Bathroom - 3/14 - Bob Vila

Category: Bathroom

Buyer’s Guide: Showerheads

Make sense of pressure, efficiency, and more in order to purchase the best device to transform your bathroom into a home spa.

Best Showerhead - Master Bathroom with Shower


There’s nothing quite like the sense of clean and calm that comes with a great shower after a long day’s work. One of the simpler pleasures in life, it washes away the stress of the day both literally and figuratively. Yet whether you’re fine-tuning choices for a bathroom remodel or just fed up with a drippy drizzle, you may need some assistance choosing the perfect showerhead. This guide, which includes recommendations of some highly rated models, will streamline the process and help you determine what you really want in terms of functions and features.

Pick your pressure. There was a time when showerheads merely sprayed—and over their lifespan, the plastic or metal nozzles were prone to blockages. Today, most are manufactured with silicone or a similar polymer far more resistant to scaling. Not only will you enjoy an uninterrupted stream, there are a host of mist options available to help you customize your cleanliness.
Aerating showerheads mix air and water to produce a misty, substantial spray, yet they may cool the water by as much as 15 degrees.
Laminar-flow showerheads offer a mighty yet less misty experience, through individual streams of water. They tend to be a bit pricier.
Rain showerheads have a large head and a wide, low-pressure spray pattern to give you the sensation of gentle precipitation.
Multi-setting models let you customize flow, with up to 12 shower experiences—from a trickle to a pulsing massage.

Choose your placement. Aside from spray options, the biggest difference between showerheads is wall- or ceiling-mounted and handheld. The mounted variety is more popular for its clean-lined look and ease of use. Handheld versions attached to a hose can be a real boon if you’ve got mobility issues, or if you’ll be bathing small children or pets. If you don’t wish to choose, you can have both, either a wall-mounted main head and an optional, often smaller handheld, or even a shower tower, with a number of wall- and ceiling-mounted heads plus a handheld.

What about water waste? No one wants to pour money down the drain, so for both economic as well as environmental reasons water efficiency is worth considering. Since 1994, federal law has required showerhead manufacturers to limit flow to 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Fortunately, even those that meet the EPA’s WaterSense guidelines by keeping flow under 2 gallons per minute can offer satisfying showers. (Note: In California, due to stricter water use regulation, WaterSense is a state law.)

Showered with Praise

We combed customer and critical reviews to help you narrow your choices. Here are three shower experiences that go to the head of the class:

Best Showerhead - Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Showerhead with H20Kinetic Technology


Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Shower Head with H2Okinetic Technology ($21)
With an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, this Delta showerhead creates a wave pattern from the water flow, producing the effect of more water being used than actually is. For households with varying water pressure preferences, its dual settings offer both a conservative high-power spray and an even more efficient setting with a slight adjustment. It meets the EPA’s WaterSense requirements, so it may reduce your water bill, too.

Best Showerhead - Toto TS200AL65 Showerhead


Toto TS200AL65-CP Showerhead ($49)
Wirecutter‘s team put this rain shower model through nearly 20 tests in a 240-shower exercise comparing nearly a dozen showerheads before declaring it the best of the best. It includes a high-pressure mist setting that’s both comforting and efficient, while a temporary-shutoff option further conserves water beyond its 2-gallon-per-minute flow. And its easy installation—under a minute, using only an adjustable wrench—is another plus.

Best Showerhead - Moen 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower


Moen Banbury 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower ($32)
For those seeking the flexibility of a handheld, this model—which overwhelmingly impressed Home Depot reviewers—offers five spray settings, from an energizing narrow-stream massage to a relaxing wide-stream option. Bonus: It’s available in a chrome, bronze, nickel, or white finish to blend with nearly any existing bathroom fixtures. But with its 2.5 gallon-per-minute flow, it’s not as water-conservative as some units.

Now that you know your options, don’t spend another day settling for an inferior spray. Purchase and put in the showerhead that suits your needs, then jump in and enjoy!

How To: Cut Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile affords a durable, attractive surface for floors and walls alike. If there's a ceramic tile job in your future, ensure quality results by first learning what tools you'll need and how best to use them to make a variety of cuts in tile.

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Prep for Cuts


A small- to medium-size ceramic tiling job is a project that’s well within the grasp of most DIYers. With careful measuring, the right tools, and conscientious attention to detail, a determined homeowner can achieve satisfying results. But doing things right can be time-consuming. Case in point: Even the most straightforward tiling job will require cutting a few tiles, whether to complete the edges of the surface or to work around obstacles. Cutting tiles is a task that demands accurate measurements and precise use of tools. To make sure your project goes smoothly, it’s best to figure out ahead of time how you’ll handle all those cuts.

