Category: Bathroom


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


Quick Tip: Cultured Marble

Cultured marble offers a low-cost alternative to the real thing, and it's DIY-friendly, too.

For an elegant look in your bathroom, try using cultured marble. It’s easy to work with, because it’s made of real marble dust mixed with plastic resins. It’s lighter in weight than real marble and less expensive, too. To cut, use a rotary saw with a masonry blade and smooth the edges with sandpaper. Use a panel adhesive to attach the sheets to the wall and brace them firmly overnight. Remember to use safety glasses and a respirator when working with cultured marble.

For more on bathrooms, consider:

Bathroom Remodeling 101
5 Reasons to Love Subway Tile
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers, and Sinks


Talking Toilets with Chip Wade (or, How to Choose a Toilet)

While the mechanics of a toilet are pretty basic, there are several factors to consider when it's time to shop for a new one, says HGTV's "Elbow Room" host, Chip Wade.

How to Choose a Toilet - Delta

Photo: Delta

“With subtle style differences and various makes and models available, a toilet is a pretty simple machine designed to do a pretty basic job,” says Chip Wade, professional contractor and host of HGTV’s Elbow Room. They’re cast and coated with a porcelain protective finish. They have a tank and a bowl and a flush valve that—when pressed—lifts a flapper that fills the bowl with water and siphons the contents down the drain. Other than clogs, cracks, mishaps, and loose fittings, they perform their job without notice. End of story!

“But despite the straight-forward design and mechanics, not all toilets are created equal,” says Wade. If you’re in the market for a new one, here are some things to take into consideration to make sure that the product that you choose and install is the best one for the job.

How to Choose a Toilet - Diagram

Illustration: professortoilet.com

SEAT HEIGHT
The average seat height of the standard commode is roughly 15 inches from the floor to the top of the seat. Comfort height, sometimes referred to as ADA Compliant Height, toilets have become increasingly popular in the last several years, in part because the higher seat makes them easier for the elderly to use. They measure between 17 and 19 inches from the floor, a distance more comparable to standard chair height. While seat height is clearly a personal decision, notes Wade, having a comfort height toilet in the bathroom may be a selling point for a future buyer.

BOWL SHAPE
Toilet bowls come in essentially two shapes, round or elongated. Round bowls are usually less expensive and take up less space, measuring roughly two inches less than their elongated counterparts. “If you can fit it into your design, I recommend an elongated bowl,” says Wade. An elongated bowl provides more support and comfort, and as this is becoming the shape of choice, it will be easier to find a replacement seat should you need one.

WATER USAGE
Toilets account for about 27 percent of the water used in the average home, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, with some models—depending on age—using between three and seven gallons per flush. By law, new toilets can’t use more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush, so if you have an old toilet, replacing it will be not only a decorative improvement, but a cost-saving one as well. “Good performance is key when it comes to toilets,” says Wade, “so look for products that are manufactured by well-known brands and that carry the WaterSense® label,” which indicates that they use 20 percent less water than the standard now required by law.

Delta SmartFit Tank-to-Bowl Connection

Delta's SmartFit Tank-to-Bowl toilet

INSTALLATION
Even if you choose the best toilet on the market, its performance will be compromised if it is not properly installed. “You’ll want to make sure that all external bowl and tank connections are tight and secure, that the flush valve and flapper are installed and functioning properly, and that the water supply line and fill valve are connected, tight, and leak-free,” says Wade.

Newcomers to the category, like the Delta toilets that feature SmartFit™ Tank-to-Bowl Connection, make installation even easier for the do-it-yourselfer. The design uses a metal bracket mounted on the underside of the tank to secure the three anchoring bolts snugly to the bowl. By eliminating the holes typically found in the bottom of the tank for this purpose, the new Delta toilet reduces potential leak points—and the cracks often caused by overtightening. The toilet comes boxed with everything needed for installation—from tank, bowl, and seat, to mounting hardware, tools, and wax ring—making it a smart homeowner replacement buy.

For a look at just how easy it is to swap out your toilet, watch the Delta video below:

 


Buyer’s Guide: Tubs

From bare-bones functionality to almost unimaginable luxury, today's tubs offer a dizzying range of styles, features, sizes, and materials. Here's how to navigate the bubbly waters and find the perfect tub for you.

