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More Renovation Regrets And Cautionary Tales As Told By Our Readers: Bathroom Edition

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?

On Tile

design by nate berkus | photo by christopher dibble

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

design by elspeth benoit and arterberry cooke | photo by alex zarour of virtually here studios | from: a master class in using color in your home without it feeling like a colorful home

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

design by kirsten blazek | photo by alex zarour of virtually here studios

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

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: the final mountain house reveal (for now): all the details of my master bathroom

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

design by shaun crha| photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: home tour: how this designer built a a beautiful modern traditional guest home for his dad to age in place

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:

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house reveal: the riskiest bathroom I designed—with a “how i’m feeling now” update

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

Opener Image Credit: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: Our Classic Modern Master Bathroom Reveal


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129 thoughts on “More Renovation Regrets And Cautionary Tales As Told By Our Readers: Bathroom Edition

  1. I’m not a fan of our primary bathroom layout. The toilet closet is on the left when you first enter which means it is, ahem, noisy. !! You can hear exactly what’s happening whether you’re in the bedroom or bathroom. We even insulated the interior walls just to muffle sound when we built. No. The toilet should be at the back of the bathroom.

  2. No black faucets if you have hard water ! They are so pretty but it’s so much work to maintain clean…
    (Sophie from France)

      1. Yup. I’m in LA and our black faucets always have white deposits on them. A vinegar soak will fix it, but it’s another step in cleaning.

    1. Speaking of France, all this talk about hard water reminds me of that Roald Dahl short story “Beware of the Dog!”

  3. The discussion about big showers being cold is so interesting. My husband’s aunt and uncle in Omaha, NE (so a place that gets very cold!) have a huge, 2 person shower with no door and it isn’t cold at all. After a previous conversation about this on this site, I paid much more attention to the details of the design last time I was at their house and used their shower (his aunt is so proud of it she always offers to let us use it when we stay) and I think the key is low ceilings – most of the big open showers I’ve seen have 10′ or vaulted ceilings and the glass or walls don’t go all the way up, whereas this shower is long but has 7′ ceilings, and the only opening into it is a the size of a standard door, which is at one end of the shower with shower heads at the other and in the middle (you enter at the doorway then turn left towards the shower heads, almost like the shower is a little hallway). You can bet that someday we’ll be building a shower practically identical to theirs in layout – it’s the most spa-like experience, better than any fancy hotel or AirBNB I’ve ever stayed at.

    The other thing that drives me crazy in bathroom remodels, though this is easier to change after the fact than, say, plumbing, is when people put in smallish mirrors over the vanity. As a 5’2″ woman, I’ve often seen mirrors that are small and hung high enough that I can only really see my face, or sometimes not even that without tip toes – not ideal in a bathroom you’ll be using to get ready in the morning, and also not ideal for a powder bath where guests might want to check themselves over before returning to the party. It may not be the chicest look, but the big builder grade mirrors do offer a lot in terms of functionality, and there are plenty of options that are decorative but still plenty large to be able to step back and see most of your outfit.

    One more – lighting! While you’re remodeling is the perfect time to fix lighting issues! It may be a small space, but especially if you have an opaque shower curtain or door, make sure you have a light over the shower as well as over/around the vanity. I’ve taken many dark showers in hotels and older houses that could have been fixed by an additional can light.

  4. hi there! I know that these are shared as reader comments not from experts but just wanted to share some perspective on the comments on tile.

    The reason that shower tiles are small is to create traction so you don’t slip and to allow for slope towards a drain. You can go with bigger tiles but I wouldn’t DIY that choice as the installer would need to know how to create you shower pan and drain to accommodate.

    Also, ceramic tiles aren’t going to chip just because they are ceramic, they’ll chip if they aren’t installed correctly or if you put them in an area that they aren’t made for. The most important thing is to make sure that the tile you select is intended for a floor/wall and a high traffic area if needed. All tiles are not made to go in all places, so it’s good to check with the manufacturer or the installer before ordering.

    And that is a great note about not ordering too early for lot differences, especially in higher cost /handmade tile!

    1. so true. you shared some really great advice! Also, if one is concerned about keeping grout clean on floor tile, one can pony up for epoxy grout and a professional tile installer.

      1. Or seal your light-colored grout periodically. It’s so simple (spray and wipe) but it seems to be an unknown step in cleaning/maintenance.

    2. We did small floor tile and larger wall tile in our bathroom. The game changer is DARK grout! SO much easier to clean bc it doesn’t look dirty!

