Category: Bathroom

Bathroom Decorating Ideas

Read up on exciting, easy-to-implement bathroom decorating ideas for every budget.

Bathroom Decorating Ideas


Whether you consider it an in-home escape from your hectic day or simply somewhere to wash up, the bathroom is one place in your home everyone is sure to visit. Making the most of  a small space is always a good idea, and turning larger master bathrooms into spa-like getaway rooms is a growing trend.

The following are some bathroom decorating ideas for any bathroom, no matter how much or how little you are looking to spend.

Make Simple Things Count
One of the easiest ways to update your bath cabinets—and add pizzaz—is to swap out the old hardware for new. You will have no problem finding an abundance of designs at retailers, which fit your style and budget. Before you fall in love with a new pull, knob or handle, be sure to measure the distance between holes to make sure the swap requires nothing more than a screwdriver, and consider the finish on the hinges to prevent clashing.

A simple can of paint can also go a long way in transforming your bathroom. As Executive Editor Larry Bilotti shared in a blog post, a coat of Ralph Lauren paint was all it took to freshen the look of a bathroom in his weekend home. Not sure which colors to go for? Consider black and white, a classic kitchen trend that has made its way to the bathroom.

Adding a new piece of furniture can also spice up the room. Consider putting in a new vanity table or mirror; go all the way and install Electric Mirror’s Visionary™ LED & TV Medicine Cabinet, which features LED lighting, audio system, 15-inch television, and waterproof remote. Anyone want to watch the news?

Bathroom Decorating IdeasAdd Some Ambiance
Spa elements—including showers that double as steam rooms, Jacuzzis and decadent soaking tubs, mini-bars and warming trays for towels—are all common bathroom decorating ideas nowadays. “People are spending more time in their baths because it’s a retreat from busy lifestyles,” says Susan Marinello, Principal Design Director of Susan Marinello Interiors in Seattle, WA. “It makes sense that they want the spa elements that help them to relax and rejuvenate.”

Although the sky’s the limit, you can have a luxurious master bathroom even on a budget. “There are some really low-cost tricks you can use to create a spa environment,” says Los Angeles interior designer Leslie Harris. “All lights should be on a dimmer, and a sound system or even an iPod if you can’t wire for speakers goes a long way towards creating a relaxing environment.” You can also install electric heating pads under the flooring material. “You can just heat a three-foot by three-foot pad in front of the vanity or shower and really enhance the bathroom experience,” Marinello explains.

Of course, don’t forget that little luxuries go a long way. Place fresh flowers and scented candles on your countertops, stock up on wonderful soaps and body scrubs and a few super-fluffy towels. Natural and soothing blues, greens, and gold are perfect. Touches of nature go a long way, as well;  add a window garden or hang framed photographs of your dream mountain getaway.

Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers, and Sinks
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options
How To: Create a Spa Bath at Home

Bathroom Remodeling 101

Bathroom remodeling is one of the most common home renovations.

Bathroom Remodeling

One of the most common home renovations is the addition of a bathroom. Most older houses were built with no more than one bath; in today’s world, there’s almost no such thing as too many baths. In new construction, the rule of thumb is at least one bath for the master bedroom, one bath for every two additional bedrooms, and a half-bath (toilet and sink) near the relaxation area of the house. If you have fewer baths, that may be why you’re reading this article.

You know whether your bathroom facilities are adequate or not. But there are other questions you need to ask yourself as you continue your inspection tour. Is there an electrical outlet in the bathroom and, if so, is it a ground-fault interrupter (GFI) receptacle? This is a safety device that functions as a second fuse and will, in the event of a fault in the ground, shut off power to the outlet and prevent electrical shock. They’re recognizable by their small, rectangular reset buttons located between the plug receptacles.