How to Choose a Bathtub - Niahome

Photo: niahome.com

Equal parts meditative and functional, today’s bathroom has been transformed into a spa, a place to unwind and refresh the body. Situated at the heart of this relaxation center is the tub. Once a utilitarian device, the tub has become a glamorous and, in many cases, exciting feature in bathroom design. These days, when it comes to choosing a tub, the possibilities are nearly limitless. Options include soakers and whirlpools; classic claw-footed models; contoured shapes, ovals, squares, and rounded; tubs with neck rests and armrests; tubs set into platforms; and tubs you step down into—or even walk into. All this variety comes at a price, so it’s important to remember that the total cost of a tub will reflect the amount of technology involved as well as the type of finish and material.

“It used to be that bathtubs were just a tub-and-shower combination, with the primary goal being showering and cleansing the body. Today, bathtubs are often separate from the shower, with the sole purpose of soaking to relax and unwind,” says Gray Uhl, director of brand education at American Standard. Buying a tub is no longer a simple decision, and because a tub can be an expensive and permanent purchase, it is very important to do the research before you actually buy.

Before shopping for a tub, first ask yourself how you like to bathe. Do you prefer a long lingering soak, or an invigorating whirlpool massage? Factor in how important bathing and other uses of a tub are to you and your family. Taking this opportunity to evaluate your goals and lifestyle before choosing a tub can be well worth the time investment.

TUB MATERIAL

Fiberglass: This is a lightweight, moldable material. A fiberglass tub is the least expensive type you can buy. Unfortunately, it’s prone to scratching and doesn’t wear well, lasting about a dozen years. Fiberglass with an acrylic finish will hold up longer.

Porcelain-Enameled Steel: This is a steel-based material covered in porcelain enamel. The result is a low-cost, smooth, glossy, and durable finish that is easy to clean.

How to Choose a Bathtub - American Standard

American Standard's Spectra Cast Iron Tub at Wayfair ($1,050)

Enamel-Coated Cast Iron: This classic material will endure as long as your house stands. Because of its heavy weight, especially when filled with water, it is not recommended for large soaking tubs, and it’s best used on ground floors.

Acrylic: This is a type of plastic featuring a high-gloss finish and excellent durability. Solid acrylic is a mid-price-range product that is more durable than fiberglass. Another plus: Scratches are less noticeable because the color is solid all the way through.

Because it is easy to mold into shapes, acrylic is a popular material for uniquely shaped whirlpools with molded armrests and other detailing. It’s also lightweight, an important feature in large tubs that can put damaging stress on structural elements.

 

TYPES OF TUBS

Standard Bathtubs
The two most common tub sizes are 60 inches long by 30 inches wide and 60 inches long by 32 inches wide. A standard rectangular-shaped tub, however, will have a smaller dimensioned bathing well, measuring 55 inches by 24 inches at the top and narrowing to 45 inches by 22 inches at the very bottom. These are general bathtub dimensions for both cast iron and fiberglass tubs. When you’re shopping, be sure to choose a tub with a drain in the correct location, either left- or right-sided to correspond to your tub faucet and shower placement.

Claw-Footed Tubs
Popular since the 1800s, claw-footed tubs are very traditional. They are often generously scaled and typically made of cast iron. This style is usually expensive in part because of the porcelain enamel applied to the exterior and interior surfaces.

How to Choose a Bathtub - Kohler

Kohler's 66-inch Iron Works Clawfoot Tub at Lowe's ($3,687.64)

Freestanding Tubs
Unlike a standard tub, a freestanding tub is not surrounded by cabinetry or built into an alcove. The tub may stand on feet, or be skirted or encased with custom-built panels and a stone, tile, or marble deck. Designed to be self-supporting, this type of tub can serve as a luxurious focal point for any bathroom.

Soaking Tubs
Soaking tubs are usually deeper and wider than conventional tubs; some units are as long as 6.5 feet and sized to accommodate two adults. Soaking tubs can be found in many different styles, from the classic enameled cast iron Victorian style claw-foot to ultramodern acrylic vessels. Models can weigh between 225 to 2,000 pounds, not including the weight of the water, which can be significant—soaking tubs require 50 to 80 gallons of water at 8.3 pounds per gallon. Heating the water can also be an issue. A hot water booster can be installed to augment an existing water heater or, in some cases, an on-demand heater may be necessary.

