Hello friends and welcome back to another renovation regrets saga. If you are just catching up, this series started when Emily posed the question “what do you wish someone had told you before renovating?” and the answers we received were pure gold. Thanks to you, our talented readers, we have received hundreds of renovation stories and cautionary tales and we knew we couldn’t keep all that juicy information to ourselves. Last week, we tackled the kitchen and unsurprisingly, you all delivered EVEN MORE tips and tales. Today bathrooms are on the docket and I trust that anyone with a bathroom reno on their radar will want to heed every single word. Let’s get to it, shall we?
From Rusty: I tiled on top of the original broken mosaics in the bathroom, to save time and money. The tiler roughed up the old tiles first so they’d grip the adhesive, etc. So, I have a little bit of a raised floor, maybe 1cm? It’s no biggie and I’d definitely do this again.
From Elina: [I wish someone would have told me] Not to buy tile too early. We needed to order more tile when we were finally ready to install and the color didn’t match because it came from different lots.
From Kathleen: Be sure to install porcelain tiles, not ceramic. They chip and look terrible. Also, small tiles in the shower creates lots of grout lines and are a real pain to keep clean. Big tiles in the shower a better way to go. Reduce the grout.
From anon: My current rental bathroom has “orange peel tiles” which means I can’t use anything with suction cups in the shower. (If I owned this place I would rip out these tiles! And raise the showerhead to adult height instead of 52 inches, and install an adult length tub, and rip out the hideous sliding shower doors and put in a curved shower curtain rod.)
On Showers & Bathtubs
From Whitney: Rain shower heads are really lovely in spa theory, but I’m convinced were designed by people who washed their hair daily. As a woman of color, every house I’ve looked at/Airbnb that I’ve stayed in that has a “luxury” master bath has a rain shower head. I wash my hair every 10 days. There is no way to avoid getting your hair wet and even a shower cap can’t save that. I just need them to go away.
Editor’s Note: Emily also dislikes rain showers. Do people really want water constantly in their face??
From Nina: I once stayed in a BnB with a fancy “open” double shower and I can confirm it’s way colder than a regular shower cabin. You know that feeling of dread when you have to walk out of your warm shower into the cold bathroom? Yeah, now you are spending your entire shower in that cold bathroom, brrr!
From Tracy: This is also true with those showers that are “half glass”’ – no door, just glass by the showerhead. I stayed at a place in VT with one of those – rough choice for the climate!
From Ally: [I am] the owner of a very large (5’×10′) multi-headed steam shower that we added on and have regretted for 22 years. To accommodate the steam feature (which we’ve almost never used!) the shower is fully enclosed and tiled floor to ceiling with a gap-less shower door. Talk about a constant horrible mildew mess! By code, the door must open outward so we can’t even leave it open post-shower or it blocks a sink and drips onto the floor. And yes we had an architect on this project that didn’t function well from day one! I’m hoping for a lottery win so I can one day rip it out and start over!
From Virginia: In our old house in a not-warm climate, we had a double master shower that wasn’t *too* cold, but the spray would get split between the showerheads in a way that made both ineffectively weak. I talked to a plumber about it and apparently this was actually just the prior owner having chosen shitty hardware which he had warned her about, as he happened to be the same plumber who had done the renovation (!). You apparently have to get special hardware that properly diverts the full pressure stream to make both showerheads comfortable to use at the same time, and it’s slightly more expensive.
From Misty: We bought a house with a huge shower – way more room than needed for even two people and my 6’5” hubs was ecstatic about having a shower that “fit him”. I hated it. We only used one shower head and the tile was cold. Even with running it with the doors closed to create heat before getting in, was a waste of time and water.
