Decorating & Design

December 17, 2008

Bathroom Reno Basics

Besides kitchens, bathrooms are one of the most popular rooms homeowners renovate. With $4,000 on the low side of a very simple bathroom reno cost to $100,000+ for bath masterpieces, no matter your budget, it pays to learn about bathroom materials and process. Proper planning and good design will always end positively even if you may not have that flat panel television in the bathroom just yet. Here’s what to remember when planning a bathroom renovation:


If your plumbing is adequate, up to code with no leaks, then you can move onto the space’s aesthetics. Even so, have your builder check that your pipes are well insulated while your bathroom reno is under way, even if you won’t be moving or replacing any pipes.


Whether you decide on stone, ceramic, or porcelain, remember that polished surfaces will be slippery when wet. If safety is an issue, choose a honed (matte) or textured finish. Mosaic tiles work well too, as the extra grout lines offer a little more traction. Wood flooring in bathrooms is becoming more widely used, especially teak and bamboo, which work well in damp areas. Cork tile is increasingly popular for its mildew-resistant quality.


White remains the most practical colour for toilets, tubs and sinks. However, if you prefer a less traditional approach, sinks crafted from stone, glass, stainless steel or painted ceramic can add much interest to a bathroom. Toilets are available with elongated or short bowls. If you are working with a small space, stick with a shorter design.

If a whirlpool-style tub is in your plans, look into the standard style and air-jet style. Typically air jets are easier to clean than standard water jets, but ask your salesperson the pros and cons of each before buying.

Tub Faucet Tip: Install a hand-shower with a new tub. It will make cleaning much easier. On a freestanding tub, locate your faucet and hardware on the long side of the tub instead of the old standard faucet-at-the-end, to allow for more room to rest your weary head and feet.


Make sure that the lighting is both adequate and well situated. Lighting above the sink and counter should light your face, not the top of your head. Installing dimmers in a bathroom can turn an ordinary bath into a spa-like retreat.


Bathrooms require proper ventilation and are often outfitted with an unsightly wall or ceiling fan. However, combination fan/lights are now available. Appearing like regular recessed “pot” lights, this type offers a more seamless look.


Your electrician will install GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets in your bathroom if they aren’t already there. These outlets provide protection from the hazards of electrical shock. Ground fault protection is important when using electrical tools or small appliances like hair dryers or razors that may come into contact with water or grounded plumbing and are required by code in bathrooms, kitchens and spas.


Think beyond the medicine cabinet. Make use of space under the built-in tub surround for towels, create niches between studs for displays or soaps and don’t forget to dedicate ample space for towel bars and hooks. If space permits, creating a closet in a bathroom is a storage luxury.