Whirlpool Tubs
A popular choice today is the sunken whirlpool tub, which comes with an array of therapeutic and relaxing options in the form of multiple jets or single jets that are installed in the walls behind the tub. You can also choose from a wide assortment of sizes, shapes, and colors, including models that fit into the standard 5- to 6-foot tub space. Among the more basic types of whirlpool baths is the hydromassage, which uses a pump to recirculate bath water out of several jets strategically located in the tub walls. Another is the therapeutic air massage—or “air bath”—that features an air system that encases the tub, engulfing the bather with thousands of gentle bubbles that pour in from small holes in the bottom and sides of the tub.

Manufacturers like American Standard, Jacuzzi, and Kohler offer luxury systems with a combination of both massaging jets and soothing air bubble systems in one unit, as well as baths equipped with heaters that warm the air before it enters the tub. If you’re in the market for a whirlpool tub, you’ll want to choose one that features a quiet yet powerful pump motor, is UL listed and approved, and has a removable front apron for easy access to internal parts and maintenance.

How to Choose a Bathtub - Jacuzzi

Jacuzzi Finestra Walk-in Tub at Quality Bath ($6,925.75)

Walk-in Tub
For seniors, or anyone with mobility issues, the walk-in tub offers a simple solution that combines safety with revitalizing hydrotherapy. Walk-in bathtubs come in several convenient sizes and can even be installed in a standard bathtub space. The tub includes a comfortable, chair-height, built-in seat and a grab bar for added security. Jacuzzi offers a walk-in bathtub with their patented PointPro jet system, featuring high-volume, low-pressure pumps with a perfectly balanced water-to-air ratio to massage thoroughly yet gently. They’re arranged in precise locations that deliver a therapeutic massage and are fully adjustable. American Standard’s walk-in bathtub offers options like whirlpool, air spa, and combo massage systems. The tub also comes with a special Quick Drain feature that incorporates a powerful pump that removes bath water in less than two minutes.

 


Bob Vila Radio: Bath Venting

The bathroom is the most humid room in your home. Tubs, showers, and sinks all produce moisture, which can lead to peeling paint, unsightly stains, and the growth of mold and mildew. Your best defense is an effective ventilation fan, which removes moisture and odor and encourages the circulation of fresh air.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON BATH VENTING or read the text below:

bathroom-venting

Photo: familyhandyman.com

There are three basic types. The most common are ceiling-mounted fans, which are installed directly in the ceiling and vent into the attic or through the roof. Less prevalent are inline fans, where a grille in the bathroom connects via ductwork to a fan installed in the attic. A third option, wall-mounted fans, are (as the name implies) installed on an exterior wall and vent outside.

What size fan should you buy? Vent fan capacity is rated in CFMs, or cubic feet per minute. According to the Home Ventilating Institute, an effective bathroom vent fan should produce eight air exchanges each hour. One rule of thumb is to estimate 1 CFM per square foot of bathroom area. For example, an eight-by-ten-foot bathroom is 80 square feet, so you’d need a fan rated at least 80 CFM. If your bathroom is especially large, or if you have a whirlpool tub, you’ll probably need an even more powerful fan.

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: Whirlpool Tub Considerations

Even in an average-size bathroom, you can install a jetted tub but prior to making a purchase, take the time to weigh all factors.

Do you dream of reclining in a whirlpool tub as the warm water bubbles around you, washing away your cares? If so, maybe you’ll want to include a jetted tub in your next bathroom renovation.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON WHIRLPOOL TUB CONSIDERATIONS or read the text below:

Installing a Whirlpool Tub

Photo: examiner.com

If you’re swapping out a standard 60-inch tub, the good news is that you can get a whirlpool tub to fit in that space. The bad news is that it probably won’t supply the luxurious soaking you had in mind, so you may not use it often enough to justify the cost. Before you buy, sit in one in a showroom or supply center to be sure you’re comfortable in it.

