Bathroom Fixtures – A handy selection guide for your next remodel
When you’re faced with the task of remodelling or adding a bathroom, you have a myriad of choices in everything from bathtubs to shower fixtures to lighting. You may already have some ideas about the look you’re aiming for (e.g. sleek and modern or spa-like). The next step is researching all your bathroom fixture options. Will you choose modern bathroom fixtures or more traditional, or a creative combination of both? Use this guide to help you choose from all the wonderful options available; bathroom fixtures that will complement each other and pull the whole look together into a cohesive bathroom design.
Step One: Have a Basic Plan
The next step in deciding on new bathroom fixture appointments is to figure out a few basics. The first consideration is all about the space. Well before you start thinking about fixtures, you have to decide on the general layout of the bathroom. You or your designer should have a discussion with your contractor to see what elements you want for your new bathroom and what is practical. Together you will make choices like whether or not there is enough space for a one, or two sink vanity, or perhaps a free standing tub to replace the old alcove tub. Are you interested in lighting over the bathtub or shower? Acrylic shower base or tiled? If you’ve made changes to the original layout, this can increase the number of bathroom fixtures you will likely need, which could affect your budget considerably. Figuring out these basic considerations will help narrow down your choices, making the shopping portion of the project a little less daunting and easier to manage.
Step Two: Learn What’s Out There
Know what’s out there. Doing a little bathroom fixture research to learn what’s actually available, and how it might fit into your budget, is the first step in narrowing things down to a more manageable level. Break it down into mini choices, keeping notes on each item including style, finish, measurements and prices. Visit a bathroom showroom. The pros there can guide you on features, price ranges, etc., and seeing something in person always gives you a better idea than simply looking at a picture of it.
Step Three: Making your bathroom fixture decisions
Now you are prepared to start choosing your bathroom fixtures starting with the basics, including the sink, faucet, toilet, bathtub or shower base, lighting, towel bars & accessory fixtures. Choosing the right shower valve trim style and shower head is your next decision. Then shower storage, shower doors and screens, heating fixtures and maybe even a shower bench. You should work with your contractor / designer to decide which of these fixtures and finishes they think will work well in your bathroom space considering your preferences. For example, you could decide to follow the latest trend, and choose different bathroom fixture finishes in your bathroom space, like a stainless steel shower niche and a black shower trim. The professionals you hire will be able to provide their opinion as well as valuable cost considerations.
You’ve got a lot of choices, from vessel sinks in standard white ceramic & porcelain, to more exotic choices like glass, stone or copper. Vessel sinks also come in semi-recessed varieties, which means that the bowl edge is still proud of the counter but sink base is recessed. Then there are pedestal sinks (not too common anymore), and wall mount sinks which are gaining in popularity for smaller bathrooms and powder rooms, or if handicapped access is a priority. Or you might also choose an under-mount sink if you are striving for a minimalist style, or if you simply want an uncluttered look on your vanity counter.
The most common strategy is to match the style & finish of your sink faucet with the rest of your other bathroom fixtures. Sink (or lavatory) faucets come in variety of styles from ultra modern to classic, and a variety of finishes – classic chrome, brushed stainless steel, and rose gold, for example. Do you prefer sink mounted, countertop, or wall mounted. Counter, or deck mounted faucets are the most common style in most modern remodel projects. Wall mounted faucets are generally more pricey and involve more plumbing work, so you must be prepared for this in your budget. Do you want a mixed fixture finish look? Do you want a standard water stream (budget models), laminar flow, or waterfall? Another consideration is whether you prefer separate knobs or a single-handled model. Arched models work best with deep sinks, but style options are abundant.
The toilet choice can be surprisingly challenging because features are difficult to compare between different brands, but there are some basic features you can focus on. If you are concerned about bowl hight, most are ADA compliant at around 16 1/2 inches. Most toilets are fairly efficient in their use of water, but there are some ultra high efficiency toilets (UHET) available as well. You’ve got the choice of standard two-piece toilets, the sleeker one-piece models, or wall hung toilets, by far the most expensive. Some floor mount models also come with a smooth skirt (concealed trapway), which provides a more high-end look and are easier to clean. There are dual flush options as well as self-cleaning bowls from which to choose. While white is still the most popular “color” of choice, different color options are available, but usually at a higher price point.
Bathtub or Shower
Bathroom space restrictions and budget are the primary considerations when choosing the right bathtub fixture or shower base. You can simply replace your old tub with a new one, but if the space allows for it, you could consider a tub and adjacent shower. You could also replace the tub with an acrylic shower base if you no longer need a bathtub. If the tub space can be made slightly larger, there are larger tubs that you could consider, as well as deeper soaker tubs with water jet options to really enhance the bathing experience. If you have a large bathroom (and a larger budget to go with it), you could consider a free standing tub. There a great variety of moulded fibreglass / acrylic tubs from ultra modern versions, to the classical. And one of the most classic bathroom fixtures, the enamelled claw-foot tub has always been a favourite, with modern varieties made of various materials including copper, or nickel cladded copper.