    3. We used tumbled stone for the shower floor, which added important traction.

  5. We have a screen in our bathroom (rather than a full wall of glass) and I love it. It’s gorgeous with the black trim and I’ve never felt cold even though I’m in Canada! However, the ceilings are only 8 feet and we have great central heating.

  6. Yes to heated floors! We do not have them at home, but have experienced them in hotels – greatest thing ever! I don’t think they’re super expensive to install and when you factor in years of daily comfort and reduced utility bills it’s totally worth looking into. Also, I realize the all glass shower trend makes a bath look much larger, but I’m so over being totally exposed when we are both getting dressed at the same time. Maybe bring back privacy/frosted glass? Rain head showers- worst idea ever. I think it’s one of those things people thing is such an upgrade/luxury that they have to have until you actually use one. Does anyone like these things?

      1. We’re about to start construction on our primary bath remodel and are using fluted glass for the shower door. I’m so excited! We’ll still get the light but won’t feel quite so exposed if one person is showering and the other is brushing teeth.

        1. Hi Sarah, can I ask where you are sourcing your fluted glass? Am interested in this for a shower door as well, but in discussions online I read that it was only available in quarter inch thickness, which is not thick enough according to many installers apparently. Thanks in advance!

    1. I love our rain head shower, but our shower also has a regular shower head and a hand held shower head and you can switch between different combinations of the three which I think is key. If I’m not washing my hair, then I don’t use the rain head one.

    2. Completely agree with the desire for privacy glass. We’re planning the remodel of our small bathroom with a walk-in shower and are struggling to find anything other than clear glass. The current is pebbled, which is the perfect balance of allowing light to pass but also provide privacy.

      I don’t understand rain shower heads at all. I don’t even find them pleasant for washing my hair or standing under, period. I like a firm, scouring shower 😉 One of the best things we did was get an adjustable shower head that has a rain option (my kids prefer it), but also a stronger stream for me.

    3. Don’t count on reduced utility bills. We added a heated floor to our bathroom when we renovated it and while a heated floor is nice, I find it doesn’t heat up the room enough unless you turn it up high – which in our case ended up really inflating our heating bill. I would not do a heated floor again.

  7. A question for readers, Emily, blog staff – everyone! We put in a steam shower and used subway tile. We’re having an issue with the grout (which is just your standard grout, one I’ve used in four different bathrooms now) falling out around the tiles near the steam exhaust, which loosens the tiles. Any idea what could be causing this? My tile guy is flummoxed. I’m wondering if perhaps steam exhaust was installed too ‘deep’ by plumber, which leads to more steam/heat on the tile/grout. We did this same grout, tile and steam in our previous place with a different exhaust system and had zero issues. Anyone experienced anything like this?

  8. Large tiles in a bathroom are a slipping hazard. Yes, small tiles are harder to clean, but at least you wont break your back in a fall. My biggest regret is getting concrete tile, which needs to be sealed every 6 months and stains super easily. What a pita.

  9. I will also champion heated floors, especially with marble tile. Speaking of marble tile, I loved the look and assumed that this classic material could work in a shower as long as it was sealed properly. Wrong. Even with sealing and then resealing the marble and grout twice a year, water has penetrated the tiles at the bottom of the shower and we now have mold growing behind the tile. At this point we are looking at either replacing the bottom third of the shower with different tile, or having to rip the entire shower out and start anew. Neither of these options are appealing, especially since we only have one bathroom in our house and of course the expense involved.

    1. Marble is considered a more porous stone than some others. We have always used a $2 Ikea squeegee to remove the water left behind after showering (we have travertine down to the tub) and have had to re-grout down toward the bottom but the tiles and backer have stayed dry. You might want to start removing the bottom tiles and assess how bad the damage is, if it gets too bad you might have to replace subflooring which can get spendy. Get that mold NOW or you may be dealing with health issues for the rest of your life.

  10. This is great advice and definitely a post I’ll return to when we update our bathroom. One thing I’ll add that is small and probably obvious to everyone else, but also something I didn’t think about when when our house was built. Be careful about how moisture will escape the shower. Our shower is located–for reasons unknown to anyone but our builder–behind the door. So if the door is open, no moisture escapes, and if it is closed, well all the moisture escapes the shower but stays in the bathroom. There is a fan, but it can only do so much. The result is that we are constantly dealing with mold issues in there. If we had the shower further into the room, this would not have been a problem.