Different jobs require different types of cuts. For some, you’ll be able to get by with just straight cuts; for others, you may need to cut on the diagonal or carve a corner or curve out of a tile. And each type of cut entails different methods and tools. As you lay out your tile design, determine what kinds of cuts you’ll need, then check below for the situation that best describes your job to find out how to proceed.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Eye protection
 Glass cutter or tilecutting pliers
 Rubbing stone
 Tile nippers
 Tile cutter
 Wet saw


Whatever cuts you’re making, the general process is the same: Measure and mark the tile on the top (glazed) side, snap or cut it, then smooth the edges. If you’re doing a one-time job that will require a tile cutter or wet saw, you may want to rent instead of buy; these tools are available for rental from home improvement stores. If you have never used any of these tools before, it’s a good idea to practice a little on some spare or scrap tiles before you get started in earnest.

Note that the divisions below are just general guidelines: For some tiles, you may need to use a combination of tools and techniques. Most important, before starting any project that involves cutting tile, put on your eye protection and gloves!


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Glass Cutter



If you need to cut just a few tiles and you don’t need to make any curved or corner cuts, you can probably make do with just a square and a glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers.

• Measure and Mark. Measure, then use a pencil to mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile on a flat surface, such as a workbench or a piece of plywood. Set your square slightly off your marked line so the glass cutter (or the scoring wheel on the pliers) will hit the right place. Then, starting at the edge of the tile, place the scoring tool on the line and press down firmly as you drag it across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. If you’re using pliers, open them and slide the tile all the way into them, with the scoring wheel sitting directly under the line you’ve scored on top of the tile. Squeeze the pliers while gently supporting the tile as it snaps. If you’re used a glass cutter, place a length of wire hanger or other appropriately sized material beneath the scored line, then push down on either side of the tile to snap it; alternatively, grab the tile nippers and snap off the scored piece.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Tile Cutter



If you have lots of tiles to cut, or if you need to make cuts from corner to corner, use a tile cutter. Whether you plan to invest in the purchase or rent one to save a few bucks, just make sure you pick up a tile cutter that’s big enough for the tile you’re cutting! Then, as mentioned above, practice on a few spare tiles until you’re comfortable with this tiling tool.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile into the tile cutter. Make sure the tile is pushed snugly up to the fence and that your marked line is directly under the scoring wheel. While applying slight pressure on the handle, slide the wheel forward across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. Once you’ve scored the tile, move the handle back slightly from the tile’s edge and let the breaking feet lie flat on top of the tile. Apply downward pressure on the handle, and the tile will snap.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Wet Saw



If you’ll be cutting lots of tiles for a big job, or if you need to make corner cuts around door jambs or wall outlets, you should either invest in or rent a wet saw. As with any power tool, read the instructions before you begin and use all recommended safety precautions—and take a few practice cuts before jumping into the project.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Cut. Follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for the wet saw, and make sure you’ve put enough water in the tub. Turn the wet saw on, confirm that water is flowing over the blade, then proceed to make your cut the same way you would cut wood on a table saw.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using Tile Nippers



To make curved cuts, or to remove small pieces of tile, use tile nippers. Have patience, as you can successfully cut tile this way only a little bit at a time.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Nip. Starting at the edge of the tile, place the tile into the tile nippers and squeeze, removing just a small amount of tile. In this fashion, continue to work your way toward your marked line, taking off only a little bit of tile at a time. If you try to remove too much at once, you will end up cracking the tile. As you get closer to your marked line, take smaller and smaller nips.

• Smooth. The cut edge of a nipped tile will be rough, so be sure to smooth it with a rubbing stone.

Solved! What to Do About a Leaking Toilet Tank

Faced with a leaky toilet? To dry things up, you'll first need to track that leak down to its source. Pinpoint the culprit with these quick troubleshooting tips.

Toilet Tank Leaking - What to Do


Q: Help! My toilet is leaking all over the bathroom floor, and I haven’t yet located the source. How can I find and fix the cause of the leak before any real damage occurs?

