Category: Bathroom


Bathroom Flooring: A Wealth of Options

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

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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.

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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.

PLANNING YOUR BEST BATH
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 nkba.org). “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

Photo: http://blog.europeansinkatlanta.com

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.

Showers
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.

Baths
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.

Toilets
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

Photo: sesshudesign.com

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.

Durability
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.

Lighting
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.


Bathroom Trends

The 2011 Kitchen and Bath Show revealed several new bathroom trends.

Bathroom Trends

Photo: Flickr

Home spas, water conservation and ornamental accessories on a budget are some of the bathroom trends being spotted by experts today.

“People want to get that spa retreat feel out of their bathrooms,” says Mark Karas, president-elect of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, which owns the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show and Conference, the largest gathering of kitchen and bath suppliers, designers and ideas. “They’re looking for that soaking tub separate from a shower. That’s the ultimate.”

At the same time, Karas says, homeowners are very interested in saving water for financial and environmental benefits. And while they still want quality hardware and sophisticated styles, homeowners are being more selective with where they spend their money.

“Everybody is budget-conscious today,” says Karas. “But the number-one thing people want is good design.”

The In-Home Spa
Having a free-standing tub and a separate shower is the ultimate in bathroom luxury for many, says Karas. Bathtubs that are long and deep provide the greatest escape, and whirlpool jets can make bathing a transformative experience. The Aveo freestanding bathtub by Villeroy & Boch, for example, uses a simple, contoured design to evoke tranquility and comfort. The tub is thirty seven inches wide and seventy five inches (more than six feet) long, which means you don’t just soak, you lounge.

Multiple showerheads make a shower luxurious today. The Techno M3 series showerhead from Cifial USA comes with six individual body sprays, including a handheld shower spray. The ioDIGITAL Vertical Spa from Moen adds technology to the equation to enhance your shower experience. In addition to multiple showerheads, it allows you to set water pressure and temperature to your exact specifications. Once you find your favorite setting, it can be saved for future use. LED indicators on the LCD screen tell you when you have reached your perfect water temperature, which means the days of stepping into a shower that’s too cold or too hot are gone. And because you can program up to four presets, you and your loved ones can have an individualized shower experience.

That warm shower feels so good it can be hard to step out of the stall. A towel warmer can make that transition less jarring. If price had held you off from this luxury, consider a Myson Pearl Tower Warmer. These units, which are plugged in the wall, start at $200. Not only will it warm your towel, it can quickly dry delicate clothing and reduce bathroom moisture, mildew and musty odors, as well as heat the room.

Water-Saving Solutions
While the multi-spray shower is the ultimate in shower luxury, it is not the best choice if water conservation is your goal. “More and more, the new shower products have low-flow heads on them, so you’re still getting what feels like a lot of water at fewer gallons per minute,” Karas says.

The Moen Nurture three-setting showerhead flows at 1.75 gallons per minute, which is less than the industry standard 2.5 gallons and with a thirty percent water savings. Its spiral-patterned spray face ensures full-body coverage.

Delta relies on H20kinetic technology to make a low-flow showerhead feel like much more. H20kinetic, found on many of its showerheads, uses larger droplets of water, which retain heat longer, and a dense spray pattern for “drenching coverage.” The technology is found on its six-spray shower system, meaning you can get the spa shower while using less water.

Toilet water conservation has come far from the days when homeowners were advised to put a brick in the reservoir to use less water with each flush. Dual flush, which has been used around the world for decades, is finally becoming mainstream in the United States. The Gerber Ultra Dual Flush gives users the options of two different kinds of flushes: the 1.1-gallon option is for light or liquid usage, and the 1.6-gallon flush is for solid waste. “When you consider that we’ve gone from three gallons, which used to be the standard, to 1.6, that’s a good savings,” Karas says.

Sustainability and green building, which was once touted as a “new” design choice, has thoroughly infiltrated bathroom trends. Dupont Zodiaq countertops, for example, are made from twenty-five percent recycled glass. The Wintergreen model features glass three-dimensionally suspended in light green quartz.

For combining eco-friendly solutions with outstanding design, consider a vanity made from Kirei Board. This conversation piece is made from a wood substitute of reclaimed sorghum straw and no-added-formaldehyde adhesive. It’s available for cabinetry and countertops. Kirei also manufactures a line of tile made from reclaimed coconut shells as well as bamboo light fixtures.