Is the water pressure adequate? Run the cold water in the tub or shower and then flush the toilet: If the volume of running water diminishes noticeably, the pressure is low. Do you need a second sink? Is there enough ventilation, or does the bathroom fill with steam and remain damp for hours after every shower? Is the tile around the bath or shower tight or are there signs of deterioration at the corners or at the junction between the tile and the tub or shower base? Use the heel of your hand to exert some gentle pressure on the tile walls at the point where they join the tub or shower pan. Is there any give? Springy tile may indicate the wall has gotten damp and deteriorated over the years. The absence of a grout line and the presence of mold are signs that water may be seeping into the wall cavities.

Are the porcelain fixtures in good condition or is there cracking or pitting? Are any of the fixtures of a certain age? Older fixtures, even if they have age lines, can add character. Pedestal sinks, claw-foot tubs, and pull-chain toilets are cherished by some home renovators.

Examine the floors around the toilet: Irregularities in the floor (dips, discoloration, softness) may indicate leakage that has caused decay in the subfloor or even the structure around the toilet. That will need to be repaired. Examine the floors around the perimeter of the room, too. Like kitchens, bathroom floors require wet mopping and if the joint where the floor abuts the walls isn’t watertight, moisture can be wicked by the walls and produce peeling paint or wallpaper and, over the long term, deterioration of the wall itself.

Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options

Find the type of bathroom flooring that withstands moisture, looks attractive and feels good underfoot.

Porcher Lutezia Collection. Photo: Porcher

When it comes to bathroom flooring, you’ll find a wealth of options to fit any budget and style. Keep in mind the needs of the people who will be using the bath as you make selections, then let your style preference and budget be your guide. Choices abound, but stick with materials that can withstand moisture, look attractive, and feel good under bare feet. Some of the more popular options include:

Ceramic tile. This material tops many lists because it offers variety, durability, and good looks (a few even mimic stone). It is also fairly inexpensive and highly waterproof. On the downside, ceramic can be cold and slippery when wet. Choose textured finishes or smaller tiles that require more grout, thereby providing better traction.

Vinyl. A budget-conscious favorite (about $10-$13 per square yard), vinyl is available in 6- or 12-foot wide sheets or as tiles that are typically 12- to 18- inches square. While sheet vinyl is seamless and won’t come up like tiles tend to do, it is more difficult to install than the DIY-friendly vinyl tile. Both are soft underfoot, resist moisture, and are easy to clean.

Hardwood. Few materials can match the warm, inviting characteristics of wood, but moisture issues give reason to be cautious. Consider it a viable option if you’re willing to put on extra coats of varnish, make sure there are no gaps where moisture can sneak in, wipe up any water spills right away, and install a high-efficiency vent to help keep humidity in check. If you’re not up for that kind of maintenance, take a look at engineered wood, which has a plywood base that better withstands moisture.

Carpet. In general, carpet and baths don’t mix, but modular carpet tiles—like Flor—are one exception. Super easy for do-it-yourselfers to install on top of existing surfaces, these tiles have an antimicrobial backing to inhibit the growth of mold and bacteria. Plus, they come in numerous colors and patterns and can easily be pulled up, dried, and replaced.

Natural stone. Flooring like marble, limestone, and granite requires a strong subfloor and some deep pockets, but there’s no denying it makes an impressive style statement in a bath. If you’ve ever walked on slippery wet rocks along the coast or in the woods, you’ll know firsthand that these natural beauties require textured or honed surfaces to make them safe.

Cork. If you’re looking for something a little different, check out this natural material that readily resists mold and mildew and feels soft and natural underfoot.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks
How to: Create a Spa Bath at Home

Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers, and Sinks

Consider lifestyle when shopping for tubs, showers and sinks.

Bathroom Fixtures

Kohler Blove Cast-Iron Bath in White and Loure Deck-Mount. Photo: Kohler

Lifestyle is an important consideration when selecting tubs and showers. For instance, while people often fall in love with the looks and the idea of a sculptural soaker tub or air tub, both units require lots of water as well as ample time to truly enjoy. Likewise, while a cultured marble tub (a limestone and polyester resin material coated with a gel) mimics the look of marble without the high expense or the worries of cracking and etching, this material would be ill-suited to a family bath where kids would quickly damage the surface.

