Choosing Bathroom Fixtures for Your Home

When remodeling a bathroom it’s important to know the different types of fixtures and materials that are available and the relative price of each.

Watch this video to find out how to choose:

  • Bathtubs
  • Tub surrounds
  • Faucets
  • Flooring
  • Toilets
  • Countertops
  • Lighting
  • Vent fans
  • Water heaters

Further Information

Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner, we’re looking at the many options you have when renovating your bathroom. There’s a lot of choices you have to make when remodeling this room in your house. We’ll give our opinion, and guide you through the process. Stay with us.

People renovate their homes for a lot of reasons. To increase their value, to make them more attractive to guests, but mostly to make them more comfortable. Maybe that’s why bathroom remodeling is so popular.

We start and end our days in these rooms, so making them more stylish and comfortable can have a big impact on our frame of mind. These are usually very small spaces, but renovating one still requires a lot of decision making and planning.

So let’s get started with the big stuff, the tub. Because these things are so big and quite honestly, a bit of a pain to replace, people often renovate around them, but that isn’t always an option. So how do you choose your new tub?

This style of tub found its way in American bathrooms for decades. A free standing claw foot tub, and they’re available today. And if you really want to make a statement in your bathroom, you can do it with this. It’s available in a lot of different colors. I even installed one of these one time that was candy apple red, that made a statement.

But if you decide to go with this you’re going to spend a little money. It’s close to $5,000 without the faucet, and it’s extremely heavy. So you want to make sure your floor will support it, and that you have plenty of help to bring it into the bathroom.

Other free standing tubs are available in more contemporary designs, also called vessel tubs. And you can see these in just about any kind of style or shape that you can possibly imagine.

But the most common type of tub is one that’s nailed to the wall and it has a surround. But there’s about three different types of options there they are available for the choice of those tubs. This particular one is an acrylic, also made in fiberglass. They’re very similar, they are fairly easy to keep clean.

And one of the big advantages, they’re very inexpensive. Starting out at a little over $100, going up to a more stylish one like this, is around $550. Another advantage is we’re able to really pick up some nice design with a lot of the molded patterns that they have so a lot of advantages there. Disadvantage, it can scratch, so you have to be careful when you’re cleaning it.

Now, another option is a steel tub. Steel tubs again, very reasonable starting out at around $100, probably topping out at around $300. But they’re a little more limited in the number of colors and sizes that are available. One disadvantage there, I hear people talking about it has kind of a hollow sound, maybe they just don’t feel very safe in the tub.

For those people, they are great candidates for cast iron. And cast iron is what this tub is made out of, as well as the freestanding claw foot tub we looked at earlier. And I mentioned it was heavy, well, this can weigh as much as three to 500 pounds. Extremely durable, people love how it’s easy to keep clean. And also they like the secure feeling that comes along with a cast iron tub.

Now these will start at around $350, and go up to just as much you want to spend with different colors and shapes that are available. And this particular one runs around $750 for the style that we have here.

Now again, with it being heavy, you need to make sure that you have a good foundation under it, or if it’s a wood subfloor, make sure it’s strong enough to support it. And when you’re bringing it in place, even though it’s very durable, it still can chip the enamel, so you have to be careful with that.

Now, with all of the tubs that we’ve looked at, you’re going to have to have some type of wall around it to make it into a useable shower. And that’s your next decision.

Tub surrounds can be a place to really show off your style, especially if you choose ceramic, porcelain, or glass tiles. And if you’re really ambitious, you might even save a little money by doing the installation yourself. Just make sure you waterproof the underlayment before you install the tile. Stone surrounds are more often installed by pros because the materials are a lot more expensive.

Another popular surround surface is cultured marble. Making this stuff is a very labor intensive process, so cost will vary widely, but it makes a great surround. Just be careful not to use abrasive cleaners as the gel coat finish can be scratched.

The same can be said of fiberglass or acrylic surround. These are the most inexpensive and quickest to install. In fact, some units even snap together from several different pieces which makes it easier to get them into close quarters.