When you’re choosing a tub, note where the motor is located. You’ll need access to it if you ever need to make any repairs. Depending on your floor plan, access could be in a nearby closet or vanity, in an adjacent room, or even through the basement ceiling.

Also check your water heater’s capacity. Whirlpool tubs are deeper than regular tubs and hold more water. Your water heater should be able to hold about two-thirds of the tub’s capacity. And these tubs can be heavy, so your flooring may need to be reinforced to support the weight and withstand the vibration.

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: Small Bath Sinks

Choosing the right sink for a small bathroom can make all the difference, physically and visually.

Choosing a sink for a small bath can be challenging. Choices are limited, and even if you find a sink that physically fits a space, it can still visually dominate a tiny room. Here’s a rundown of sink designs that suit small baths.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON SMALL BATH SINKS or read the text below:

Small Bath Sinks

Photo: pastelpatterns.com

Wall-mounted sinks are naturals for small baths because the open space below makes the room feel bigger. Some styles are great for retro-style baths; other sleek, modern versions are perfect for contemporary interiors. But wall-mounted sinks can give off an institutional vibe, they offer no storage, and the basins tend to be very small.

Pedestal sinks are also good choices: They take up less space than a vanity, and they add sculptural drama. Since they lack storage, look for models that have wide rims for accessories or soap, or are outfitted with an attached towel bar.

A console sink—a sink set on a table— is often outfitted with a bottom shelf that offers open storage. If  you need concealed storage, look for a petite vanity, but remember some of its limited storage will be eaten up by plumbing. Whatever the sink’s overall dimensions may be, pay close attention to the width and depth of the actual basin. A small basin may be fine in a powder room, but you’ll want something bigger in a full-function bathroom.

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: Replace a Toilet Seat

The range of available styles and options make choosing a new toilet seat a little more challenging than it used to be, but the actual task of replacement couldn't be easier. Here's what to do.

How to Replace a Toilet Seat

Photo: shutterstock.com

Though certainly not cutting edge, toilet seat design has witnessed a tide of innovation in recent years. So if you are planning to replace a toilet seat, especially if it’s been some time since you last perused the selection at your local home improvement center, keep an eye out for these key features:

Quiet closing: Gone are the days of toilet seats’ banging closed. Select a product with hinges designed to let the seat down gently.

Molded bumpers: The simple, no-nonsense advantage of molded-in-place bumpers? They do not break in the course of regular use.

Colors: Toilet seats now come in dozens of colors. One manufacturer, Bemis, offers a color selector tool to help homeowners navigate the field of available options.

Cleaning: The better the seat, the easier it is to remove for cleaning. Find a product that can be taken off with nothing more than a screwdriver.

Durability: Choose a toilet seat with stainless steel or zinc-plated hinge posts, which neither snap nor corrode as they hold the toilet seat in place.

Versatility: For kids, there are “trainer” models that have built-in, removable potty seats; for senior citizens, some toilet seat models feature side arms with slip-resistant grips.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Replacement toilet seat kit
- Penetrating oil
- Adjustable wrench

How to Replace a Toilet Seat - Kit

Toilet seat replacement kit. Photo: JProvey

Different toilet seats require slightly different methods of installation. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to understand the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the product you have chosen.

One thing is certain: Today’s toilets seats are so easy to install that removing the old one is likely to be the most difficult step in the process. If your existing toilet seat fastens to the bowl by means of metal hardware, the dampness and humidity of the bathroom may have corroded the hinges, making the nuts tough to remove. If so, spray each nut with a penetrating oil, such as WD-40, then wait 10 minutes and try again.

Once you’ve succeeded in removing the old toilet seat, proceed to install the new one. Few tools are required, because more often than not, it’s a simple matter of nuts and bolts. Slide the bolt through the appropriate holes in the toilet seat and bowl. Then, with an adjustable wrench, apply torque to the nut situated beneath the bowl. The larger or more elongated the nut, the easier your job is going to be. Some toilet seat replacement kits may require the use of a tool specially designed for tight spaces.

Will these new easy-install toilet seat designs prove their durability over time? We’ll find out. In the meantime, consider posting a sign over the toilet that warns, “No standing!”