A. Some of the biggest problems homeowners encounter start small and then suddenly spiral out of control—and this is precisely the path that leaks tend to follow. A hairline crack or chip that allows even a few drops to seep out can become a much bigger (and costlier) problem if not dealt with right away. The following troubleshooting tips run through the most common causes of leaky toilets. These should help you both pinpoint and fix the problem, so you can stop the water from seeping from your toilet—and prevent cash from seeping from your wallet.

Toilet Tank Leaking


The most common type of leak occurs at the bottom of the toilet tank and is usually associated with the emptying and refilling of the tank after flushing. The culprit? Oftentimes a worn-away spud washer (the big rubber washer, sometimes called a tank-to-bowl gasket, that seals the opening at the bottom of the toilet tank) or crumbling rubber washers at the bolts on the underside of the tank. Any of these washers can deteriorate over time as a result of exposure to hard water or minerals, but all are relatively easy to replace. Begin by turning off the water supply at the wall and then emptying the toilet tank with a flush. Disconnect the water supply from the tank, and then use an adjustable wrench to remove the bolts, nuts, and their washers from the underside of the tank. Lift up the tank (get a friend to help!), turn it on its side, and remove the spud washer from the bottom.

Another potentially troublesome mechanism is the ball cock, which is responsible for filling the toilet tank. It, as well as its fill valve, can fail over time. As it’s secured to the tank with just a nut and washers, replacing the ball cock mechanism is easy and usually costs about $10. But before you start emptying the tank to make a switch, first check for any loose connections between the water supply line and the existing ball cock. You may be able to fix the problem with a simple tightening—which is much simpler than making a trip to the store.

If a toilet leak seems to be coming from the bottom of the toilet itself, you might look for a failed wax ring affecting the seal. This is a much bigger issue than replacing washers and checking water lines, if only because it involves total removal of the toilet itself to inspect foundation items. First, confirm that the wax ring is to blame: Make sure the water is turned off and the tank is drained properly. Then, remove the cover caps and unscrew the toilet from the floor, carefully moving it (again, you might want to grab a friend) to expose the flange area for inspection. If the wax ring has failed, you can purchase a new one to replace it; the same goes for any obviously corroded bolts. Once the new parts are in place, caulk the base of the toilet to serve as one last DIY safeguard against leaks for (we hope) years to come.

How To: Remove a Tub Drain

If your tub drain just isn't doing its job, you may need to take it out to clean or replace it. Rest assured that in just a few simple steps you'll have the drain out and be on your way to resolving your tub trouble.

How to Remove a Tub Drain

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Los Angeles, CA

It’s unfortunate but true: Over time tub drains clog and sometimes even corrode. After all, your bathtub is put to the test every day as you and the other members of your household bathe, forcing all sorts of body care products—and copious amounts of human hair—through the drain and into the pipes beyond. The day may come when your drain ceases to function. When that happens, you’ll probably need to remove the drain for inspection, followed by either a careful cleaning or a complete replacement. The removal process isn’t particularly difficult or time-consuming, taking anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours from start to finish, depending on the type of drain you’re dealing with. Yet, as with all things DIY, a few simple instructions will help the task go more smoothly.

While bathtub drains vary by type, they can be sorted into two broad categories: simple drains (including foot lock, roller ball, and lift-and-turn types) and drains with a trip lever (such as pop-up and plunger drains). Instructions for removing both types appear below. Just find your drain style, and follow the step-by-step to remove it yourself.


Type #1: Simple Drains (Foot Lock, Roller Ball, and Lift-and-Turn)

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Rubber gloves
Baking soda
Mild cleanser (optional)
Blow dryer (optional)
– Drain key or smart dumbbell (if you’re e moving the entire drain, including the flange)

Before you disassemble your tub drain, it’s important to note its condition. Excessive amounts of rust, mildew, or decay may indicate a larger problem, in which case professional assistance may be needed. Otherwise, if the drain is in good shape, pull on a pair of rubber gloves and continue on your mission.

• For a foot lock or roller ball plug, simply rotate it counterclockwise until it separates completely from the drain shaft.

• In the case of a lift-and-turn drain, lift the plug and free it by loosening the setscrew underneath. If you find that the setscrew on your lift-and-turn drain is stuck, a series of light-to-medium taps may help to loosen it. Use your wrench or screwdriver to nudge it into motion if necessary, but be careful not to use too much force, which could damage the drain.