Cast iron and acrylic are popular and reasonable material choices for most bathrooms. Cast iron is highly durable, retains heat well, and is built to last, but it is more expensive than most other materials and requires sturdy floor support due to its heavy weight. Acrylic (also called fiberglass) has a high-gloss finish that is similar to cast iron, but is more affordable and lightweight enough to be molded into various shapes and designs. It won’t retain heat like cast iron, and it will scratch easier, though repairs are generally inexpensive.

Showers, like tubs, come in varied shapes and sizes. You can opt for inexpensive shower units that are installed with a tub, or indulge in a large shower for two with spa-like rainheads, chromatherapy, and beautiful floor-to-ceiling tile.

Bathroom cabinets and sinks are also hardworking components that need to be chosen for their function as much as their style. Otherwise, you might just find yourself steaming as you attempt to balance toiletries on the edge of a pedestal sink. Expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars on cabinets, realizing that you usually get what you pay for. Here are some things to consider when choosing cabinetry and sinks for different types of bathrooms:

A family bath will have multiple users and incur a steady amount of wear and tear. Consider a double sink vanity that will increase efficiency if you have room. Think twice about vessel sinks in a family bath, as you’ll likely spend a lot of time wiping up after the kids. Choose durable countertops like laminate, solid surface, or engineered stone and quality cabinets with ample storage. Conventional cabinetry that is floor mounted with a toe kick is a good choice for family bathrooms. Just avoid cabinets made from processed wood products as they do not stand up well to moisture.

For a master bath, you have more options, but will still want quality cabinetry and ample storage. Furniture-style vanities are an attractive choice, as are vessel sinks. If you opt for a pedestal sink or two, consider building stylish floor-to-ceiling storage towers nearby.

For a powder room, you have the most varied material choices because moisture is not an issue, and you’ll need less storage space, too. Pedestal sinks, vanities made from antique dressers, and small vanities with marble tops are all options here.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
How to: Create a Spa Bath at Home
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options

Quick Tip: Budget-Smart Bathroom Remodeling

Five tips from the pros to help keep your bathroom remodeling budget in check.

Photo: Delta

As with any home improvement project, it’s smart to approach bathroom remodeling with special attention to budget—particularly since the national average for a bath redo is around $16,634, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report. But a new bath will not only provide greater comfort, appeal and usefulness for you and your family, it will also offer a good return on investment. A mid-range bath remodel can see a 70% return on investment—even higher in certain regions of the country.

You can do a lot to control expenditures as you plan. Here are five “budget-smart” tips from the pros to help you plan your best bathroom remodel:

Go with classic style.  Choose fixtures and materials that are classic, in timeless colors and made from high-quality, natural materials. Ornate decorative tiles, vessel sinks and bright, bold colors may appeal to your taste, but not a prospective buyer. Wall color can be changed easily enough, but avoid permanent fixtures and materials that are too exotic or extravagant. The investment will be more recoverable if you stick with the classics.

Consider stock options.  Take advantage of stock cabinetry and vanities that come in standard sizes, which lowers the price.  Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have a full array of bathroom cabinetry. Look for well-built, solid wood cabinets to make certain they will hold up to bathroom moisture conditions and daily use and abuse.

Use tile selectively. ”Tile is really the thing that makes a statement in a bath,” says Julie Williams, CKD, CKB, owner of Julie Williams Design in Novato, California, but it can also add considerable cost. “Consider finding an affordable field tile and combining it with more extravagant accent tiles,” she adds.

Evaluate space and needs. Check out adjacent closets or hallways to see whether you can annex some extra square footage. Or rethink how you use current fixtures. “In master baths, lots of people are foregoing a tub in lieu of a bigger shower and more space,” says Anissa Swanzy, co-owner of SKD Studios in Lusby, Maryland. “They realize it takes a lot of water to fill a tub, and they don’t have time to soak anyway.”

