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Heated floors, towel warmers make bathroom remodel a ‘hot’ project

The Union StaffAndrew Wright Columnist
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

Remodeling the bath is a popular home improvement project. There are many choices in fixtures today, with several options that are new to the bath scene.

Attitudes about the function of the bathroom have changed; especially, the master bath which is now viewed as a refuge away from busy lifestyles, a place to relax and let the stress melt away.

When remodeling a master bath, I look for extra space to accommodate both a shower and a larger tub. Sometimes, we can use an adjacent closet or bump out an exterior wall.



Barrier-free showers are becoming important in our aging society. Grab bars are available in many finishes and should be included to provide safety and assistance for everyone.

Another popular feature in the shower is a built-in bench to provide a place to sit or wash without balancing on one leg.




We usually build our benches out of tile, but there are fold-down wood benches that work well in smaller showers. A recent design that allows a free-span diagonal corner bench is also a great way to put a tile bench in a smaller space.

Multispray heads provide lots of options, with slide bars allowing showerheads to be set at his-or-her height. Pressure balanced, anti-scald valves prevent those shocking temperature changes when someone in the house turns on the water.

Frameless, tempered glass enclosures are available in all sizes. And those pesky, hard-to-clean tracks are no longer used. If the budget allows, 3/8-inch-thick glass makes an impressive statement.

Ultimate enjoyment can be yours by enclosing the shower and installing a steam unit to create a steam bath. Steam units cost from $900 to $1,500, require 120/240 volts, are easy to install and small enough to fit inside a cabinet or closet.

Temperature and timer controls are installed directly within the steam room. A full-height glass shower enclosure and moisture-proof shower compartment keep the steam where you want it, while you relax and enjoy the luxury of a personal steam bath.

The tub can be a soaker or jetted for relaxation and therapy. Larger tubs are usually installed on a raised-tile platform, which requires at least a 4-by-6 footprint. It is best to have a little extra room adjacent to the tub for accessories like candles and wine (can you picture it?).

We order tubs without jets, if they are to be used as a soaker. If the tub is jetted, we try to mount the pump remotely to reduce noise and to eliminate unsightly access panels in the tub skirt. Tub faucets are usually deck-mounted with flexible locations for the controls, allowing bathers an easy-reach to fill the tub.

It is important to check the capacity of the water heater when installing a large tub, since they hold 60 gallons of water or more. The weight of a large tub, especially if designed for two people, is another consideration.

Most tubs are acrylic and are surface-mounted, so it is important to provide adequate support with a mortar base when installing the tub.

Vanities are also growing in size. Newer vanities are typically taller (34 inches high) to finish at kitchen cabinet height. Adults will appreciate brushing their teeth without stooping over. Many vanities are equipped with double sinks for when both husband and wife need to get ready to go out.

Countertops can be tile, laminate or solid surface, like Corianr or Swanstoner, with integral bowls for ultimate ease in cleaning. Cabinetry choices have moved into lighter woods, like maple, cherry or birch/alder, with strong movement away from tried and true oak, with the exception of oak Shaker-style cabinets.

Painted cabinetry works well in baths with a strong color scheme. Medicine cabinetry can be built to match the vanity cabinets or be simply a mirror either of plate glass or framed.

While ceramic tile is still the dominant surface in today’s baths, surfaces can be upgraded to granite, slate and marble tiles or slabs. Popular large tiles finish shower walls, minimizing grout lines.

Glass block is a longtime favorite for building partitions in the bath. Floor tile still provides the best value; although, tighter budgets can look to vinyl as an option.

Cold tile floors are now a thing of the past, with new heating elements installed under the tile. Nu-heatr makes a heating pad custom-fit to your floor that runs about $600 to $800 plus tile and electrician for a standard bath.

The control is installed like a switch in the wall, allowing for time and temperature control at the touch of a finger.

One of the luxuries long-known to European travelers is heated towel bars. Becoming more popular, heated towel bars are reasonably priced at $600 on up. They can be oil-filled electric heaters or plumbed into a hydronic heating system, if your home is so equipped.

Bath remodels are a good winter/spring project, when additions and exterior work seem unreasonable. Although basic baths can be updated with new fixtures for $5,000 to $10,000, most people will add a few bells and whistles that can double the cost or more, depending on any adjacent spaces that are included in the remodel.

Bump-outs or reconfiguring other rooms to expand the bath often trigger new flooring, drywall, siding and paint that add to the cost of the overall project. Typical time frames for a bath remodel can be as quick as several weeks or as long as two months or more for more complex projects.

Like a remodeled kitchen, updated or remodeled baths bring good resale values, according to local Realtors. In the meantime, sit back in your new spa tub or steam shower and say, “Ahhhh.”

Andrew Wright is a general contractor and award-winning Certified Remodeler with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association. You may reach him at WrightBuilt, Home Remodel & Design at 272-6657.


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