Once the drain basket is fully exposed, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with an inch or so of water and watch it drain. If the water still drains too slowly, move on to a stronger drain cleaner (one that specifies that it’s suitable for tubs) or turn to a tried-and-true DIY drain cleaner that uses materials you already have on hand. Fill the tub again with about an inch of water, and watch it drain. Repeat as necessary until the tub empties at a reasonable rate, then proceed to reinstall or replace the part(s) you’ve removed.

If you’re removing the entire drain apparatus, including the basket (also known as the flange), insert your drain key or smart dumbbell into the opening. Turn it counterclockwise and continue turning until the drain flange is released, then remove the flange while it’s still attached to the drain key.

Tip: If the flange is stuck, use a hair dryer to heat it up and loosen the putty, then try again.

Once the drain flange has been removed, be sure to clear out any old putty residue from the base of the opening before replacing the flange or installing a new one.


Type #2: Drains with Trip Levers (Pop-Up and Plunger)

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Rubber gloves
– Drain key or smart dumbbell (if removing the entire drain, including the flange)
Blow dryer (optional)
– Vinegar and baking soda, or mild cleanser (optional)

Before you begin, check the drain for excessive rust, mildew, or decay, which may indicate a larger problem that may require the services of a professional. If the drain looks to be in good shape, it’s probably fine to proceed.

• If your drain has a visible stopper, then set the lever to the open position and use a screwdriver to remove the trip lever faceplate as well as the lever and linkage.

• If your drain has a trip lever without a visible stopper, use a screwdriver to remove the screws on the trip lever faceplate and move it away from the tub wall; the attached plunger should come out along with it.

Once the drain has been disassembled, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with approximately one inch of water and watch it drain. If the tub still drains slowly, try your luck with a stronger, tub-specific commercial drain cleaner or a homemade cleaner and repeat the drain test.

When the tub again drains properly, reinstall the cleaned drain parts or replace them with new ones. If you choose to remove the entire drain apparatus, including the flange, use a drain key or smart dumbbell as described in Steps 3 and 4 above.


Although a number of DIY plumbing projects fall outside of most homeowners’ comfort zones, removing a tub drain is a relatively accessible task. The best rule of thumb when you’re tackling any new plumbing job is to proceed with an abundance of caution and remember that if complications arise, a professional plumber is just a quick phone call away.

How To: Clean a Jetted Tub

Don't let your relaxing soak in your whirlpool tub be cut short by unsightly debris floating in the water! Use these steps to get both tub and jets squeaky clean so you can again relax in your crystal-clear oasis without fear of filth.

How to Clean a Jetted Tub


Let’s be honest here: No matter the touted health benefits of its massaging hydrotherapy, a jetted tub can be only as restorative and relaxing as it is clean and sanitary. Therefore, in order to enjoy the soothing effects of a whirlpool bath, you need to get your hands dirty now and again. True, it doesn’t take hours of punishing labor to clean a jetted tub, but it’s not a quick and easy process either. After all, cleaning even a regular tub takes some time, so it stands to reason that with its many components and hard-to-reach crevices, it’d be even more work to clean a jetted tub. Fortunately, the joy of having such a calming respite from a stressful world makes the cleaning well worth the effort. Keep reading now for a step-by-step tutorial on how to clean a jetted tub with a minimum of hassle. Before you begin, though, note that while the process below provides a useful guideline, you should always follow the care and cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer of your specific tub model.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Baking soda
Dishwashing powder or liquid (optional)
Bleach (optional)
Measuring cup
Soft cloth
Dental floss (optional)

How to Clean a Jetted Tub - Modern Bath Detail


Start by flushing the accumulated gunk and worrisome bacteria out of the internal tub plumbing. To begin, wipe up any hair or other debris from the basin or rim, then fill the tub until water stands at least a couple of inches above the jets. (If it’s been a while since you last cleaned the tub, it’s best to fill it with hot water.) Once the tub is full, you have a few options in cleaning agents (as always, first consult the manufacturer’s instructions). Option one is to add about two cups of vinegar into the water. Because it’s acidic, vinegar dissolves buildup effectively but unlike many commercial cleaning products, it does so without damaging tub components. As an alternative, try 1/2 cup of bleach along with a few teaspoons of powdered or liquid dishwashing detergent. (Some manufacturers do not recommend bleach, which can dry out the gaskets over time.) Or you can purchase one of the many commercial products formulated specifically for cleaning jetted tubs, following the instructions on the packaging.

