Friday, March 29, 2013

10 Amenities to Make Your Bathroom Even Better

1. Thermostatic Valve
A thermostatic valve controls the temperature and volume, giving you the opportunity to have a trickle of hot water or a full shower of cold. If you want to get particular about the amount and temperature of the water coming out of your showerhead, a thermostatic valve is the way to go.

2. Electric floor heat
Tile is a cool surface — literally! If your toes shrink at the thought of crossing your frigid tile floor, make sure your tile setter installs an electric heat mat before putting in the tile. The mats come as custom self-contained mats or as wire strung between plastic pegs (known as an RPM system). 
Conscientious tile setters will attach a “loudmouth” to their heating system while installing tile, so that if the electrical connection is broken, the loudmouth makes noise. Installing two sensors to the thermostat is a good idea too, so if one breaks, the other still functions. When you program the thermostat to go on at 5 a.m., you will be rewarded with warm toes at 6, and that’s worth every penny of the cost.

3. Hidden outlets
The scourge of bathrooms is the clambering masses of electronic devices that demand an outlet and adjacent counter space: hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, electric razors and curling irons.Don’t you wish they would all vamoose to where you can’t see them? That could be a real possibility if you install outlets inside medicine cabinets and drawers.Out of sight, out of mind until you need them.

4. Humidistat fan
It used to be that exhaust fans in baths had two options for controls — the on-off switch and the timer.Now the options have multiplied, with motion detector and humidistat fans. My favorite is the humidistat — you set it to a humidity level you deem reasonable, and it will run if the humidity goes over that level, and keep running until the humidity decreases to below your set level.It doesn’t address all of the reasons you might run a fan in a bath, but it does handle the one that can make a mess of paint and other finishes: moisture.

5. Hard-wired makeup mirror
Once only for movie stars, the lighted makeup mirror made its way into luxury hotel rooms over the past decade. It is actually a surprisingly affordable fixture to install. The only thing you’ll have trouble with is deciding how high to hang it and who will get to use it.

6. Dimmer switches
A dimmer is the best friend of kitchens and baths alike. When you need good light, you need it. And when you don’t want it, the dimmer is there to help. Basic dimmers add around $25 to the cost of a switch, though some of the nicer switching systems can cost quite a bit more. Having the ability to control the amount of light in the bathroom, though, is priceless.

7. Shower niche as footrest
Shaving legs in the shower is an ongoing conundrum for women. The water cascading down washes away the soap before you can get the razor there, and there’s nowhere to position your leg out of the water’s way. An elegant and low-key solution is the shower niche — not for shampoos and soaps, but as a footrest about 18 inches off the shower floor. Another solution is corner shelves inset into the tile — a few for shampoo and one as a footrest. They can be made from the remnants of your counter stone to tie the shower in visually to your vanity. Simple and functional.

8. Fancy commodes
There’s a growing market for bidet-style toilets and urinals in residential bathrooms. Toilets arrive with accoutrements like heated seats (don’t forget you’ll need power for this), multiple settings for water (including the option for warm water) and seats that open and close for you. If you are seriously considering a urinal, look carefully at the water supply requirements and local plumbing codes. It may require a larger supply line than is currently in your bathroom.

9. Handheld showerhead
If you are still mulling over your showerhead options, don’t leave out the handheld ones. While they can be a bit unwieldy with their hoses and pivoting heads, they have a distinct advantage over their fixed-in-place cousins: They make it easy to clean the shower stall. The showerhead that comes from the ceiling? Supercool, but good luck washing the walls of your shower with it. Same thing with showerheads on the wall. A nice compromise between the two, if you can afford it, is to get one of each with a diverter. That will allow you to use the main showerhead most of the time, the handheld one for cleaning and both at the same time if you want a spa experience.

10. Epoxy grout
It is more expensive, unwieldy to work with and stinks. But epoxy grout has a big benefit over its sanded and nonsanded cousins: It makes it difficult for mildew to grow, and liquids have a hard time penetrating it. We have been installing it frequently in master showers and at kitchen backsplashes (where food and grease can splatter) with great results.

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