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