Now it’s time to activate the jets, but before you turn them on, turn off the air-induction valves (unless the manufacturer of your tub specifically recommends leaving them open). Closing the induction valves forces water to circulate only through the internal plumbing of the tub. This concentrates the flow, resulting in a deeper cleaning. With the valves closed (or not), run the jets on high for 10 or 15 minutes, or until debris from the internal plumbing stops washing into the water in the tub.

Drain the water from the tub. Now, after coming to terms with the disgust you feel over the amount of filth that’s probably lining the tub basin at this point, fill it up again with warm water a few inches above the jets. Run the tub on high once more for another 10 to 15 minutes in order to flush out even more gunk. Drain the water.

OK, it’s time for some good, old-fashioned scrubbing (regrettably, no one has figured out how to clean a jetted tub in a completely hands-off, no-effort way.) Grab a soft cloth and some baking soda; the latter works great to break up mold, mildew, and soap scum. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside the tub, let it sit for several minutes, and then use the soft, dampened cloth to scrub away the grime. Conveniently, you can also use the baking soda on the faucet and drain too. Try not to scrub too vigorously as you go along. Most whirlpool tubs are made of acrylic, a material that can be scratched or gouged, not easily, but sometimes, if you’re not careful.

You’ve come a long way, but there’s still one last thing to do—that is, address the muck and bacteria that may be lodged in and around the water jets. With a toothbrush that you use only for cleaning, gently scrub the jet nozzles and the contoured trim around those nozzles. If you can see buildup on a nozzle but can’t reach it with the toothbrush, try to dislodge it with a length of dental floss. Also, remember to clean the air-intake cover by unscrewing it, giving it a soapy brushing, rinsing it off, and screwing it back into position. Finally, give the tub a thorough rinsing.

At last, you’re finished! Reward yourself with a leisurely soak, because hey, you deserve it. But remember: If you want to get the most out of your jetted tub, a once-in-a-blue-moon cleaning isn’t enough. Routine maintenance is key. If your tub is used only occasionally, you may be able to get by with cleaning it four times a year. But if you enjoy frequent whirlpool baths, follow the procedure described above at least once a month. Now that you know how to clean a jetted tub, you can expect the process to go much more speedily the next time.


Your jetted tub isn’t the only thing in your house needing routine maintenance. Learn how to tackle other cleaning projects with these tips.

3 Fixes for Hard Water Stains

These quick and clever cleaning techniques can banish hard water stains with a few special ingredients and almost no elbow grease.

Remove Hard Water Stains


Shiny new faucets, showers, and toilets add as much polish and sophistication to the bathroom as they do utility. But if your home has hard water, these bathroom essentials are at risk of accumulating unsightly stains from mineral deposits and soap scum. The natural buildup of alkaline deposits in hard water makes it difficult to completely prevent these spots from appearing, but you can wipe them clean with these simple, nontoxic approaches that utilize common pantry items.



Remove Hard Water Stains - Sink


While many homeowners turn to store-bought products to break up the crusty limescale that often plagues chrome faucets, you can harness the same buildup-busting properties with a few everyday equivalents. The next time you’re trying to perk up your chrome, first make a beeline for the kitchen to collect a lemon, a bottle of white vinegar, and a roll of paper towels. Rub the rind of the lemon over the faucet, then soak the paper towels in vinegar and drape them directly over the coating of lemon. Let the combined acids in this cleaning duo work for about an hour to attack and loosen the mineral deposits on the fixture. Remove and discard the paper towels, rinse away any residual gunk from the faucet, and wipe the chrome clean with a soft cloth to restore its shine.



Remove Hard Water Stains - Shower

Photo: via chewy87100

Good for more than simply washing down a delicious meal, the alcohol and acidity of white wine can also help to wash away hard water residue in the shower. Prepare to work wonders on your bathroom by filling an empty spray bottle with leftover vino—one glass’s worth should do the trick. Then, generously spritz the wine over the shower head, floor, faucet, drain, doors, and tile, including any grout and caulk. Give the wine about 5 to 10 minutes to disintegrate the stubborn scum; this will save you the time and effort of scrubbing it manually. Wipe the shower clean with a nonabrasive cloth, and finish with a quick rinse to send loose debris down the drain and out of sight.