Metallic design schemes are also popular with bath designers today. Metallic tiles add high-end shine to a bathroom, but they can be pricey. To get the effect without breaking the bank, add a few signature pieces into your tile work, Karas says. Metaltec Innovations offers six-inch by six-inch 3D textured metal tiles featuring designs such as starfish and conch. If you have your own artistic vision, the company can turn your design into a custom tile. Newly popular metals have also found their way to the once-lowly bathroom sink. Linkasink’s Pantheon sink, made of bronze, is reminiscent of the geometric pattern found on the Pantheon in Rome. Other designs include botanical, wing, and brocade.

Using black and white as a color scheme is a popular trend in kitchens now being extended to the bath. The Kaldewei Luxxo Duo Oval bathtub is 75 inches long and 39 inches wide with a slick, shiny black surface. Dupont Zodiaq Terra Collection features “Licorice,” a black solid surface made from twenty-five percent recycled glass in a black quartz base, which is available in either a two- or three- centimeter thickness and it can be used for vanities, countertops or as a backsplash.


Childproofing the Bathroom

Eliminate the bathroom’s many dangers to keep the bathroom a fun place for children.

Photo: safebaby.com

Bathroom Access
Childproofing a room begins with some common-sense approaches. “So much of it doesn’t cost a cent,” says Peter Kerin, owner of Foresight Childproofing Inc., in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area. “It just costs a little bit of effort, a little bit of awareness.”

Since the bathroom is a high-traffic area, your childproofing approach has to be functional. It needs to keep children safe but let other family members use the bathroom with ease.

The best way to protect small children is to make sure they can’t get in unattended. “Until children are starting to be potty trained, they should not have free access to the bathroom,” Kerin says. To limit access, put a hook and eye or sliding bolt on the outside of the door, high above your child’s reach. You can also use a doorknob cover, which is available for both round knobs and lever-style handles and prevents the child from opening the latch. Make sure your child can’t get trapped in the bathroom by installing locks that can be opened from the outside.

Tubs, Toilets, and Sinks
“Water is definitely the main concern in the bathroom,” says Kelly Smith, owner of Totsafe in Macomb, MI, and author of Mommy Can Do It: A Do-It-Herself Guide to Baby-Proofing. Children can be scalded by it, slip on it, or drown in it. The easiest way to prevent scald burns is to set the thermostat on your water heater between 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Test baby’s bathwater on your wrist or use a water thermometer.

To minimize injuries, use a soft spout cover over the faucets. If you have decorative shower curtains, make sure the tiebacks are shorter than 12 inches to prevent strangulation. Watch children closely if you have a walk-in shower with doors that can shatter. “Glass shower doors are an extreme hazard for little kids,” Smith says.

Thce toilet can pose an especially attractive danger to young children. Not only is it unhygienic, but kids can fall in headfirst, get stuck, and drown. Various types of toilet latches can keep baby from lifting the lid. You don’t want kids climbing onto the toilet to access the sink, so have a little stool they can stand on to wash hands and brush teeth. A stool is also important for a child who is potty training. Look for a lightweight stool with a slip-resistant bottom and a wide, stable base. Those plastic caps on the bolts that connect the toilet to the floor are a potential choking hazard. They can come off, so you may want to remove them.

Storage Areas
Keep all cleaning supplies and hazardous materials as well as toilet brushes and plungers out or reach or locked up. Several types of safety latches are sold for cabinets and drawers, but Kerin feels many are ineffective. “An 18-month-old will circumvent most of them,” he says. He prefers the magnetic type that only opens with a magnetic key.

Make sure all razors, nail clippers, and scissors are inaccessible. Alcohol-laden mouthwashes and perfume should be put away. Toothpaste, which contains fluoride, can be a hazard. Medications and vitamins should be out of reach, be properly labeled, and have child-resistant caps. The garbage can is also filled with potential threats; keep it locked in a cabinet or use one with a cover secured with an adhesive strap.

Electric Hazards
Keep all appliances like hairdryers, curling irons, and electric razors locked away or out of reach; when they’re out, leave them unplugged and away from water. Cover electrical outlets with safety plugs or install a safety plate that slides over the receptacles when they’re not in use. Make sure all bathroom outlets have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). It’s good to have nightlights, but avoid ones with glass bulbs that can get hot or be broken.

Other Considerations
When selecting flooring, pick something with a textured surface to prevent slipping. And if you have a metal door stop the rubber tip can be a choking hazard, so it’s best to get a solid-rubber stop. Children can fall out of windows, so make sure they don’t open more than four inches. If the window has blinds, eliminate any cords that could strangle a child. To prevent falls in the tub, use a non-slip mat in the bottom, non-slip decals, or a slip-resistant coating. Handholds can minimize the chance of falls as kids get in and out of the bath.