Choosing Bathroom Fixtures
Plumbing fixtures are the main event in the bathroom: toilet, sink, shower and tub. In each of these categories, you can splurge and take the bathroom (and your budget) to resort proportions. Or you can stay within a slim budget and choose value-engineered fixtures that will get the job done.
The best way to begin selecting these essentials is to visit a bathroom showroom where you can see and try—and ask questions. Your designer will guide you through the selection process and make recommendations, as will a professional in a plumbing showroom who is well-versed in the latest technologies. If you can dream it, you can have it—televisions in the shower, gas fireplaces built into tub walls, therapeutic lights that cause water to change colors.
Revisit that priority list as you make fixture selections, and also consider the practical: do you like faucets with separate knobs for hot and cold water or a single hand control?
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Bathroom Fixtures to Consider
Here’s the low-down on bath fixtures:
Shower fixtures. Body sprayers placed throughout the shower can massage the body or produce a relaxing mist. Rain shower heads give you the feeling of standing underneath a water fall. And there’s no need to limit yourself to just one shower head. Dual fixtures mean more than one person can enjoy the shower at a time. These luxury fixtures aren’t limited to the master bath. “Manufacturers are making more cost-effective products that you can use in a standard bathroom,” says Ken Perrin, president, Artistic Renovations, Cleveland, Ohio.
Here is a round-up of various types of shower heads you’ll find on the market today:
- Wall-mount unit: This is the basic fixture, nothing fancy but highly functional.
- Hand-held unit: The ability to remove the shower head for cleaning and bathing is a true convenience. “A hand-held can offer multiple functions, such as a very targeted strong spray for cleaning and a soft spray for bathing children,” Conroy says.
- Rain shower head: You’ll get full coverage and a waterfall experience with this unit, but be careful that it has an engine and is pressurized, Conroy warns. “You don’t want rain shower droop,” she remarks.
- Body sprays: You can purchase drill-less slide bars with flush-mount body sprays and you won’t damage your shower if you decide to try the technology. “It’s like a first date,” Conroy compares. “It’s a commitment to drill a fixture into your wall. You can try the [body sprays] without destroying or damaging tile or the work you’ve done in the bathroom.” The slide bars on which body sprays are fixed are mounted to the shower with suction cups on this Moen product.
Sinks. The vessel sink is ideal for a powder room and serves as a focal point, but in a full or master bath, some find this configuration is less functional than a deeper, undermounted sink with a nice, arching faucet that is easy to operate with a single handle. So, what’s more important: how the sink looks, or how it works? That’s up to you.
Pedestal style sinks are timeless space savers, and their bowls are available in oblong, rectangular or traditional oval shapes.
Meanwhile, a range of materials options opens up avenues for creative bathroom design. “Where people often thought of vitreous [china] as the main material for bath sinks, now we are manufacturing our own glass sinks, and what we are doing with glass has expanded,” says Diana Schrage, senior designer for Kohler. Glass sinks can be dropped in and undermounted, or installed with an integrated glass top. “Taking it a step further, cast iron allows users to have more finishes like a black-and-tan, sea salt or ember,” Schrage adds.
Faucets. Aside from water efficiency [link back to water conservation], today’s faucets are highly functional with features like integrated ceramic disks within the fixture that help grind away buildup that causes leaks. The idea is less leaky sink repair and greater durability. On the style front, faucets can be fastened on the lavatory deck, integrated or even mounted on the wall. “If you want to have a cabinet right up tight against the wall and have a wall-delivery [faucet], the effect is just beautiful,” Schrage says. “It’s a nice statement in powder rooms because it’s a little bit of a surprise.”
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Toilets. Taller toilets that are 16 to 18 inches high rather than the standard 14- to 15-inch height are more comfortable for most homeowners, except for children. Taller commodes are also accessible for those who require assistance (walker, wheelchair). The lineup of toilets available in a full range of colors and designs can make the decision more difficult than you might think. You can spend a couple hundred dollars or several thousand, especially for one-piece toilets that are sleek looking but require more labor on the manufacturing end, which drives up the price, Schrage explains. “I ask people if they’ve ever taken a pottery class,” she says, relating the expertise required when working with porcelain. “To have something with that low of a tolerance for air come out as this magnificent, high-performing piece at the end is quite a task.” (Bet you never thought of a toilet that way before.)