Among your bathroom fixtures options, your choice of lighting can be a foundational part of your bathroom design. As such, your lighting fixtures choices must be consistent with the style and finish of the rest of your bathroom fixtures. An effective vanity light is the most important in any bathroom, but there are definitely a lot of choices here. It is common for a simple bar style fixture to be mounted just above the mirror but instead you could install wall mounted fixtures (sconces) on either side of the mirror or hang pendant lights just in front of the mirror (see pic). For general lighting, recessed LED fixtures distributed effectively in the ceiling is the most common choice today. LED rope or strip lighting can also be used for feature lighting or a source of general light, creating an appealing glow. A light above the shower, usually a recessed fixture, is also becoming the norm. If you want to be a little more creative, and you have the space for it, you could also consider installing a chandelier over your soaker tub.
Towel Bars & accessory fixtures:
Towel bars and other accessory fixtures are another more subtle, but necessary part of every bathroom fixture search. Again, it is a good idea to find a finish and style that matches the fixtures you’ve chose for the rest of the room, however, there is some latitude here. Some finishes from different brands look quite similar and different styles are often compatible as well. Your vanity mirror can actually be a style statement as well as a purely functional feature in your bathroom. Your mirror can be framed in an imaginative way, or be extra-large, or custom-made in an unusual shape by a glass shop. Lighted mirrors are becoming more popular because it eliminates the need for a vanity light.
Shower trim, shower heads & sprayers:
Searching for bathroom fixtures, you will notice a dizzying array of shower heads and body jets and sprayers available to choose from. You can always go for the standard wall mounted shower head or you can choose from a range of hand-held, rain shower, and massaging shower heads to satisfy your needs. Hand-held shower heads are incredibly popular because they can serve many purposes, from washing yourself, to washing the family dog and aiding in your shower cleaning efforts. Rain shower heads are offered for standard wall mounted shower arms and for ceiling mount. The ceiling mounted variety can get quite expensive, but if you are looking to really enhance your shower experience, this is definitely the way to go. Body jets can also add some welcome luxury, but they come with a high fixture cost and extra plumbing expenses.
Functional and beautiful finished shower niches are another bathroom fixture definitely worth your consideration. If you want more bathroom storage and you are tired of kicking your shampoo bottles and slipping on your soap, these fixtures might be exactly what you are looking for. Unlike the more traditional tiled shower niches, these fixtures mount easily and have an attractive finished surface so you avoid the cost of construction and tiling (niche in pic from Redblock Industries). These fixtures also allow you to avoid the dreaded shower caddy; the all too popular, but unattractive shower storage option. Niches, by virtue of being “built-in” to the wall, don’t impinge on space and are easy to keep clean and tidy.
Shower Doors & Screens:
Your choice of a shower door or screen will be one of the most stylistically dominant bathroom fixtures that you purchase. Whether you install a tub shower or a full shower, the choices are similar. You can choose a full frame model with one of the various finishes available, or a frameless model which is a more expensive option but preferred in most modern bathroom remodels. A couple of standard heights are usually available with most manufacturers as well. You also need to choose between a swing style door or rolling door. Swing doors can be incorporated into a door that covers the full shower opening, or you can also find doors that provide only partial coverage (usually called a screen). Shower screens can also be a single decorative fixed panel or a simple sheet of glass if you prefer a very minimalist look. There are also many combinations of the above if you prefer to order a custom assembly from a glass shop, but this can get very pricey.
Shower benches are a bathroom fixture that for some, can provide a little extra comfort in the shower. It’s a great place to rest while washing, or to use as a platform for shaving your legs. For others like the elderly or handicapped, it can provide some essential aid. In larger showers there is the option of a movable bench, made of exotic wood or stainless steel. If space is at a premium, or if mobility is an issue, a wall mounted bench that tilts up when not in use, is a great option.
A kick-heater or a wall-mounted electric model are great basic space heating options in your bathroom. By far, the most popular bathroom heating option in most modern bathrooms, is in-floor electric heating. This is definitely a more expensive heating option, but nothing can really compare to the comfort of stepping on a warm tile floor especially during the winter months. If your budget permits, consider adding a heated towel rack. A warm towel after a shower can truly represent the luxury bath experience.
Outfitting a bathroom is an adventure in creativity; a unique exploration into the dynamic world of bathroom fixtures, with the singular goal of bringing your vision to life. It takes patience and legwork, but in the end your new bathroom will reward you for many years to come!
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