Put your money where it counts. Most professionals agree that you want to put your money into permanent things, like good solid cabinets that meet storage needs and any plumbing behind the walls. “No one wants to break through a beautiful tile wall to fix the plumbing,” says Nanae Nakahara, CKD, CKB, owner of Elegance Redesigned in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When planning your remodeling project, take advantage of online tools.  For a ballpark figure of what a bath renovation costs in your area, check out the bath estimating tool on Improvenet. For space planning, consider Kohler’s virtual bathroom planning tool as an alternative to playing around with sketches on paper.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks
Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling

Planning Guide: Bathroom Remodeling

Bathroom remodeling ideas you might consider, including approaches to design, storage, materials, and fixtures.

Bathroom Remodeling Ideas

Kohler Tresham Collection. Photo: Kohler

Bathrooms continue to top homeowners’ lists of popular rooms to remodel—and for good reason. As more Americans are carefully investing in their homes rather than selling, they realize the value of a bath redo extends beyond enjoying new decor. Per Remodeling magazine’s 2010-2011 Cost vs. Value Report, midrange bath remodels get a 70% return on investment—even higher in certain regions or neighborhoods. That means if you spend the national average of $16,634 to remodel, you will not only enjoy a new bath, but you’ll also recoup $11,643 or more when you sell. (And having an updated bath just might give you a seller’s edge in a slow market.)

As with any home improvement project, it’s smart to spend with care. Begin the process by deciding how much you’d be comfortable investing in a bath, then do some research and familiarize yourself with the basics. This guide will provide useful information about design considerations, storage solutions, and tips for choosing materials and fixtures.

Most baths are modest in size (50-70 square feet), but that doesn’t stop homeowners from dreaming big. To get a realistic perspective on what’s possible, look through design books, magazines, and websites for ideas. Visit home shows and designer showrooms where you can open drawers, feel jet sprays, and really ‘kick the tires.’

“I always ask what it is about a client’s existing bath that they don’t like,” says Nanae Nakahara, CKD, CKB, owner of Elegance Redesigned in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Are the cabinets too small or do they not like the colors? Some people think that if they just put in everything new, they’ll be happy. But you need to carefully consider the space and budget to get the very best out of it.”

Here are some key points to get you started:

How will the bath be used? It may sound obvious, but first take note of who will be using the bathroom and how, says Nakahara. Are you redoing a family bath that receives lots of wear and tear? Or are you going for a spa-like master bath to soak your cares away? Determining the needs of the inhabitants will give you key direction on materials, storage, and space needs.

Set a budget. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), a non-profit trade association, bathrooms can be one of the priciest rooms to remodel on a cost-per-square foot basis, partly due to the fact that there are numerous water, electrical and plumbing issues. Still, there are options to suit almost any budget. “To share a few examples: a master suite with all the amenities and luxurious materials in a major metro area could reach $100,000,” states the NKBA Bathroom Planning Guide (available as a free download at “However, a lovely yet modest makeover in a smaller town might be achieved for less than $10,000.” For planning purposes, the NKBA recommends allotting 20% of your budget for installation, 16% for cabinetry and hardware, and 15% for fixtures. For a ballpark figure of what a bath renovation costs in your area, check out this estimating tool at Improvenet.

Make a plan. “One of the first things we tell clients is to look at the entire space rather than how it’s being used right now,” says Anissa Swanzy, co-owner of SKD Studios in Lusby, Maryland. “Lots of times people can’t imagine it any other way or they can’t see the full potential for themselves. If you’re doing a cosmetic update, then it’s expensive to move the toilet, but if you’re doing a major remodel, then moving the toilet is a small price to pay to have an efficient floor plan in the end.” Check out adjacent closets or hallways to see whether you can annex some extra square footage. Or rethink how you use current fixtures. “In master baths, lots of people are foregoing a tub in lieu of a bigger shower and more space,” says Swanzy. “They realize it takes a lot of water to fill a tub, and they don’t have time to soak anyway.”