From Maddy: If you’re planning a soaking tub, keep a close eye on the gallons it holds in the tub specs, and another close eye on the size of your water heater, unless you’re going to have an on-demand heater for your bathroom water supply. Deep+wide tubs, like jacuzzis, can hold 80+ gallons and your water supply is going to struggle to give you a nice hot soak that you can really submerge yourself in. Narrower tubs with deep depth-to-overflow (14-15″) and plenty of length to stretch out typically hold around 50 gallons, which is a size at which you can comfortably submerge yourself and have plenty of hot water to bask in even if you have a 50-60-gallon tank. (You’re not going to use every drop in your 50-gallon tank to fill a 50-gallon tub, because you displace a lot of water yourself and you won’t be using straight, unmixed hot water. But you could easily use every drop in your tank filling a bigger tub.)
From Amanda: Our main bathroom is a wet room – meaning all the walls are tiled and it has a bathtub and an open shower with no doors. This was our only way to fit in both a shower and a tub. However, I learned after the fact that the ordinary slope for the drain in the shower tends to leave a lot of water on the floor. If I could do it over again, I would increase the slope to ensure that the water would all go down.
From Kathleen: When we remodeled our master bath we put in an open shower, so no way to access the shower handle without getting sprayed with cold water, not a fun way to start every day. I suppose if you are into Wim Hof this would be no problem. Should have plumbed the handle to be accessible outside of the shower. Ugh.
From Bobbi: We put in a large two-person, two wall-mounted shower heads with no door, and I love it! We live in North Carolina so winters are short, but we have not noticed a difference AT ALL in terms of shower warmth and I tend to run cold. We did put a heated floor in the non-shower portion of the bathroom and it’s lovely. Big disagree on that one, we’ve had this layout for about four years and it makes me happy every day.
From Clare: Never do an open shower if you live in a climate that gets below 50 degrees unless you’re A) a sadist or B) keep the heat in your house on 80 degrees. Pretty rough to shave your legs when they’re goosebumped!
On Toilet Placement
From JJ: We have a large master bathroom but we thought it would be a great idea to place the toilet in a small room in the bathroom so multiple people could be using the bathroom and you would have your privacy while on the toilet. Here’s the kicker; I am an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner and SO many falls occur in the bathroom. If someone falls in that tiny toilet closet areas, EMS has to drag you out of the area to get you on a stretcher. I wish we were more mindful of this so we can feel good about growing old in this home.
From Katie: Wall-mounted toilets are great solutions for cramped bathrooms. They are pricy but can add so much space.
From Lisa: My friend convinced me to put electrical outlets behind all of the toilets while we’re redoing the bathrooms, even though we don’t want to install bidets right now. And after I mentioned it to my architect, she said that they’re doing more and more bidets in recent projects. It’s so cheap to add an extra outlet while doing major work (especially in our case where the full baths are being built from scratch including drywall), just do it.
On Heated Flooring
From Renee: We put heated floors in our en suite bathroom and LOVE them. We feel that the heated floors were the best part of our new bathroom! Just make sure that you have a good electrician install the wires and then everybody stay out of there until the tile installer can get there. Coordinating the schedule with your electrician and tile setter is a must!
From Jeffree: Some heating flooring pads can be installed via your crawlspace/basement between the joists rather than directly on top of your subflooring and under the tile. This makes repair or replacement far easier.
From Renee: It’s easy to put a heated floor in your bathroom but put it in your shower too! To avoid cold feet!
On Accessibility & Layout
From Virginia: The main issue is that things like hand towel racks, toilet paper holders, and showerheads are placed *just off* from what would actually be the most user-friendly. Like the hand towel hanger makes it so that the edges of a standard size hand towel have to hang kind of tucked between the sink and the wall, so it doesn’t dry well. It’s annoying to make it sit right after every use so it doesn’t hang into the sink basin and get wet/be in the way. The showerhead in one bathroom is perfectly centered in the smallish enclosed shower, which means there’s no way to slightly stick your head or body out of the spray while, say, shaving legs or letting conditioner soak in. In both cases, if these things were shifted by just a couple inches they’d be perfectly placed, but having them slightly off from user-friendly is surprisingly annoying. And there are things like that all over but these two are the most noticeable.