    1. We’ve installed an automated fan for this reason in our guest bathroom (cause so many of our guests NEVER turned the fan switch on). The fan has a motion detector and you can custom set it to stay on for a specified amount of time after the motion in the bathroom stops/the person has left the bathroom. So we set the fan to stay on for 45 minutes after someone leaves the room. The speed of the fan is also customizable and we keep it moderately high and fortunately it’s still pretty quite. I don’t remember the model, but it’s a made by Panasonic. It was recommended to me by a contractor who owns a few rentals and he said it has saved him a lot of headaches (moisture related repairs) with renters who fail to turn the fan on.

      1. Panasonic makes a very quiet model called the Whispersonic, it’s got a pretty low sones rating. I suggest listening to one in the store, if you can, before buying. Some people (my husband 🙁 for one) can hear a high whine or the sones rating is still too loud for them (if they grew up without bathroom fans and feel it draws attention). But most people who have them love them.
        We returned our Whispersonics and I found a company called Fantech in Arizona. They de-couple the motor from the fan and keep them about 6 feet apart, so the sones rating is even quieter. My husband can just barely hear the motor and it doesn’t bother him. Our installer had never heard of this company, I think they are rather small. However, I found working with them very pleasant and easy. I started an order on the website and then called them to check that I wasn’t skipping anything. They didn’t mind, and went through the whole thing with me and checked my room dimensions to be sure I was getting the right motor model. It was more expensive but not a lot, and anyway we were remediating a mold issue in the second bathroom that was giving me migraines and putting a fan in the main bathroom to prevent mold from showing up there. It was worth it for us. This is probably 8 or so years ago now? We still have the same two fans, no problems.

    2. Yeah, we actually have an automatic fan! Which is great, but…the location of the shower means that it still doesn’t dry sufficiently to avoid mold issues. We have to use a daily mold cleaner (which tbh we don’t use quite daily!) and then every other month follow up with a heavy duty mold cleaner. Maybe if our automatic fan was higher quality (Lena, yours does sound better than ours), it would do better? But the simple solution would have been to put the shower somewhere else, because then even our less fancy automatic fan would have done what it was meant to do.

      1. Have you tried getting the grout deep cleaned and then sealed? I find that so many installers still do not do a real sealing of the tile and grout. It will help you a lot by preventing the mold from getting an easy foothold. Sealing has to be redone every 1-2 years, but it’s neither hard nor costly.

      2. We had the same problem in our bathroom with an oddly placed door, especially in the winter when the window wasn’t open. I bought a small dehumidifier (smaller than a cereal box) for the bathroom that I tucked into a corner in the tight space and it eliminated the mold/mildew problem completely. It’s small so I have to empty it weekly but that’s a lot easier than the hard core cleaning I had to do before!

  11. Pay attention to the drain hardware in a new shower build. There are lots of options that are nicer than the standard mini-square, but you need to plan ahead so the pan and tile will properly drain

  12. This kind of post is invaluable. Nothing is more helpful than the advice from the brave ones who have gone before us. Especially now, with high prices for lumber, high demand for contractors, etc.

    I especially appreciated the comment about installing in-floor heating below the joists, so that it can be repaired without ripping out tile.

    Kitchens, bathrooms, additions, landscaping.
    Help with all kinds of specs: do people like two garage doors for two car garages or one big one? (And many more.) Design for custom sizes and materials vs. using standard products: when is it worth the extra expense?
    How to communicate with your architect.
    Accessibility, in all its aspects. All it takes is one badly sprained ankle to realize how easy or hard it is to maneuver in your home.

    Please keep it going!

    1. Second all these topics. Landscaping! And sustainable, eco-friendly landscaping!! Tips on how to communicate with contractors, esp from a woman’s perspective, I feel like I am constantly not heard and that I have to ask for specifics like I am speaking to a toddler, like 10x. More tips for home sellers while the markets hot!

      1. OMG, yes. I have my husband deal with all trades people because I think they’re either scared of me, or they think I’m dumb. I have an interior design degree!

      2. I generally tell them the first time that not only am I the contact person for any and all questions and problems, but I’m also the person who will cut the check. If they want their checks, they’d best be checking in with me. My husband, lovely man, doesn’t know a darn thing about any of this stuff and doesn’t want to. He knows computers and financing/investing, then learned about cars after moving to the States, and that’s about all he can take! Anything else is my area. 🙂

      3. Before I accept a bid, I assess the contractor’s willingness to work with a woman and if he gives me any kind of bad vibes, I move on. Over the years, I’ve passed by a few clunkers but I’ve also found a number of really great craftsmen who communicate just as well -if not better- with women than they do with men. Keep looking, the gems are out there.