Remove Hard Water Stains - Toilet


The same tingle-inducing, frothy concoction you unleash when you crack open a can of pop can clear tough water stains in your toilet. The secret to soda’s cleaning success is its carbon dioxide, which makes it both more acidic and more effective than scrubbing with plain water. Applying this technique is almost as simple as enjoying a can of Coke: Simply pop open the tab and pour the contents around the bowl wherever the stains are set. To help the soda dislodge and dissolve any buildup, leave it in the bowl for least an hour (feel free to reward yourself with a bubbly beverage in the meantime). Then, give the bowl a quick swipe with a brush, and flush to send stains—and your worries—down the toilet!

The Dos and Don’ts of Tiling a Small Bathroom

There are a number of design and installation considerations when incorporating tiles into your small bathroom. Sidestep costly mistakes with these best practices, and, in turn, you'll find your bath looking more attractive and spacious.

Tiling a Small Bathroom

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Phoenix, AZ

Thanks to the abundance of design and colors on the market today, choosing tiles that can visually expand a small space is easier than ever. Whether you select mosaics, large tiles, or a combination of sizes, keep in mind tile installation is usually permanent and can be costly in terms of both materials and labor. Choosing the correct tile for your small bathroom requires careful planning. As projects go, tiling a small bath isn’t exactly a quick and easy task, but if you are patient and diligent it can be a very rewarding experience. Before you invest in any materials, consider the following guidelines to help avoid an expensive mistake.


Accurate measurements are a crucial first step in any tile project, but especially in the likely awkward layout that is your cramped bathroom. Any mistakes here can lead to conspicuous design problems. When calculating the amount of tile needed for floors or walls, multiply the length of the area you are covering by the width to find the square footage. Then you’ll want to add extra footage for waste. The exact amount of waste will depend on your tile size and the configuration, but 15 percent (up to 20 percent, in cases where the space has lots of corners or a diagonal layout) of the calculated square footage is a safe bet. Double-check your numbers before ordering.


Tiling a Small Bathroom - Mosaic Tile in a Small Shower

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA


Why invest in so much tile as part of the waste factor? Remember: Running out of materials on any job can be very frustrating. Having to stop mid-job to regroup is bad enough, but—in an even worse case scenario—you might find that the store is out of your particular tiles. Ordering tiles 15 to 20 percent more than you expect to use will help ensure against miscalculations, breakages, and cutting odd sizes to fit the space. It’s also a good idea to have spare tiles in reserve should any tiles become cracked or damaged in the future. Check to see if your retailer will allow refunds for unused tiles or unopened boxes, or start dreaming up projects to make with the spares.



In addition to injecting your bathroom with the look and feel of a professional spa, covering your space in mosaic tiles also visually expand limited square footage in the bathroom. One-inch tiles on walls, floors, shower enclosures, and even ceilings fool the brain into thinking the space is larger just because there are so many round or square tiles lined up. When choosing mosaic tile from the wide variety of colors and styles on the market, consider glass. Glass mosaics will reflect light around the walls and ceiling, which in turn creates the illusion of a deeper, wider, and overall larger room.


Tiling a Small Bathroom - Floor Pattern

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Brooklyn, NY


We don’t mean to suggest that you can’t fit large tiles into the scheme of your small bath. Quite the contrary! Just like small, 1-inch tiles, large tiles can actually make the small space appear larger. Here’s how it works: Our brain associates big tiles with a large space, so seeing them in a smaller setting tricks us it into thinking the room is larger than we know it to be. If you’re ready to adopt an extra-large tile treatment on your floors, consider, for additional impact, continuing them up the walls to the height of a chair rail.



Tiling with several colors and bold patterns in a small bathroom can overwhelm the space and make it seem even more cramped than its actual size. Choosing a single light color for the floors and walls, however, makes the tiny room appear more spacious. If you prefer variety, select soft-hued colors that are a few shades lighter or darker than each other and consider smaller-scale design to keep with the size of the room.



Be sure that the surface on which you are working is clean, smooth, and solid. Otherwise, soft floors cause tiles to crack or loosen and uneven walls allow moisture to get behind tiles causing them to loosen and fall off—not exactly what you want to see soon after completing a labor-intensive project. In addition to leveling any uneven surface, also be sure to always remove wallpaper from walls and sand the surface before applying tiles.



Here’s another optical illusion that can work in your favor: Tiles set in a diagonal pattern across the floor can help a small bathroom be perceived as larger than its actual size. This layout places emphasis on the length and width simultaneously. Intrigued? Just know that diagonal tile patterns require more planning, precise measuring, and cutting—especially around the perimeter of the room. Before starting, you’ll use graph paper to lay out a scaled diagram of your floor. After measuring, marking the floor, and cutting the tiles, installation is fairly straightforward.



