

Additional Tips
• Temporarily tape the door (or doors) closed so as to safeguard against damage caused during installation.

• Power tools and moisture don’t mix: Before using the drill/driver, make sure the area is completely dry.

• Don’t worry about the pencil marks remaining visible post-installation. They can be removed via eraser.


Get the Look: Modern Bath

Straight edges, sleek finishes, soothing colors, and an abundance of natural materials like marble and stone all work together to create the serene, simplified beauty of today's modern bath. Here's how you can get the look in your own home.

modern bath

Photo: Vilabuilt.com

Think luxury. Think serenity. Think clean-lined, uncluttered space. This is the essence of the modern bath. It’s a look that has evolved over the years, taking advantage of the best of contemporary design in everything from faucet styles to tiles to bathtubs.

Although modern baths are often pared down to their barest essentials, those elements are of the highest quality and most innovative design (consider the Dolomiti honed marble tiles, Victoria + Albert tub, and Kallista sink and tub fixtures in the bath above). And, square footage is not a deciding factor either—what matters most is how you use the space you’ve got. Even the smallest bath can capture the cutting-edge look of a modern bath. Read on to learn how to re-create the look in your own home.

Colors
Muted, monochromatic color schemes are typical for modern baths, with all-white being one of the most common variations. Look closely, however, and you’ll often find that even a white bathroom has lively textures in marble and tile. Occasionally a modern bath will be interpreted with a splash of bold color—maybe red, orange, or lime green—on an accent wall or vanity.

modern loft apartment bathroom

Photo: jaklitschgardner.com

Surfaces
In a modern bath, surfaces are smooth and uncluttered. Natural materials, such as marble, granite, and stone, are popular choices, as are woods that may be pale in color or stained a deep brown or black, or might exhibit a strong grain pattern. Gleaming laminates are also sometimes used for a vanity or storage unit.

Tiles
You’ll rarely find traditional bathroom tiles in a modern bath—few white subway tiles or four-inch squares here. Instead, you may spot oversize limestone or granite tiles on the floor and, on the walls, an eye-catching arrangement of tiny one-inch glass tiles or narrow rectangles in gray or taupe. Tiles in a modern bath can blend into the overall color scheme or stand out as the single source of color in the room.

Sink and Fixtures
There are so many variations of sinks and faucets on the market today that homeowners may find it difficult to narrow their search. Many people choose a vessel sink that rests atop a vanity, while others opt for a traditional undermount model that allows a marble or granite vanity top to command full attention. Chrome, brushed nickel, and other silver finishes are usually preferred over brass.

Kohler K 1805 Aliento Collection Tub

Photo: Kohler's Aliento Collection 66" Lithocast Designer Bathtub

Tub and Shower
If there is space in your bathroom for a tub, by all means use the opportunity to find a shape you love. Most often, tubs in modern settings are white porcelain and extra deep, and possess a contemporary silhouette, whether gently curving or square-edged and boxy. For showers, floor-to-ceiling glass stalls are becoming commonplace, but clear-glass sliding doors are a budget-friendly alternative.

Floors
Tiles that tie the floor in with the overall color scheme of the room are typical in a modern bath. Wood floors stained either a very pale or a very dark hue are also sometimes seen. When it comes to the type of tiles used, homeowners tend to play with proportion, perhaps choosing large slabs of natural marble or stone, or maybe an energetic pattern of tiny tiles that have a contemporary look, like miniature hexagons.

Windows
Windows in modern baths are frequently unadorned to complement the clean lines of the room. If window coverings are needed for privacy, choose a simple, high-quality Roman or roller shade in a pale color, a metallic weave, or a woven-grass texture. If your bathroom makeover is part of a new addition or major renovation, consider installing a nontraditional window shape here, such as a large square or window wall.

Lighting
Many modern baths feature recessed lighting to underscore the pared-down surroundings. When fixtures or sconces are positioned overhead or beside a sink or vanity table, they are usually statement pieces—cutting-edge designs with unusual shapes, or fixtures with chrome or nickel finishes that echo the faucets and other details in the room.

Accessories
Extraneous objects look out of place in a modern bath, but a few thoughtfully selected items can provide a perfect finishing touch. Some examples include a sleek chair or stool, a single work of art like an oversize black-and-white photograph or colorful abstract print, and luxurious amenities like a wall-mounted towel warmer. Sufficient storage is a must to keep clutter at bay.


Bob Vila Radio: Cleaning Bathroom Vents

Here's how to clean your bathroom exhaust vent, so that it performs well in its vital function, which is to prevent mold and mildew from making the space unhealthy (and unpleasant) to occupy.

Bathroom ventilation fans whisk away odors, but their more important job is to draw moisture out of the room. Moisture leads to mold and mildew, so a well-functioning vent is critical to keeping your bathroom healthy.