Whatever choices you finally make, leave room to breathe. The NKBA suggests at least 30 inches of space in front of any fixture. Play around with sketches on paper or try out Kohler’s virtual bathroom planner.

Find storage solutions. “When you’re looking at cabinetry, try to get as much storage as you can,” Swanzy advises. “We’re doing big tall armoire cabinets between two sinks and floor-to-ceiling pantry-style cabinets.” The right depth of storage is important, too. “Most people provide too deep of storage, but then things just get piled up in front of each other,” says Julie Williams, CKD, CKB, owner of Julie Williams Design in Novato, California. “I tend to go 15 inches deep but 30 inches wide. That way you can see everything at a glance.” Williams also tries to create a separate toilet room whenever possible, adding floor-to-ceiling storage on one wall of that room for things that aren’t used everyday. That leaves the vanity storage less crowded.

Review safety matters. In the interest of health and safety, baths need proper ventilation, good lighting, and non-slip flooring to prevent falls.

For more on bathroom remodeling, consider:
Bathroom Essentials: Tubs, Showers and Sinks
How to: Create a Spa Bath at Home
Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options

2011 Bathroom Trends

Read for trends from the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.

2011 Bathroom Trends


Cleanliness, conservation, and comfort—welcome to the 21st-century bathroom, which was highlighted prominently by many new products at the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas.

For those seeking an enhanced shower experience, an array of new products were on display.  For instance, Jason International’s new Zero Threshold-TZ3260 shower base is designed for new and retro-fit installations, with easy, barrier-free entry, a seat where one can rest while showering, and a slip-resistant floor.  Another company, Jet Pro Shower Spas , offers a unit that replaces the existing shower valve with a unit that provides a rainfall-type shower experience. And Moen ’s Flushmount body sprays feature adjustable spray faces that can pivot the water up to 20 degrees in any direction, providing a multidirectional, full-body shower experience, with a design that fits against the shower walls to facilitate installation and servicing.  QuARTz by Aco is one of the shower manufacturers that aims to balance design and function considerations, with its linear drainage systems that allow level shower designs and, in some cases, provide water-activated lighting.

And when you think bath, think “micro bubble.”  Cashido Corporation ’s Cabozi system, which installs under your bathtub, provides a whirlpool function at the touch of a button.  The company describes the product as a body-friendly experience in which billions of micro bubbles cleanse, soften, and smooth your skin and aid relaxation.  Jason International , meanwhile, promises similar benefits for mind and body with its Microsilk™ system, offered on 53 of its bathtub models, promising the therapeutic effects of billions of micro bubbles.

The bath massage experience is also the focus of several manufacturers, including Kohler , CG Air Systems and Foshan Korra Bath Ware .  Kohler’s Elevance Rising Wall Bath, which comes with a Bubble Massage option to supplement its main features, including easy entry and chair-height seating.  CG’s installations allow the upgrading of an existing bathtub with its electronic Integrated Air Massage System, while Foshan offers a line of computer-controlled massage bathtubs, featuring a modern acrylic/fiberglass design and six or eight massage nozzles.

It would seem that efforts to build a better mousetrap have been overtaken by the attempt to build the ultimate toilet—a toilet that never overflows, conserves water, eliminates bathroom tissue, cleans easily, and, in some cases, offers entertainment.

Function figures most strongly in Penguin Toilets ’ Model 524, a Water Sense-rated unit that features built-in overflow protection and, in language that a plumber would love, “good bowl rinse.”  Inax USA offers eco-friendly toilets for a variety of budgets and design schemes, including its Eco-X series, with a powerful flushing system that minimizes water usage and has an easy-to-clean antibacterial finish.  The Regio integrated toilet takes toilet technology up several notches:  a sound system, heated seat, double power deodorizing, automatic flushing, and dual nozzle bidet, and antibacterial finish can be yours for $7,000 and above.