        1. Yup, I stay away from those who talk down to me or try to mansplain. Generally when they first come to do a walk-through I am the one who does it, and I explain to them exactly what I want. I think maybe because they see I have a clear vision, they respect it more? But again, I don’t call anyone back who feels misogynistic or shady. I had one guy tell me he couldn’t make it because his stepdad died and then a few months later told me “I do the windows with my stepdad.” Okay, buddy. Not calling you back.

  13. Don’t put a toilet facing a window!
    Signed, a woman whose primary bathroom shitter faces the street….

    1. OMG! I feel for you. Maybe an inexpensive 3M frosted glass application is in your future? Call your local sign shop for a sample, pretty easy to install yourself or I am sure they can put the vinyl on for you-much more affordable than replacing the glass and won’t damage the original window.

    2. You can frost glass yourself. DIY with etching soluution and cotton wadding, dabbing at the glass. It looks really good, lets the light in, provides privacy.

      1. It’s super easy, too. Act like a 5 year old painting with school glue, then rinse it off after your egg timer dings.

    3. 2 options for you to consider: privacy film and cafe curtain.

      I put cling frosted privacy film on my bedroom windows on the lower half and left the top uncovered. Now I get the light and privacy. it only cost me $6 for 1 roll. You clean the glass, then spray water on the glass. Apply the film to the wet glass and use a squeegee to smooth the film and squeeze the water out. Voila! It took more time measuring and cutting the film because the windows are not a standard size or shape (of course in this rental!). I used the left overs to make frosted stripes on the hideous sliding glass doors.

      My previous rental’s bathroom had a window that faced the street. So standing in the shower meant giving a peep show. I got a tension curtain rod, and hung a nice dish towel as a cafe curtain because it could withstand getting wet and could be replaced or laundered as needed.

  14. Curbless shower question that is relevant right this instant! How do you have a mat in front of the door? My installer said in order to not knock it out of the way the shower needed a curb, I acquiesced, now they don’t have enough tile to cover the curb and I’m debating what to do! Help!

      1. many glass doors have hinges that will swing both ways. sounds like it’s prob a custom door anyway so you can just have them make the door an inch above your floor as long as the shower is big enough and the drain is far enough away from the door to prevent water from pooling and leaking out. although if it does leak out I guess you have your rug there to soak it up-ha!

    1. Code in most places requires the shower door to open outwards. However, that does not mean that the door cannot open outwards *and* inwards. That is what we did. Works really well. The main issue is making sure that if the door swings inwards, it doesn’t hit a shower head or other fixture.

  15. The schluter comment is so right on. (How great is that word). Most tiles don’t come with the bulky bullnose tile to finish off edges anymore, so schluter is pretty standard. Our contractor used a miter saw to finish off edges and it looks modern and fabulous. We are in CA and it definitely cost more money (labor) to do that, so a word of caution. Schluter does at least come in different metal finishes, so if the cost differential is too much you could still use, say, bronze schluter if you are using bronze fixtures and it may not stand out as much as the standard chrome.

    1. We went rounds with our contractor over Schluter. He was wonderful right up until the moment he admitted he didn’t know how to finish tile any other way. It’s easy, relatively inexpensive, and it works, so that’s what they fall back on. However, it didn’t fit with my modern classic bathroom remodel (and I didn’t want my new space to look like every commercial bathroom in town). I hired a second tile guy for a day and he got the edges/outside corners done beautifully. It cost time and money, but we avoided the schluter, so totally worth it.

      1. I used Schluter tile strips in a brass finish and they look fantastic!! You have to search online because the stores usually don’t carry them.

  16. Hi, thanks for a great post! Sometimes the bathroom tiles just need a bit of tlc, so a little bit of re-grouting can make it look a lot better. Same goes for bathtubs. Heated floors are not very easy to fix when they cause problems, you’ll have to destroy the whole flooring to be able to do that.

  17. yes, to Whitney’s comment! Rain showers are so frustrating when you’re not a daily hair washer. Wearing a shower cap to avoid it is not ideal. I had one with a diverter to a standard shower head and it would still just drip drip on my head. They’re the worst.

  18. Really surprised you included the comment about using large tiles on the shower floor. They’re a terrible slipping hazard. Maybe edit that out, or at least a note that they’re a bad idea?

    1. I was told it was more down to material? People using flagstone? bluestone? (not sure of the name) typically use large tiles but it’s okay because they just aren’t nearly as slippery to begin with compared to the usual porcelain tiles. Is that not right?

  19. We built a 2 head shower 20 years ago and instead of tiling the floor we had a solid composite floor made. It is non slip and there is no grout to clean. The walls and bench are tiled. Even though the wall tiles are now dated the floor looks great! Best decision, we ever made!