From Leila: Bathroom showpeople will tell you that you have to buy the whole suite from one place or the whites won’t match – this is bollocks. But the Ikea sink you got for £40 will scratch drastically in a way you never realised porcelain was capable of.
From Sheila: Consider accessibility options, even if you don’t need them now. There may be a time when you’d like to host an elderly family member or when you or a family member faces mobility options during an extended recuperation. Having a bathroom, including a walk-in shower with space for a bench and a hand-held shower head that can be reached and controlled by someone seated on that bench, on the main living floor is highly desirable as is a means of entry from the car parking area into the house with a minimum of stairs. Depending on the area, light switch/doorknob heights may be set by code to be at wheelchair-accessible heights. If not, it should be considered anyway.
From Faith: Master bathrooms need a linen closet (either in the bathroom or right outside).
From Kim: Tell your cabinet maker what kind of sink you are putting in your bathrooms. We had a cabinet replaced in our powder room/half bath and didn’t tell him it was a vessel sink. It’s way too high for kids even with a pull-out step built into the toe kick of the cabinet.
From Maddy: Include access panels for bathtub/shower plumbing if at all possible, so if something goes wrong in the wall you can hopefully avoid having to bash through your lovely and expensive tile work to get at the plumbing. If you can plan for your “wet wall” to back onto a closet, hallway, or utility space, you can put an access panel there without it intruding on the design of a main room.
From Amanda: We also did wall-mounted faucets in both of our bathrooms. It seems that some plumbers aren’t used to doing them and both times I noticed that they installed the rough-in plumbing at the wrong height. I think this is just good to know for something to double-check before any walls are closed up.
From Emily B: Consider counter heights in the bathroom for how tall you are. We have a tall family and did a really beautiful custom vanity that is on the short side of standard especially since we are tall people.
From Justin: Don’t expect the plumber to know how far the tub should be from the wall, or how high the slide bar should go. Do your research and be ready for everything so that you’re not making 8 am decisions on the fly.
On Choosing The Right Materials:
From Kate: We moved into a new build in March with flat matte paint, as well as a two and five-year-old… and it’s a DISASTER! The powder room is destroyed by water splashes, soap sprays, and little handprints anywhere they put a dirty hand or a wet clean hand. Also, you can see brown patches in the paint where their little bodies rub next to the sink in the spot by their stool where they typically stand when washing.
From Allison: Pick out all your materials. I mean everything, from the water barrier on the outside, to the windows, cabinets, etc. many contractors will use the cheapest and pocket the difference.
From Andrea: I would go back and tell myself to not put beadboard in my bathroom. It gets grimy and is impossible to clean well. At least wainscoting has less grooves to try to keep clean, but really I would stick with flat panels.
From Emily B: Also, never do barn doors on any room you want to be able to be private (bathrooms or bedrooms). They just don’t seal out sound and light the same way a door jam does. We put one on my daughter’s room and it has affected her sleep with the light and sound.
From Jennifer: When I put in a shower in a former half bath, I got several tile estimates. Every one of them included schluter, those metal edges on the end of tile (Blech). I didn’t want metal edges. Finally, one creative installer said, “no you don’t have to have schluter. I can cut fresh pieces of tile to finish the edges, I’ve put clear nail polish on tile edges before to give them a glossy, finished look, there’s tons of creative ways to get the look you want.” Don’t just take what installers say as gospel until you talk to a few people. All those previous unimaginative, old-fashioned installers knew how to do was schluter when design, trends, and options change endlessly.
From Verana: Light-colored grout in your shower floor will discolor. We had picked cream grout to match the color of the tiles (which looks stunning), but maintaining the color takes weekly cleanings. I understand much better now why hotel showers typically have dark gray grout… much easier to maintain.
Alright my friends, do you have any more tips or renovation regrets to add? Should we keep this series going? If so, what room would you like us to tackle next? Drop your suggestions below! xx