The universal presence of toilets is clearly an invitation for add-ons.  Brondell ’s Swash 1000 advanced bidet toilet seat, which fits an estimate 98% of toilets, offers varied nozzle positions, wide spray option, and nozzle oscillation for optimal cleansing and hygiene.  An adjustable heated seat, warm air dryer and automatic deodorizer complete this “ultimate bidet seat experience.” And  Jon-E-Vac offers its Toilet Ventilating System as an easy-to-install product that uses fans and antimicrobial agents to remove bacteria and odor directly from the toilet bowl.

The “Ultimate” Experience
For the “ultimate” bathroom experience, Electric Mirror offers its Visionary™ LED & TV Medicine Cabinet, which has LED lighting, an audio system, a 15-inch television, and a waterproof remote.  Anyone want to watch the news?

Low-Flow Toilets 101

Save money and conserve water with energy low-flow toilets.

Low-Flow Toilets


The EPA declares that an estimated 4.8 billion gallons of water are flushed down the toilet every day. According to the American Water Works Association, the average household uses 20 to 28 gallons per day just to flush the toilet. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 took a step in reducing water waste by mandating that all new toilets produced for residential conform to a 1.6-gallon-per-flush (gpf) standard, moving away from conventional 3.5-gpf to 5-gpf models.

To encourage homeowners to replace conventional toilets with low-flush models, some states and municipalities offer tax incentives, rebates, and vouchers.

San Diego’s Water Conservation Program, for example, offers vouchers for commercial and residential replacement of 3.5 gpf or higher toilets with water-conserving models. Residents can save as much as $165 by using a voucher when replacing an old water-hogging toilet with a water-conscious version. A $165 voucher used on a $250 water-efficient toilet can mean payback in as little as two years, depending on the region. A homeowner should check into local or state incentives for toilet replacement.

Improved Performance
The first low-flush (1.6 gpf) models had trouble clearing the bowl, often requiring more than one flush, which defeats the purpose of a low-flush toilet. To counter these complaints, ultra-low-flush toilets (ULFTs) soon appeared on the market with improved flushing-mechanisms and design improvements. Modified tanks, elongated bowls, and increased flushing velocity ensured improved performance using less water. “It was essentially a change in bowl shape, water flow, and trap design,” says Rob Zimmerman, Kohler’s Senior Staff Engineer of Water Conservation Initiatives.

Like conventional toilets, ULFTs come in gravity-fed and pressurized versions. Pressurized models are criticized for excessive flushing noise, prompting industry manufacturers to take notice. “Our Highline Pressure Lite model is a pressurized toilet that uses 1.1 gallons per flush,” says Zimmerman. “Improvements in the hydraulic system have resulted in a quieter flush. It’s still louder than a gravity-fed toilet, but it doesn’t sound like an airplane taking off.”

High-Efficiency and Dual-Flush Options
The toilet industry’s leaders in water conservation are the high-efficiency toilets (HET) and dual-flush toilets. The industry defines an HET as a toilet that uses 20 percent less than the 1.6-gpf low-flush or ultra-low-flush models, or 1.28 gallons of water per flush.

With the introduction of HETs, some municipal and community water-saving incentive programs have updated their incentive offers. In San Diego, an HET replacement can be worth up to $165 per toilet, while a 1.6-gpf ULFT earns $75 per fixture. HETs are one of the highlighted categories under the EPA’s new WaterSense program, which approves, promotes, and labels water-efficient products just as the Energy Star program certifies energy-efficient products.

Using Glass Tile for a Handcrafted Look

Epoxy grout ensures a durable installation of glass tile.