    1. Composite? Like, you had terazzo made for you? or you put Corian countertop material on the floor? I’m very curious what you mean. This could be a really great out-of-the-box idea.

        1. Thank you so much for answering! I had not heard of swanstone before and had a look round their site. I’m very interested in what they are doing and love that they are somewhat local to me, I’ve bookmarked them for future use. Thanks again!

  20. One piece of advice-when installing a vanity against the wall where the door is, make sure all vanity drawers will clear the door frame. My dad forgot about this and it created a real problem in his guest bathroom. They ended up having to install the vanity at a slight angle. When I did my bathroom, I made sure there was trim beyond the edge of the drawer to ensure the drawer would clear the door trim.

  21. Under sink cabinet storage is not that great. We opted for a large wall mounted sink with a tall bath cabinet instead of a vanity. I think it actually makes the room feel larger (more visible floor?), plus it is easier to clean and better organized.

    1. I agree, this all the way unless you have a small bathroom without room for a separate cabinet. And even then, consider a surround for the toilet that goes up to give you the storage space and still get a pedestal sink. (And I say this as someone that does have very small bathrooms, if they hadn’t come with stupid accessories tiled into the wall above the toilet, we would be doing this. We’ll be doing it at some point anyway, we just have to save longer for a more expensive remodel.)

  22. My biggest bathroom regret is the floor color! Light tile + dark hair = JUST NO.

  23. Pure gold! We know EHD readers love to give their opinions on all the things, this is seriously so helpful. I would love to hear all the juicies on mudrooms next. It’s interesting that for new builds many of these things come up as code requirements (like the shower faucet accessibility at the shower entrance which helps prevent scalding and ADA codes on height for things like light switches) but for remodeling there are few requirements-in WA anyway. Also, I hope in the future EHD will open a dialogue on some of the language in the home design industry which have roots deep in pain of racism, slavery and unwhiteness: Master Suite, Plantation shutters, Colonial style and terms like exotic/tribal/ethnic etc. Not an effort to erase an ugly history but to bring knowledge to readers who may not realize the origin of many of these terms and to expand our vocabulary to be more inclusive, caring and accurate.

    1. I am sure many of us did not even give thought to the negative association to design terminology and its origination. Terminology is evolving for the better (i.e, Master bedroom is now Primary bedroom in real estate listings.) If EHD had an educational post to enlighten us, I also would (read) appreciate it.

    2. Yes! Great idea. And it would stop the haters slamming those of us that dare to point things out.🙃

  24. My handheld is beautiful but really heavy – a mistake, and I knew it was heavy at the time of purchase but did not think it would be a problem. I had a curbless shower built to replace an existing shower- best decision ever. I made the bathroom handicap accessible, another good decision.
    I hate those round towel bars for hand towels near the sink so I made the vanity smaller and mounted towel bars to the sides.

  25. We used black grout to avoid the intense maintenance needs of white grout. It looks terrible with all of these whitish stains no matter how much I scrub it. I did a bunch of highly technical internet research on this and came across the theory that the tile installer needed to use distilled water to mix the grout? Apparently this is fixable, but since it’s our only full bathroom, the great regrouting is going to have to wait.

    1. I’ve heard that you shouldn’t use white OR black grout as both show different types of stains.

  26. I have a question! Am I the only person on the planet who likes medicine cabinets? I never see them mentioned on design blogs but I genuinely don’t understand how people keep their vanities clear of daily medications and toiletries without one. I know they’re not sexy but to me they are a MUST. Am I missing something?

    1. No, you’re not alone! Medicine cabinets are totally underrated, especially in a bathroom with limited storage space. In our cramped bathroom we got rid of a 5’ wide vanity with multiple, weirdly-configured drawers in favor of a single cabinet, shallow-depth vanity plus a medicine cabinet/mirror. Thanks to the medicine cabinet we actually ended up with MORE usable storage space afterward!

      1. I’m so glad to hear I’m not nutty pants! I feel like I never see them in fancy re-designs but we bought a house with a huge mirror that looks nice, but the rest of the bathroom looks like crap because our shit is everywhere lol. Medicine cabinets save the day!

    2. So many places make beautiful medicine cabinets these days, we are definitely considering them when we reno our primary bathroom!

    3. Yes! We’re planning a bathroom remodel and are confused by how few medicine cabinets are available. We have a small bathroom with a gloriously large medicine cabinet. We definitely do not want to loose that storage. While the cabinet is 50 years old and ready to be retired, we’d keep it until medicine cabinets “come back into style” if we really cannot find something comparable.