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Cleaning Bathroom Vents

Photo: diylife.com

To work well, your vent needs to be clean, but over time it can get downright grimy. After all, the fan inside is sucking up, not just moisture, but also dust, hair, towel lint, and all kinds of particles from the sprays and powders you use in the room.

Start by flipping off the circuit breaker to the bathroom. Next, remove the vent cover (wear eye protection, because you may get a face full of dust when you open up the vent.) Place the cover in a pail of soapy water while you work.

Under the cover, you’ll see the fan blades. If there’s a lot of dust, you can use a vacuum cleaner to take a first pass at it. Then use a rag dampened in soapy water to gently clean the blades, being careful not to touch any wires. If access is a problem, you can always use a toothbrush or a foam paintbrush to reach up into the unit to wipe away the grime.

Finally, wash and dry the cover and put it back in place. Be sure all parts are dry before turning the power back on. You’ll be surprised at how much quieter and more effective your vent becomes once it’s clean.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Pro Tips: The 5 Most Common Bathroom Renovation Mistakes

Regardless of whether you are replacing an outdated vanity or renovating the entire space, bathroom remodeling can be an expensive proposition. How can you avoid some common mistakes? Jeff Devlin, host of DIY Network's "I Hate My Bath," offers some advice from the trenches.

Jeff Devlin

Photo: myfixituplife.com

As the host of DIY Network’s “I Hate My Bath,” licensed contractor Jeff Devlin has seen his share of renovation missteps both big and small. “I see mistakes all the time,” he confirms, “and most of them are so easy to prevent!” Read on to find out the five most common problems Devlin encounters—and how you can avoid them in your own home.

1. Ignoring the Bathroom Fan
“Overlooking your bathroom fan is a huge mistake,” Devlin observes. “Sometimes people don’t install one or they don’t clean the one they have.” Without proper ventilation, he explains, humidity builds up on surfaces, and over time this moisture will cause paint and grout to deteriorate and mildew to form. Vacuuming the vent on a regular basis will help keep the fan clean. To determine if your fan is overdue for a cleaning, turn it on and hold a square of toilet tissue up to the vent. If the tissue stays up on its own when you let go, air is still flowing.

2. Lacking a Clear Plan Before Demolition
“Sometimes people think they can figure out what needs to be done as they go along,” says Devlin. “But you need a plan in place before you start any demolition.” Devlin believes you should have everything sketched out ahead of time, from your budget, to your materials, to the question of who will be doing which parts of the work. “Planning is everything,” he emphasizes.

3. Being Unrealistic About a Budget
“Don’t lie to yourself and try to do a $20,000 renovation when you have only $10,000 to work with,” Devlin urges. “You’ll only have to cut corners at the end of the project and you won’t be pleased with the results.” He suggests taking a careful look at your finances and getting a realistic number in your head. “Write the number down, put that amount in your bank account, and stick to it!”

before and after bath

A "before and after" Eastern-inspired bathroom redo. Photo: DIY Networks / I Hate My Bath

4. Overlooking Small Mistakes
As your renovation goes along, Devlin advises, always fix mistakes—even the smallest ones—as soon as you notice them. “If one tile isn’t exactly flush or your paint strokes are going in all directions, fix it right away,” he stresses. “Don’t convince yourself you’ll learn to live with it. Those mistakes will always bother you, and if you can see them, then other people can see them too.”

5. Losing Focus Toward the End
Many people, Devlin reports, are excited about the renovation process at the beginning but lose steam as they approach the finish line. “They might take forever to frame out the room,” he says, “but by the end they’re so eager to see the completed room they start to rush.” The problem here is that the finish work is extremely important to the overall look of the space. “People should reverse the trend,” he muses. “Move at a steady pace at the beginning and slow down at the end to be sure everything is done correctly. Your patience will pay off!”


Bob Vila Radio: Frameless Shower Doors

Free of the metal hardware that so strongly defined these bathroom elements in previous decades, frameless shower doors are safe, visually light, and easy to clean.

Glass shower doors have been popular alternatives to shower curtains for decades. Both serve the same simple purpose, which is to keep the spray of water inside the tub or shower stall.

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Frameless Shower

Photo: shutterstock.com

Shower curtains are inexpensive to purchase and easy to replace, but the liners quickly get moldy (when the curtain is left open and water stays in the folds). When the curtain is pulled shut to dry out, however, the room becomes visually smaller. Both of those factors help account for the surge in popularity of shower doors. They are easy to clean, and their transparency makes even the smallest bathroom seem larger.

The shower doors you may remember from the ’70s and ’80s, with their metal frames and tracks, have largely given way to frameless models. Frameless shower doors have minimal hardware, so there are fewer places for soap or grime to build up. That makes them visually cleaner as well—all you see is a wall of glass.