Glass Tile

Photo: Richard Bubnowski Design

Glass tile is gaining in popularity over ceramic tile as the surface of choice in home tiling projects. Although typically more expensive than ceramic tile, glass tile adds a handcrafted, artistic quality that is easily worth the cost.

Unique Appearance
Glass tile comes in a variety of forms and colors, which depend on the process used to create them. Some tiles are cut and cold-cooled while others are melted, cast, and cooled. “In cold-manufacturing, there is no heat, just cutting of the glass,” says Grace Kalina of Boyce & Bean, a glass and clay manufacturing company in California. “On the other hand, cast glass involves mixing sands and chemicals and melting them in a tank, which is then dropped into trays for cooling.”

The end result can vary by color, thickness, size, and shape. Some glass tiles contain tiny bubbles within each tile, which create a “still wet” look and makes for individual tiles that, like snowflakes, are one-of-a-kind. The varieties of glass tile allow for endless customization options, and its versatility opens the door to indoor and outdoor projects alike.

Glass is not always associated with durability, but in truth glass tile can be just as strong and long lasting as ceramic tile. By nature, glass tile retains certain properties that make it more resilient than ceramic tile. “Glass tile is not porous,” Kalina says, “so it does not absorb moisture.” Moisture penetration is the enemy of any tile project since it can spell mold and mildew. There is no such worry with glass tile as long as it is properly installed.

Glass Tile Installation
Most tile installers will tell you there’s not much difference between installing ceramic tile and installing glass tile. “Installing glass tile is pretty straightforward,” says Thomas Hubbard, a tile installer in Burlington, Vermont. “Some installers get hung-up on the cutting of the glass, but in all it’s not that difficult to install.” Hubbard typically sees glass tile used as an accent, but it can be used for larger projects, including entire walls, or shower ceilings.

Like ceramic tile, installing glass tile involves setting the glass onto the work surface. Since glass tile is translucent, the thin-set is usually white; so as to maintain a clear background that doesn’t affect the glass color. “With glass tile, which is see-through, the thin-set or subsurface must be perfect,” says Kalina. “If the tile is used in the bottom of a swimming pool, for example, the thin-set must be smoothed out or it will show.”

Grout for Long-Lasting Beauty
Grout will also impact the durability and look of the glass tile installation. Epoxy grouts are becoming popular for use with glass tile because of their longevity, strength, and relationship with the glass. Grouts like SpectraLOCK or Kerapoxy have a chemical composition that resists stains and breakdown. They are also non-porous and non-absorbent.

When mixed with antimicrobial products such as Microban, epoxy grouts also inhibit the growth of mold or mildew, a common occurrence with regular cement grout. “Cement-based grouts absorb moisture, so you have to seal the grout every two years,” Hubbard says.

Non-absorbent epoxy grouts require little maintenance, so while they may cost more than cement grout up front, they more than make up for it over time. The rubbery plastic-like characteristics of epoxy grouts make for a more challenging application, and a stronger finished product. “It takes a lot of elbow grease,” says Hubbard: “It also takes a lot of washing after. I’ll go over it several times with a light vinegar and water mix.”

Epoxy grouts come in a variety of colors, can be mixed with additives to adjust hue or create sparkles, and will not fade or change color over time. Set times for epoxy grouts are comparable to their cement counterparts.  “I usually recommend staying off it for 24 hours,” Hubbard advises.

Green Bathroom Makeover

Quick and easy "green" bathroom updates.

Green Bathroom

Photo: David Baker + Partners

From water conservation to efficient lighting and green cleaning, the bathroom is an ideal room to make eco-friendly. Major changes can be made in a remodel or new construction, but a quick green bathroom makeover is possible, too.

“Going green should not be an option, it should be the first thought,” says Jeff Smoler, ASID, ASFD, of J.E.S. Designs in Northbrook, IL. “Going green is almost a state of mind. Once you decide to do it, price seems to not be at the forefront.” However, essential to any bathroom design—green or not—is to keep with local building codes. They can guide you through any mandatory green bathroom improvements to be made, such as installing energy-efficient lighting, now required by many local electric utilities, Smoler says.

