Category: Bathroom

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


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Regardless of whether you are replacing an outdated vanity or renovating the entire space, bathroom remodeling can be an expensive proposition.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


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


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


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


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


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.

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.

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

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


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.


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.



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.