Before the surround goes up, the tub and shower valves will have to go into the wall. Once you determine whether you want a single shower head or several, you’ll have to decide on the style and finish, and this is just the beginning of the fixture choices.

When you’re choosing your bathroom faucets, several things you need to consider. Of course, just like with your shower valve, you have to pick out what kind of finish that you want. There’s a lot to choose from, from chrome, stainless steel, brushed nickel, oil rubbed bronze.

So that’ll be your first decision, but another very important decision is exactly how it mounts to your countertop. There’s three different kinds. One is a single hold mounting which, as the name implies, is just one hole that you’ll need in order to mount the faucet. Lot of different type of one hole faucets.

Then there’s a very traditional what they call a four-inch spread which, this means the two holes are exactly four inches apart and you have one center one that you’ll need for the operation of the drain.

And then you have a wide spread assembly that comes again in a lot of different styles and shapes. But essentially, you have one that since the valves are individual, you can go with the traditional eight-inch spread. Or these are actually able to go down to six inches up to 16 inches so a lot of flexibility there.

And again when you look at all of the different faucets out in the showroom, you wonder, why would one be like $60 and one $600? Well, it’s all about how they’re made, and of course, some of these are lot harder to make than others. But one of the key things, you want to make sure you pick one with brass inner workings. That’s very important for the longevity of it, making sure that you won’t have to replace that faucet again.

Hey, let’s check in with my buddy Joe and see what he’s doing on this week’s Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: I found rust stains on my vanity top recently, and I couldn’t figure out where they came from until I turned over the soap dish. It’s a ceramic dish with a metal base. And I noticed that the chrome had blistered and the metal underneath began to rust and that stained the top.

So, I’ve since buffed the rust stains off the vanity top. Well, I was thinking, “Okay now, how do I prevent that from happening again?”

So, the first step was, I took an emery board, and I just buffed off the rust down to bare metal. And I coated it with clear nail polish, two coats of clear nail polish, just to prevent it from rusting again.

But there’s one more step you need to take before putting it back on the vanity. Go out and buy a package of rubber bumpers—these little peel and stick rubber bumpers. And put four on the bottom of the soap dish, just one near each corner, there you go.

And what that does is it raises the soap dish off the vanity top. So even if there’s water on here, it’ll keep the metal above the water, so rust will no longer will be a problem.

Danny Lipford: This week, we’re focusing on bathroom renovations, and trying to shed some light on the big decisions you’ll have to make if you’re taking on one of these projects.

We’ve looked at the selection of your tub and tub surround, but there’s another surface that has a big impact on the style and comfort of a bathroom—the flooring.

By far, the most common flooring for bathrooms is ceramic or porcelain. Makes lot of sense because this stuff is impervious to water, very, very durable, and available in a lot of different colors. And, the good thing, it’s gotten pretty inexpensive. You can actually get ceramic now for as little as 75 cents per square foot.

Now there’s another flooring that you see a lot in bathrooms, but it’s a little more expensive, that’s natural stone. It installs very similar to ceramic. But you’re talking about a little more money, a little more care in installation. Also a little maintenance, because it has to be sealed after it’s been installed for a few weeks, and also at least once a year after that.

Now, some other floorings that are available that are a little less expensive include vinyl. Now, it’s available in sheet goods or vinyl tiles, and vinyl tiles are little more do-it-yourself friendly. And the good thing about vinyl as a category, it’s much less expensive than most any other floor that you can put in your bathroom.

Hey, some other ideas. Laminate, you see a lot of people putting down the floating laminate floors. You also see hardwood in bathrooms quite a bit, but you really have to be a lot more careful to keep any wet towel or any moisture away from these floors.

Now, I have seen a few bathrooms with carpet—don’t suggest that. Almost any floor that you install in your bathroom, other than maybe carpet, will require the removal and maybe the replacement of the toilet.

