The bathroom is one of the most important rooms in your house.
The other “most important” room is the kitchen. All of the other
rooms are just empty boxes into which you dump your stuff. But
the kitchen and the bath – that’s where you do your serious
There are generally two situations when an owner may consider
spending money in either of these areas:
• To make the house more comfortable for themselves –
Comfort might involve fixing or getting rid of shabby surroundings
that have outlived their appeal. Or comfort might be making
modifications to make the premises easier to use as one’s
personal capabilities changes with time.
• To make the house more appealing to potential buyers –
Nobody owns a property forever; everything eventually gets sold.
Buyers tend to shun properties that are in need of major facility
These two reasons are not mutually exclusive. There is no reason
why, in anticipation of some far-off but inevitable future sale, you
should not enjoy the fruits of your efforts here and now.
Why is this place falling apart?
Bathing areas take a tremendous beating because of their
constant exposure to water and high humidity. Without constant
human intervention, an entire wood frame house will completely
disappear from the face of the earth within fifty years (the cellar
hole will be gone only a few decades after that). Brick houses
take only marginally longer.
The wear and tear that you see in your bathtub area is just a few
frames out of a very long movie. You are witnessing, first hand,
the natural progression of Mother Nature’s wrath. Water is the
star of the show, and gravity is producer/director. Your bathtub,
unfortunately, is the set.
Why does it have to be this way?
It doesn’t. But it does take, as mentioned above, “constant human
intervention”. That means, YOU. It sounds simplistic, but
maintenance starts with cleaning. (Is there anybody out there who
actually enjoys it?). I, myself, am as lazy as they come, so I’m
always looking for easier ways to do this stuff.
Inevitably, a dab or two of real maintenance creeps into the
picture. Grout, caulk and various other water seal techniques
used on an intermittent basis will prolong the useful life of your
Also on the hit parade of maintenance “gotta-know’s” are drain
and faucet issues:
• Drain Traps: What they are and why you should care.
• How that little drain lever works, and why you should care.
• “Man, I wish that faucet would stop dripping”, and why you
Do I really have to tear it all out?
Again, no. As ugly as it may look, repair is always an option.
Faulty grout can be raked out and replaced. Loose tiles can be
reset, or sections of tiles replaced with new insets. Even
fiberglass can be patched. Bathtubs can have their surfaces
These options are usually much less expensive, time consuming
and invasive than outright replacement. They can “freshen-up” an
otherwise sad looking face, and extend the lifespan of your
bathing area by years.
The downside? You get back the same as what you started with.
That’s not necessarily bad.
I can’t stand it. I really, really want a new
That’s great, but what kind? While the list of specific bath area
products is virtually limitless, your pocketbook and the space that
you have to work with probably are not.
Within the confines of a typical bathroom remodel, the most
common possibilities involve utilizing an existing bathroom space
(or maybe stealing a little more space from some neighboring
room)and installing a tub or shower unit in roughly the same spot
as a previously existing unit.
With this in mind, the usual suspects are:
• A “regular” tub or shower with prefabricated walls – This
route will often be the least expensive. The added cost of the
prefabricated walls is more than offset by the reduced labor of
installation, when compared to custom finished (tile) walls.
• A “regular” tub or shower basin with custom walls – While
more expensive than prefabricated walls, tile provides a lot of
opportunity for elegant artistic expression. A well executed design
can transform the cold utility of the bathroom into a sensuous
• A custom tile shower basin with custom walls – The ultimate
in versatility. Because it is specifically designed for the occasion,
a custom shower basin has no dimensional limits. It can occupy
any available space, and can include benches, shelves, foot rests
and any other amenity. For maximum elegance and functionality,
custom shower basins can be designed so that there is no
unsightly barrier on the floor making a line between the shower
and the rest of the bathroom. “Barrier-free” showers are probably
the most universally useful option.
• Walk-in bathtubs – These units permit a bath lover to
continue their bathing habits when they find themselves being
challenged by the task of climbing into and out of a normal
bathtub. A door in the tub provides relatively easy access with
only a small step-up. These tubs can be used for showers also,
and are often accompanied by matching prefabricated fiberglass
What’s it going to take to get this thing
into my house?
Unless you’re building a new house, or an addition on an existing
house, you’ve got to get rid of the current tub or shower before
the new one can go in. This involves some dust, loud noises, and
a pile of debris.
Some units, like walk-in tubs, can be installed in one day by a
couple of experienced guys that don’t fool around. The more
involved the custom work, the longer the installation process will
take. A barrier-free shower may take about a week.
Your journey starts here . . .
The demolition: a.k.a. “the fun part”
The old tub or shower, and probably a good chunk of the walls,
have got to go. Say “Goodbye”, and don’t plan on salvaging
anything. Mercifully, this should be over relatively quickly.
The rough stuff: “Nice set of pipes!”
If you’re ever going to have a new tub faucet (“valve”, in plumbing
jargon), do it now or forever hold your peace. The same goes for
all the other under-gore that you never think about: wall and floor
framing, insulation and vapor barrier, wall sheathing, drain
The finished face: “Why we came here”