While glossy tiles and polished stone can look very luxurious in a bathroom, skip these materials for flooring. The sheen of these surfaces are slick to the touch—add a splash of water outside the tub or excess soap in the bottom of your shower, and they can be downright slippery. Fortunately for you, tiles are rated according to their slip resistance so that you know exactly what belongs where in order to minimize risk of falls. Check with your retailer before buying to make sure your choice is suited to the purpose.

How To: Make Your Own Grout Cleaner

Nothing ruins the impact of an otherwise clean bathroom or kitchen quite like dirt between the tiles. This recipe for homemade grout cleaner will have your floors sparkling in no time.

Homemade Grout Cleaner


No matter how hard you work to keep your kitchen and bathroom clean, they’ll always look dingy if they’re plagued by dirty grout, whether it’s lurking between tiles in the shower or along your backsplash. But before you spend a small fortune on cleaning products, consider this: You can mix up your own homemade grout cleaner, less toxic and less expensive than the store-bought variety, using just a handful of ingredients that may already be sitting beneath your kitchen sink. To get started, you’ll need to put on some protective gloves—but after that, this cleanser takes just under 10 minutes to make. Here’s our handy how-to, which will help you make all the grout in your house look brand-new!

TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
Protective gloves
Baking soda
Hydrogen peroxide
Liquid dish soap
Small squeezetop container

Homemade Grout Cleaner - How to Clean Bathroom Grout


It’s a good idea to don some protective gear before you gather the materials to make your homemade grout cleaner. Remember to be extra cautious when you’re working with hydrogen peroxide. Pull on your rubber gloves before you get to work. (While hydrogen peroxide is generally safe for topical use, it can sting if it gets in any cuts.) Also, be sure not to splash any in your eyes—rinse immediately if you do.

Unscrew the lid of a small squeeze-top container. (This bottle from Amazon is one good option.) Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the bottle, then mix in 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide. The baking soda will help remove tough stains and hard water buildup, while the hydrogen peroxide will clean and brighten, cutting through residue on the grout to remove discolorations.

Add 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap, then replace the lid and shake the mixture to make sure the ingredients in your homemade grout cleaner are well combined.

Use the squeeze-top bottle to apply the homemade grout cleaner in a fine line to any areas in need of a good scrub. Let the mixture sit on the grout for about five minutes so it can really work its way into the stain, then wipe the mixture off with a sponge or paper towel. Rinse with water to remove any residue. If stains remain, repeat as needed until the grout is clean.


As wonderful as it is to see your grout clean again, wouldn’t it have been better if there had been no stains to deal with in the first place? In the future, make housework even easier by regularly cleaning and maintaining your grout before it gets out of control. Here are a few simple methods for keeping dirt and grime at bay:
• Prevent discoloration by sealing your grout once a year. Sealant creates a barrier that protects against unsightly stains and dirt buildup, so you won’t have to break out your homemade grout cleaner. (Here’s a handy how-to.)
• Regularly vacuum grouted tile floors. Your machine can pick up excess dirt before you break out the mop and specialized cleaners so that you’re not just pushing it around.
• Mop tile floors once a week with water and suds, but go easy on the detergent! Use too much and the residue left behind will attract more dirt after the floor dries.

When exposed to moisture, grout can make a breeding ground for mildew, but that’s not the only place the fungus can thrive. Take a look at this quick tutorial to learn how you can bust the stuff and keep your bathroom clean.

3 Fixes for Bathroom Odor

For a breath of fresh air in the bathroom, DIY one of these three all-natural solutions and replace unappealing odors with a clean-smelling scent.

DIY Air Freshener


Bathroom odors rank as some of the most unpleasant household scents you can encounter, and they are definitely not ones you want to let linger. While sprays and store-bought products can be effective in banishing bad smells, they can also be costly and filled with chemicals you may not care to bring into your home. Instead of spritzing the off-the-shelf stuff, try mixing up one of these natural (and practically free!) air fresheners that absorb odors and leave your bathroom smelling exactly as you like it—fresh and clean.