Allen Lyle: First of all, let’s talk about style. Two piece unit—this is the most common. It’s got a separate tank and bowl connected right here. Everything that’s fresh, the water hits in here, goes down and flushes the waste in the bowl.

One piece unit, people actually like these because of the low profile. And they’re a lot easier to clean. If you look over here on two-piece unit, you can see the channel here. You can catch a lot of dust with that. Side here, you just don’t have that, so much easier to clean.

I will say this about a one-piece unit. It’s more expensive. You’re going to pay about twice as much on the starting end. So, 100 bucks for average on the two piece, 200 on the one piece.

Of course, you’ve got your style of your shape of the bowl. You’ve got round verses the oblong. The height, comfort height. This is standard about 14 to 15 inches. Comfort height about three inches more. Let me just say this delicately, it’s easier to get up if you’ve got the comfort height.

Water saving. I love the new ones like this. If you’re getting rid of an old one, 3.5 gallons, great. You’re going to save so much money on your water usage. 1.6 gallons, that’s the max. You’ve got the high efficiency toilets that only use 1.28 gallons per flush.

And a dual model like this, it has a dual flush, with liquid waste, less than one gallon that it uses. However, I will say this. With those, the water level on the bowl is very low, which means you’ll have to clean it more to get rid of those unpleasant odors.

Danny Lipford: Hey, what a great looking vanity top. You know, when you’re remodeling your bathroom, that’s another decision you have to make is exactly what type of countertop to use. And I’ve got five great options for you.

This one is a cultured marble countertop, and it’s made from a variety of resins and marble dust and they’re able to form the sink integrated right into the countertop. Lots of different colors, and it’s extremely reasonable.

Another option, plastic laminate. And over the years, the manufacturers have done a fantastic job in creating patterns that match natural stone very, very closely at a fraction of the cost. And for a very do-it-yourself approach to plastic laminate, they actually have what they call post-form sections of countertop here in the home center that they can cut and you can install it yourself.

Now, if you want to step up, spend a little bit more money, then you’re looking at granite. Even though nowadays it’s a lot cheaper than it used to be, because of fabrication process has gotten so fine-tuned to bring that cost down considerably.

Also, you have engineered stone, which basically is crushed stone and resins that are put together. And then again, a variety of different, very nice patterns that you can find that’ll match your bathroom and your intention in your bathroom real accurately. Now, this is pretty cool because it doesn’t require any sealing, whereas natural stone like granite does require you to seal it from time to time.

But any of the materials that we looked at, if you seam them together, you’ll see the seam, even though it’ll be very subtle, unless you use a solid surface material. And they’re able, actually, to mold that together, you’re still able to integrate a sink into it and it’s a great looking countertop.

Jodi Marks: You know, changing out the fixtures in your bathroom are pretty straightforward. Changing out for a new sink, or a new toilet, or even a new faucet is pretty easy to do.

Except a lot of people think changing out their tub is a little bit of a hassle, and I would agree. Tearing that all out is not something that you definitely want to tackle. But you can resurface it with a kit like this, if you need to, if you don’t like the color, if it looks old or dated.

This is by Magic and it’s called ReNew and it’s perfect for your tub or your tile refinishing, and the kit has everything that you need. Now this is a two-part epoxy application.

So, it’s pretty straightforward. You’ll need to mix the two cans together, but there are instructions inside, and you need to follow those explicitly like the manufacturer says. Now, we’ll say this. Prep, prep, prep, is the key to the success of this project and you’ll get great looking results.

Danny Lipford: We’re looking into what it takes to make your bathroom more comfortable and attractive, but for some people there’s no limit to that process. If you can dream up a bathroom amenity, it’s out there or it’s on its way. From towel warmers, to bathroom mirrors with a TV built right in, there are even showerheads with built in LED lights to add a Broadway flair to your shower.

Now, that kind of lighting may seem a little over the top, but how you light your bathroom is an important consideration.