      1. Check West Elm – they have some beautiful mirror medicine cabinets right now. I was planning to use some in our upcoming bath remodels.

      2. Try Signature Hardware— they have a great selection. We got a beautiful, wide, whitewashed teak one that stretched over the matching vanity and toilet in our tiny en suite in Seattle.

    4. I love medicine cabinets! Moved into a house two years ago that had them and now don’t think I can live without them:)

    5. I miss the medicine cabinet in our old house so much! Our new bathroom is twice the size and I swear has less storage than our old medicine cabinet, despite the 5 drawers and 3 cabinets we have now. Bring back medicine cabinets!!

    6. I agree. We just did a whole house remodel, including all three baths and I wish that I’d planned for medicine cabinets. By the time I got around to picking the mirrors it was too late to add them without more expense, mess, and time, which I couldn’t deal with at that point.

    7. SO with you on this! They are the best! And a plain mirror always looks better than stuff all over my vanity. Going from a five year old house from the 70’s and one of the things I am most excited about is the dated medicine cabinets. And overall better storage!
      A side note- the other things I have noticed design blogs hate on that I love are recessed lights. (Is this just so they can link a ceiling light or lamp to sell me instead? Hard to sell recessed lights. LOL). I definitely have a more modern aesthetic and love the streamlined look of them rather than like 7 different lamps and side tables etc. I also don’t feel like they’re THAT noticeable or an eyesore because they’re RECESSED. Anyone else?

  27. If you live in apartment with radiator or heated riser, make sure the room actually gets cold before installing heated floors. I purchased a coop in NYC and installed heated flooring because I thought marble floors would get cold during NYC winters (I don’t live in NYC in full-time and never lived there before). The heaters never come on because the rooms are ALWAYS warm in a good pre-war building. Oh well, live and learn.

    1. Ha! The coldest week in NYC is always the week before the heat turns on 🤣

  28. These are great tips! Maybe we could do a post on Laundry Rooms? I have a square one in downstairs, no window, cement foundation floor, that also houses the furnace, water softener and well pump.

  29. We just renovated three bathrooms in our house:
    1. Marble topped linear drains look good but they require an annoying additional step to clean out the drain catch – should have just gone with the simple, easy to wipe clean drain!
    2. We did two rows of hooks in the kids bathroom so that they can easily hang towels…and grow into a set of hooks in the future.
    3. Our designer suggested a fold down teak bench on the shower wall and I’m so happy we did this instead of a built in seat. Accommodates more room in the shower AND prevents an ugly pileup of toiletries.

  30. We did 24”x24” tiles in the shower in my last house. It was amazing – way less grout. We also opted for the thinnest grout lines possible without messing up the install. Our current shower should be so lucky. I told my husband that if we redo the bathroom in this house, I will be opting for slabs of stone. I’m so tired of cleaning grout.

  31. We have literally just completed a bathroom renovation (and we only have 1 bathroom so 2 1/2 months of porta-potty use!)
    We installed a recessed frameless-mirror medicine cabinet – we saved $$ by buying one that came without an power outlet (they are sooo expensive!), cut out a hole inside it and the electrician installed an outlet for us in there (no more electric toothbrush on the counter!)
    I’ve found that light colored floors hide more marks than dark floors interestingly enough. Dark floors show every thing, including water stains if you live in an area with hard water. You never get those pesky calcium marks out without some hard graft.
    We did darker grout on the floor to the walls – same color family, dark grey vs lighter grey. If grout is too dark, same issues as for dark tiles.
    Heated floors. Best decision we made. So worth the additional cost.
    Power outlets next to the toilet. Even if you’re not installing a bidet (we did), gives you options for the future.
    If you’re installing items that do require power, triple check that all the required outlets have been installed, where you want them, while the walls are down. We missed one, and had to come up with a solution on the fly that didn’t require an insane amount of rework to implement.
    If you are installing a rain shower, always have a hand shower as well. Again, options.
    Contentious decision alert… we installed a shower niche, but also got a corner triangular soap holder thingy (??) installed as well for holding the soap/liquid soap. Flat triangle shaped piece of metal (we did white so it’s barely noticeable in our white shower).
    Don’t let any tradesperson drill holes in anything to install a fixture, until they have your agreement about where that hole should be! Some people have very different ideas to you about where something should be placed and you don’t want to be swearing every time you have perform a yoga move to grab the toilet paper.

    1. The only other comment I’d add here, that applies to any renovation, is that really think about what your tolerance is for cleaning/maintenance vs pretty. Yes, you like the beautiful bronze taps or the marble counter. But they take work and maintenance, and may not always remain looking like new. Figure out if you’re comfortable with that or not. If not, change your choice to one that you can actually live with from a practical perspective.