Like all shower doors since the ’70s, frameless doors are made of tempered glass, which crumbles into small pieces instead of large shards, if it’s ever broken. The doors are so sturdy that breakage isn’t much of a concern, but you do want to be sure that the door is properly installed so that it closes against soft bumpers, not hard ceramic tile.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Bob Vila Radio: Freestanding vs. Built-In Tubs

Freestanding tubs add an element of luxury that simply cannot be matched by traditional built-ins. Appealing though they may be, freestanding tubs aren't the right choice in every renovation. You've got to weigh the pros and cons.

Freestanding tubs are becoming increasingly popular in today’s luxury bathrooms. Is one right for your bath? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

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Freestanding Tubs

Photo: vangviet.com

Freestanding tubs are finished on all sides, so you can plunk one down right in the middle of a room. The category includes commodious soaking tubs, vintage-look clawfoots, and sinuous modern designs. Freestanding tubs are great for making a dramatic sculptural impact and creating a spa-like atmosphere. They’re available in lots of styles and in materials ranging from acrylics to cast iron to high-end stones, metals, and woods. The plumbing typically comes up from the floor, not through a wall, and faucets usually attach to the tub.

Because they’re set away from the walls and tend to be larger than standard built-ins, freestanding tubs take up more space. Depending on the material they’re made of, they can be quite heavy and may require reinforcing the floor. They’re not the best choice if you need a shower and don’t have space for a standalone—most freestanding tubs don’t do double-duty as showers. Be warned that faucets for freestanding tubs tend to be pricey. And one last caveat: Because a freestanding tub doesn’t have a surround to hold toiletries, you’ll need storage or a small table to keep all those candles and soaps handy while you’re having a relaxing, steaming soak.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


What Would Bob Do? Caulking a Bathtub

If the caulk around your tub is peeling, damaged, or stained, it's time to remove it and start over. Here's how to get the job done right.

How to Caulk a Bathtub

Photo: shutterstock.com

What can I use to remove caulk from around the bathtub? Also, what is the correct product to use when I caulk the tub again? Obviously, I need something waterproof, but ideally I’d like the caulk not to be plainly visible.

Removing caulk isn’t difficult, only time-consuming. The name of the game is perseverance, particularly if you are dealing with several layers that were applied in succession over time. Given the nature of the task, it’s important to arm yourself with the right tools, starting with a utility knife and a razor scraper, both fitted with new blades. If you’ll be tackling a wall-to-tub joint, opt for a church key can opener or a pointed scraper; either can be handy if you need to go digging for any stubborn remnants. Then again, you might get lucky—sometimes after loosening one end, a strand of caulk pulls away easily. Much depends on the age and quality of the installation.

Related: Top Tips for Refinishing a Bathtub

To begin, hold the utility knife so that it’s more or less perpendicular to the joint, then run the blade along the caulk joint. If the caulking proves too hard to slice, try softening it with a heat gun (do this carefully). Now remove whatever caulk you are able to cut free. Follow with a razor scraper. Wielded at a shallow angle in relation to the surface, the razor should remove any caulk bits still stuck to the tiles or tub. If you find evidence of mildew, thoroughly scrub the area with full-strength vinegar.

Compared with the hassle of removing caulk, replacing it is a cakewalk; even a complete novice can apply a fresh bead of caulk to a bathtub. Just remember to use a caulking product specially formulated for use in kitchens and baths (packages are clearly marked). Caulk comes in many colors, but if you don’t want to see it, choose a clear variety. Before you begin, steady the nozzle of the caulking tube about 1/8 inch away from the surface and at a 30-degree angle.

As you work, try to force any excess caulk into the joint; failing that, wipe the caulk onto a towel you’ve kept at the ready. Clean any caulk you misapply before it has the chance to harden. Finally, slide your wetted finger along the joint once more. Doing so eliminates any imperfections in the bead, ensuring a smooth finish.


How To: Tile a Bathroom Wall

With the proper tools and enough patience, it's within the range of virtually any homeowner to tile a bathroom wall successfully.

Here are some tips to help you tile a bathroom wall. For better moisture protection, apply cement board to your walls using roofing nails. To start tiling, find the center of the wall and strike a plumb line. Apply an even coat of adhesive with a quarter-inch toothed trowel. Start with full tiles at the bottom, pressing them firmly into place. Let dry overnight and you’re ready to grout.

For more on tile, consider:

How To: Install Tile
5 Reasons to Love Subway Tile
Quick Tip: Laying Bathroom Tile


How To: Install a Toilet

No need to call a plumber! In only a matter of hours, the average homeowner can install a toilet on his own.

If you’re updating the bathroom, you’ll need to know how to install a toilet. Apply a new wax seal over the waste flange to prevent sewer gases from escaping. Put on a second bead of plumber’s putty to seal any imperfections between the floor and the toilet. Place the new bowl firmly over the seal and bolt it down. Attach the tank. Cut your new tube to connect the tank to your water supply. Fill the tank and flush away.

For more on toilets, consider:

Low-Flow Toilets 101
How To: Replace a Toilet
The Complete Illustrated Guide to Unclogging a Drain