Quick Green Bathroom Makeover
ToiletsReplace an old toilet with one of today’s high-efficiency models. They offer several options to help you cut back on the nearly 30 percent of indoor water use that toilets represent. There are double-flushing toilets that have one button to eliminate liquid waste and a second button to deliver more water to clear solid waste. There are toilets that have air-assisted flushes, larger trapways, and wash-down rather than gravity-suction flushing.

Before you buy, check for a WaterSense label on any models you are considering. The label means that the toilet has met certain U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements for water efficiency and performance.

Cabinets. Consider green cabinets that will be produced using sustainable materials, such as bamboo, says Diana L. Patterson of Tucson, AZ, president-elect of the American Society of Interior Designers-Arizona South. “Avoid laminates as you are dealing here with glues and chemicals which are harmful and difficult to recycle. Solid wood cabinets are a better choice than laminate or plastic, but you want to choose easily replaceable, fast-growing woods such as willow, poplar, oak, eucalypts, since solid wood cabinets use many trees to produce.”

Moisture Control. With showering, bathing, and sink use, the bathroom is one room that could have a lot of moisture issues. Effective control is important to prevent respiratory and structural problems. Install a properly sized electric vent fan in the ceiling to remove moisture in the air and prevent mold or mildew from growing.

Updating. If changing out trim, look for items such as tile with recycled content or for materials with non-toxic finishes. Consider salvaged hardware to give a new look. If refreshing walls, use paints with low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Water Conservation
Add an easy-to-install low-flow aerator to your sink faucet. It will not only reduce water consumption by increasing the amount of air in the spray, but also help you save on the costs of heating water and on water and sewage bills.

Fit an aerator onto your showerhead or get a low-volume showerhead model with different spray patterns that will provide the sensation of higher-volume sprays. Some models come with features that let you temporarily shut off the water but keep the desired temperature while you are lathering up.

A leaky toilet can lose from several gallons to nearly 100 gallons a day. You may have already noticed a few of the clues: having to jiggle the handle to make it stop running, hearing toilet water sounds when it is not in use, or hearing the toilet water run for several seconds when no one has touched the handle. Replacing the toilet flush value is an easy, efficient way to stop leaking and save thousands of gallons of water per year.

Repair a dripping faucet so it stops wasting water and your money. Make this the time when you also green your behavior. Turn off the tap when you do not need running water.

Cleaning Products
Check your stock of bathroom cleaning supplies. Read the labels so you can be sure the ingredients are nontoxic and environmentally friendly. If they are not, dispose of them safely. Contact your local government office for information on disposal of residential toxics. Check the Greenguard Environmental Institute website for products such as toilet, glass and floor cleaners that it certifies as having met its eco-friendly criteria. Read up on options for green cleaning indoors.

Coming clean in the bathroom means more than just scrubbing up the room. Go for eco-friendly body products as well. If you need help in determining the safety of ingredients, check out the website of the Environmental Working Group. The nonprofit environmental research organization keeps an online database of products rated for safety.

Fluorescent lighting is by far the best choice for efficiency and low cost,” says Patterson. “Take care in disposing of these bulbs, but they will last for two to three years and manufacturers are producing fluorescent bulbs in all shapes and sizes now.”

And don’t forget the sun. Make the most of any natural lighting provided by bathroom skylights or windows.

Recycled and Organic
Take your eco-friendliness a few steps further. Consider towels and wash cloths colored with low-impact dyes and made with organic cotton that is grown without pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers.

For your facial tissues and toilet paper, consider switching to forest-friendly tissue products made of 100 percent post-consumer fiber. Greenpeace, an international environmental organization, provides an online guide to these sustainable products.

Want to make other rooms in your home greener? Check out The Green Kitchen, The Green Bedroom, and Design a Green Home Office.