  32. Disagree–strenuously–with the advice to use large tiles on shower floors. Small tiles do give you more grout to clean, but those very grout lines make the tile non-skid. For real. The health-care facility I just retired from had 1 1/2 inch tiles in the shower area, and 12″ tiles in the rest of the bathroom. Falls happened on the large tiles.
    Also, not making the toilet area too small to get an injured person out is 100% correct. In the older parts of that facility there were bathrooms so narrow we had to hitch people onto sheets and drag them. Your hip fracture does not need that.
    And if no one in your house takes baths, don’t let anyone bully you into a tub-shower combo. Just go with a walk-in, if that’s what you want. I would rip my tub out in a heartbeat if I could afford it.

  33. This is so helpful! Please more posts like this 💛 I also wanted to say I really loved the conversation about energy efficient appliances a while ago (specifically moving away from gas stoves) and would love a full post on this since there is so little information about it in the design and renovation community. From really unsexy things like electric water heaters to water conserving bath fixtures that are still beautiful and functional. Thank you!!

    1. I emphatically second this request! I’m especially anxious to hear the report on greener fireplace options. We have to decide about this for our cabin reno by next week so I am crossing fingers so hard for a post about it before our deadline!

  34. Learned the hard way that we don’t bend at the waist, but at our hips. My remodeled bathroom sink is 4″ too high now. I can’t even wash my face, I just throw water at it and then towel dry. I cried for a week each time I’d use the sink. And the contractor had been happy that my waist was 36″ from the floor. Lazy. Used pre-fab kitchen cabs for the vanity.

  35. As someone who is working on 5(!!) bathrooms as we convert our Victorian house into a boutique b&b, this article has been invaluable! I was so worried about having “regular” sized showers and “deep-but-not-oversized-jacuzzi” tubs due to the quirks of our almost 160 year old home… but it sounds like people just want to be warm and comfortable and not fuss with silly features like rain shower heads or open plan bathrooms. Phew!! Interestingly the tips here are also often the less expensive option in terms of materials and/or labor. Less really is more!

  36. make sure your heated floors extend under the vanity (in the toe kick/open space). Our installer stopped the heated floors even with the front of the vanity, which means my toes sit on cold tile, while my heels are warm. It’s very weird/annoying.

  37. Small tiles vs Large tiles in the shower? There are large tiles that are specifically made to be slip resistant that can be used for a shower floor. Ask to see the co-efficient of friction rating of the tile. Also consider preformed shower pans that are slip resistant and have no grout line.

  38. I’m in the midst of designing two bathrooms and am unsure of the bath/shower fixtures. Do you really need a handheld for a shower and a stand alone tub? Not only do they add a couple hundred dollars to the price tag, but I’m a minimalist and prefer not to have a handheld device around the tub and on the shower wall. It looks messy to me. Is this a decision I’ll regret later when for example I want to just rinse out the tub or for cleaning the shower? Do people really use handhelds? I wash my hair under the shower head every time I shower so it’s not like I need it for that. Very open to advice!

    1. No. You don’t. You can have a standard one – just ensure it’s installed at the correct height for the people using it.

    2. I use our handheld for cleaning the shower/bath (great for spraying water where you need it) and for the kids. I find it very useful. Our handheld is also our main shower spray — we don’t have a separate fixed shower head.

      1. Yeah, I have two places to “hang up” my handheld — one overhead and one a bit below shoulder height. I also love love love a handheld for cleaning.

    3. Best thing I ever did was put handhelds in all my showers. I too like a minimal look and I think the ones I put in look great. Only way to really get the whole shower clean, in my opinion.

    4. The handheld is very essential to me for rinsing after I clean the tub or shower floor and the tiled walls. I would not design a bathroom without one.

    5. How do you clean the shower without a handheld? I also use it to clean my dog, since my master bath has direct access to the garden. I prefer the handhelds without the ridges, especially if you have hard water, because they are easier to clean.

  39. We remodeled two bathrooms and didn’t want glass OR a curtain rod as a shower barrier. We used ceiling mountain curtain tracks – like they have in hospitals – and they are excellent. When they are open, the room is totally open, and when they’re closed, they function great. Highly recommend.

    1. I was looking at this idea! I was worried about the steam in the shower not being able to escape when the curtain is closed. So then I looked for chain extenders to lower the curtain a bit from the track and couldn’t find anything that wasn’t really ugly. Can you share what products you used?