Many older bathrooms will only have just one light fixture right in the center of the ceiling. And that can be very frustrating. If you’re standing in front of the vanity, you’ll have a bit of a shadow there that can just really not provide you adequate light. So, that’s why having some task lighting really makes a lot of sense, and a wall mounted fixture like this can allow you to put one of these on each side of the mirror to balance that lighting out.

Now, if you have a situation where you just don’t have room for a fixture on either side of that mirror, you can go with some of the multi-bulb fixtures that are available. And it’s just about endless the different styles and finishes they’re available in.

But it’s also still a good idea to have that ambient light in the center of the room and you don’t have to compromise there. You can have some really good looking fixtures, more contemporary looking, a little more traditional, very easy to upgrade that fixture. But also, have some fun with it, and you can put some decorative fixtures in, like a pendant light.

Now if you have a large enough room, you might even consider a small chandelier. Especially if you have a nice little tub area you want to accent, maybe even putting a dimmer on it. That can really be a very nice look in your bathroom.

But one thing you need to make sure you don’t forget about is having adequate ventilation in that bathroom. Bathrooms are the most humid rooms in the house, so a good bathroom vent fan is essential to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

First, be sure to choose one of adequate size. Vent fans are rated by the cubic feet of air per minute they move or CFM. And a humid bathroom, needs to completely exchange its air eight times per hour. So, divide the cubic feet of the room by 60 and multiply that number by eight to get the CFM numbers your fan needs to supply. And be sure to use the fan every time the shower’s in use.

Earlier in the show, we talked about selecting the right tub for your bathroom. And if you have your heart set on a large soaking tub like this, here’s something you need to think about. Now, if you have a traditional water heater that’s 30 or 40 gallons, and you have a tub like this that can hold as much as a 100 gallons, you’re not going to have that nice, relaxing hot bath that you had planned.

I hear it from homeowners all the time complaining about their large tubs just simply not getting warm enough. I never hear that complaint from any homeowner that has a tankless water heater.

Artie McGowan: The biggest advantage with a tankless water heater is that you don’t run out of hot water. You got a conventional tank, 40 gallon, and you’re trying to fill a tub, you got several people who want to take a bath, you’re going to lose hot water. Somebody’s going to take a cold shower, and nobody likes that. So, Rinnai, the tankless water heater, gives you a solution that is great for the family.

What happens is, as soon as you go to your valve and you turn it on, it’s got a flow switch inside of this here. When that water goes past that flow switch, it says, “Turn on the heater.” The heater turns on, it continuously heats water whenever you need it, at the time you need it.

What I like to do to with Rinnai is, turn on your heat, take your digital control, and move it down to 104 or a 106. Go to that big large tub that you want to take a bath in, simply turn on the hot water side.

In other words, why have water at 120 degrees, coming into the bathtub, knowing you can’t get in there, and then have to cool it down on the cold side, by delivering some cold water with it. So in this case you just turn on the hot water valve and just fill it up.

Danny Lipford: Susan asks, “Why do they say you need to drain your water heater every year?”

The reason it’s important to drain some water out of your water heater at least once a year, is it moves a lot of the sediment that settles down at the bottom of the tank to the outside. Now you don’t have to drain all of the water, but at least a few gallons once a year.

Now, the sediment, if you leave it in there, it really will reduce the life expectancy of your water heater because it just has to work a lot harder. That’s also going to cost you more money in energy costs. And it’s so easy to drain some of the water.

All you do is hook your garden hose right to this drain valve, turn the drain valve on, and if you’re at the other end of the hose, you’ll see what I mean when a white, milky sediment comes out the other end. You will have to open the pressure relief valve to allow the water to drain.

Now these tasks will cost you no money at all but they’ll save you some.

Well, are you feeling a little overwhelmed by all the decisions you have to make just to renovate a small room in your house? I hope not. And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot easier to make all those decisions if you get out to a showroom or a home center where you can see the countertops, and the cabinets, and the sink and the faucets all working together.

Also, we’ve got some great ideas on our website on how everything can go together and save you a little money along the way. Hey, thanks for being with us this week. I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week right here, on Today’s Homeowner.


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