DIY Air Freshener - Potpourri


If you recently received a lovely bouquet of flowers, don’t toss them when they’ve reached their brittle end. Instead, use the petals as the main ingredient in this DIY potpourri recipe. First, thoroughly dry the arrangement by tying a piece of twine around the stems and hanging it upside down for a week or two. After that, pluck the blooms from their stems and place them in a jar with a few drops of essential oil. Seal the container, and let the flowers absorb the oil for another week. Once they’ve had time to soak up the scent, you can mix in lavender, cloves, or other herbs or spices that pack a good-smelling punch. Display the concoction in a shallow decorative bowl in the bathroom for a pretty way to eliminate not-so-pretty odors.



DIY Air Freshener - DIY Diffuser


The next time you’re worried about persistent bathroom stench, try this five-minute fix that requires only a handful of materials—most of which you probably already have on hand. To start, fill a vase one-quarter of the way with the essential oil of your choice, such as peppermint or lavender, and then fill the rest of the vessel with baby oil. Next, rifle through your kitchen drawers for some bamboo skewers (yes, the kind you typically use for summer shish kabobs), trim the pointy ends, and drop them into the jar. The final step? Breathe deep and enjoy a freshly scented space.



DIY Air Freshener - Baking Soda


You’ll need a mason jar for this deodorizing solution, but rest assured that you can find the rest of the supplies in your cupboard. Fill a small mason jar about one-quarter of the way with baking soda, then add 8 to 12 drops of essential oil to the powder, adjusting the amount according to the size of your bathroom. (You should be able to notice the scent when you’ve added enough.) Next, pop the mason jar’s flat lid out of the ring that seals it tight and trace its outline onto a decorative piece of cardstock. Cut out the paper and use a needle to punch small holes through which the scent can disperse. Finally, place the paper circle inside the ring (in lieu of the metal lid) and seal your jar for a colorful finishing touch. The secret to this trick’s success lies in the hardworking ingredients: baking soda absorbs unwanted smells, while the oil gives off a soothing scent, leaving your bathroom free and clear of unappealing odors.

How To: Install a Toilet Seat

This simple upgrade can make a marked improvement in your bathroom's appearance. If your toilet seat is cracked, dinged, or worn out, it may just be time for a (quick) change!

How to Install a Toilet Seat


Sure, there are plenty of intimidatingly complex bathroom repairs for which you would be wise to hire a plumber. This is not one of those. Virtually anyone can install a new toilet seat. Really, it’s only slightly more involved than swapping a new roll into the toilet paper holder. So, regardless of the reason for a new seat, whether the old one has cracked or you’re simply in need of a change, you can move forward confidently on this project, which should take no more than half an hour.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
Replacement toilet seat
Tape measure
Lubricating oil (optional)
1/2inch socket wrench (optional)

How to Install a Toilet Seat - Upright Isolated


Remember that although they often look the same, toilet seats come in a variety of sizes. For that reason, before you purchase a replacement, be sure to measure your existing toilet seat. It simplifies things that these days, toilets come in a set of standard sizes and their accessories (seats included) are made to fit. Still, in the interest of avoiding a return trip to the home center, take three measurements—the length of the seat, the width of the seat, and the distance between the bolts that secure the seat to the toilet. Note that on some toilet seats, the bolts are hidden by plastic covers that snap off to reveal the fasteners beneath.

Removing the old seat may be the trickiest part of the job. Much depends on the nature of the nuts and bolts that keep the seat in place. If either or both are plastic, then you’ll probably have no problem. With pliers, hold the nuts on the underside of the toilet tank in place while you unscrew the bolts with a screwdriver. If the nuts and bolts are metal, particularly if the toilet seat hasn’t been replaced in years, corrosion may stand in your way. Here, it often helps to apply lubricating oil (WD-40, for instance) to the nut. Wait about 15 minutes, then use pliers—or, for extra punch, a 1/2-inch socket wrench—to take off the nut.

Having removed the old toilet seat, take the opportunity to clean in and around the bolt holes. Next, place the new seat on the toilet, threading the bolts through the freshly cleaned holes. With one hand preventing the bolt from budging, use the other to finger-tighten the nut underneath. Finally, gently screw in the bolt as you hold the nut steady with pliers. Take care not to over-tighten the bolt; doing so runs the risk of damaging your toilet. Put the plastic covers, if any, over the bolts, and before you call it a day, raise and lower the seat a few times to test for looseness. Tighten if necessary.

If only every home improvement offered such an outsize reward for so little effort! Though we seldom acknowledge it, the toilet seat—first and foremost a practical component—actually goes a long way toward influencing the appearance of a bathroom, especially one with a small footprint. Does your bathroom look better with the new toilet seat in place? Thought so.