      1. Try doing a websearch for “hospital supply furnishings”. I looked around McKesson’s website and they have the privacy curtains that hang from the ceiling by chains in a track. You could maybe even call up a local hospital (if things are quieting in your area) and ask for housekeeping and see if they can recall what company they use for resupply.

  40. When we did our main bathroom renovation, we wanted to plan to make it work as we age, or have limited mobility. We learned of many limitations when I had an ankle injury and when we housed an elderly relative.

    Make sure doorways are wide enough for a walker. Invest in a grab bar strength slider for shower heads. It looks no different than a typical shower bar, but it has extra bracing, making it safer should you slip & grab the shower bar. A half wall in a shower makes it easier to get in & out plus the shower controls are located there to make it easier to turn on a shower w/o getting wet before entering.

    But the smartest thing we did was to have the carpenter install additional bracing in the wall in case we need to add a horizontal grab bar.

    1. This is really smart. I was also going to suggest putting in backing for things like towel bars, hooks, toilet paper holders, grab bars, etc. So much easier to do that when the walls are open. Then you don’t have to use the wimpy sheetrock screws and screw up your sheetrock or tile.

  41. I also dislike rain shower heads! And just my luck, that’s what there is in our new house. I’m so mad at it every time I take a shower. There’s a handle head but no cradle for it except at waist level.

  42. Oh how I wish we could redo our primary bath! We had to do a rushed Reno when we first moved in 20 years ago and made so many mistakes. Let the plumber create an access door behind the bath plumbing on a wall in my bedroom. He did such a shoddy job, should have brought in a carpenter. Only put one electrical outlet near one of the double vanity sinks and then realized that we both have stuff that need to be plugged in and finally white grout is the bane of my existence. The plumbing center designer also talked me into 12” tiles on the floor😢

  43. Are people still doing vessel sinks??? I’ve never cared for them for either usage or looks, but now they look like something a new parade of Househunters will kvetch about.
    I wish I’d done a darker grout on my hex floor tile.

    1. I hope not. They’ve been everywhere in hotels I’ve stayed in for the last decade, as well as in a few friends’ homes. I’ve yet to use one that wasn’t a horrible experience. And using one as a kid (or trying to hold a toddler up to use one) is just a nightmare. I do understand that some of them are very very pretty – it seems like people making sinks don’t think about beauty unless they are making a vessel sink. But: you can lower a vessel sink partially or fully into a counter as long as it is supported, piped, and caulked properly (none of which is hard), then you don’t have to settle for a plain sink.

  44. Check how well leveled you tub is!
    My plumber is a stoner and as a result the tub was not installed and leveled properly. When you shower the water runs from its ledges onto the bathroom floor. We now have to cut open a tub length hole into the back of the bath and rip out the tub to reposition. Needless to say that the tiles get damaged too and we can in the meantime only use the other bathroom for a family of five. I could cry! Ps. I am the one who figured this out with my cheapi IKEA water level after both the plumber and the contractor failed to notice. Don’t be afraid to check the work done.

  45. Consider using silicon in matching color for movement joints when grouting shower/bath tile surround.

    My contractor dismissed my suggestion claiming there was no such products. (Home Depot carries a coordinated lines of matching silicone to their grout palette). After only two weeks in the newly remodeled bathroom the grout in the corners and where tiles meet the wall show large cracks… this is where water enters and mold and rot start…

  46. Tips on bathroom fans:

    1. Do NOT get a Bluetooth one that plays music. My husband got cute and bought one. We never use it to play music. Never. Every time you turn it on (say at 2am if you get up to use the bathroom), it plays what sounds like loud doorbells and then old tv static for a good 10 seconds trying to connect to music. (Who designed these things?!)

    2. Get a normal old school bathroom fan that makes white noise when working (not playing doorbells haha), as it’s needed for privacy. The ones that are more silent/make less fan noise don’t block out the sound of people using the bathroom. Particularly in public areas! Enough said. (And usually are advertised as being more silent… why???)

    3. Get fans for half baths as well as full baths. See above. My parents had a half bath right off of their living room with no fan… ugh. You could hear every single noise from the living room unless a loud party was happening or really loud TV.

    Good luck on the reno!! 🙂

  47. Sliding barn doors on bathrooms is my #1 pet peeve and so many hotels have gone to them! If there’s one room where you want MAXIMUM sound and smell separation… 🙄

  48. What a surprise to see one of my comments quoted. 🙂
    One small correction, the shower head is 62 inches high. It’s so short. And one more complaint about the sliding glass shower doors are that they are so short I have to duck under to get in and out of the shower.

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