Top 10 Mistakes in Bathroom Design

This bathroom looks a little tight -- and a little too pink.

If you don't know that "walking the privies" means visiting the old outhouse, don't feel too badly. For most of us, the days when nature's call meant getting up close and personal with the out of doors are a few decades in the past -- at least. When the facilities moved indoors, some conscientious housewives were less than enthusiastic. They were sure that bodily waste belonged out back behind the well, or adjacent to the chicken coop. That mindset didn't last long, though. Since the 1970s, the number of homes with not only one bathroom, but two, three or more, has increased more than 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Building a better bathroom might look easy, but there are definitely elements of bathroom design where you can step in it -- well, not literally, but in your planning strategy. Let's look at 10 bathroom unfriendly design considerations that will dethrone your plans for a successful upgrade.


10. Small Budget for a Big Project

When you plan your bathroom project, expect to be over budget. Some people feed in a fudge factor of 15 to 20 percent for unseen circumstances, while others cross their fingers and hope for the best. The second approach has some serious potential consequences, including having to use the bathroom down the road at the gas station until you resolve billing disputes with your contractor.

Unforeseen issues with mold, dry rot, electrical service, antiquated plumbing and insufficient water pressure can blast a hole in your budget and leave you with a gaping void where your new shower was supposed to be. If you're scraping pennies together to afford that imported tile you want, you might consider waiting until you have a few more coins in your piggy bank.


9. Improper Installation

Leaky plumbing can cause more damage than just a high water bill.

Without putting too fine a point on it, even without installation screw ups, the bathroom can be a dangerous place to hang out. When you put electricity, water, slippery surfaces, breakables and hurried people together in a small room, it's no wonder that 70 percent of home accidents happen in the bathroom.

An improperly installed electrical outlet, poorly mounted shower door or mirror, or about a thousand other things can pose risks to your safety and possibly even your life. From structurally weakening your home to making your family vulnerable to electrical shocks and toxic mold, improperly installed bathroom upgrades can cost you. If you aren't an accomplished DIYer, get professional assistance from an experienced contractor who can help you build your dream bathroom safely.


8. Uncomfortable Spacing

If you've ever tried to fit into a pair of jeans that are a size too small, you can appreciate the discomfort and inconvenience of using a tiny bathroom day after day. Yes, building codes do mandate some minimal spacing guidelines, but the minimum legal requirements don't take into account your love affair with cheesecake or the fact that your favorite chenille bathrobe takes up as much room as a bedspread. When it comes to the bathroom, more is definitely more -- spacewise, anyway. If you're converting a closet into a bathroom, you'll have to make some compromises, but if you're starting from scratch, consider space a luxury item and indulge yourself.


7. Lack of Storage

If you don't have built-in storage, you can always add some.
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Remember back when the airlines served petite and adorable little meals that were still, somehow, really dissatisfying ? Living with a bathroom that has limited storage can be like that. It may look good and appear charming to visitors, but having to schlep your hairdryer back and forth from the bedroom every day gets annoying.

If you're opting for a delightful pedestal sink at the expense of a built-in cabinet with extra storage potential, don't say we didn't warn you. For a guest bath, fine, let your relatives balance their toiletries on the sink rim. If this is your everyday bath -- the one that sees all the real action -- add cabinets, put in shelves, make good use of the walls (for towel racks) and don’t forget to add solid doors complete with sturdy hanging hooks. You can never have too much storage.


6. Thinking Short Term

Anticipating your future needs and keeping your bathroom's appeal universal can save you money in the long run and pay dividends when you go to sell your home. Not everyone will appreciate that antique claw-footed tub or imported marble vessel sink, but a double vanity could go a long way toward making your bathroom more functional and family friendly.

When you traded in your sporty two-door for the family van or crossover vehicle, you adapted your driving habits to suit your changing lifestyle. (We can stop here to mourn with you for a moment or two). Trading in a vehicle is a lot easier than overhauling your bathroom every few years. Do yourself a favor and incorporate quality workmanship and classic styling into your bathroom design.


5. Going Too Trendy

Can you live with your choices? For the next 20 years?

An illuminated faucet and waterfall showerhead may seem like the latest thing in personal indulgence, but what's very in today will probably be very out within five years, maybe less. This goes for fixtures, materials and especially for your design palette (the color scheme you use). Embrace this expert advice: Stick with neutral colors, classic styles and quality, natural materials. If you want to go a little wild, do it with accessory items -- anything you can remove without a wrench, screwdriver or sledgehammer.


4. Choosing the Wrong Materials

Your average bathroom is an environmental nightmare. It can get hot, steamy and cold, all in the course of a few hours. That's hard on materials like wood, textiles, paper and even porous stone. Choose products that are designed specifically for the bath. It's the safest way to ensure that your wallpaper can take the humidity and your hardwood cabinets will retain their smooth gleam until after you've paid off the remodeling loan.


3. Ignoring the Environment

Water conservation is becoming more and more of an issue in the United States. Flushing, showering, bathing, and hand and hair washing all use precious water resources. Low-flow showerheads, auto-shutoff faucets and high-efficiency toilets save water, and they save money, too. Pre-1980 toilets can use more than five gallons of water per flush. If you're changing out one of these dinosaurs, your local water district might offer to foot part of the bill via a rebate. Not only that, a new toilet will pay for itself in water savings over time.

While you're exploring the design options for your new bathroom, consider a gray water system, too. These mini water reclamation stations reuse water from other areas of your home in places like your toilet where fresh, sparkling clean water isn't essential. It's another ingenious way to be environmentally conscious.


2. Inadequate Lighting

I wouldn't put on makeup in this light!

That blemish on your face is actually a toast crumb. The reason you're confused is that the lighting in your bathroom is so terrible you can't tell the difference between a chocolate dribble and a freckle. If you think muted lighting will make your yellowing teeth or receding hairline less noticeable (to you anyway), get a grip on yourself.

Poor lighting conditions in a bathroom can be dangerous. Don't take an unexpected tumble because you prefer candlelight to the harsh light of a fluorescent fixture. Install bathroom-rated lights over your sink and near your tub or shower. It'll save your guests the inconvenience of having to carry a flashlight around with them.


1. Improper Ventilation

The ceiling fan you usually forget to turn on is an important piece of bathroom equipment. Good air flow has a number of advantages -- one of which could save you from relying on a stash of air freshening matches. The air in your bathroom doesn't only get stinky, it gets very humid, too. Humidity trapped in a small space like a bathroom will eventually begin to rust metal, like the hinges on your doors and cabinets, unless you have a consistent method for venting excess moisture. It can also cause mold and mildew problems.

There are lots of ventilation options available, from multiple units at stations around the room to the central overhead fixture arrangement you're probably familiar with. Provide your retailer, contractor or building inspector with the dimensions of your bathroom for guidance on sizing. If the location allows, you should also consider adding a window. Windows offer good ventilation as well natural light. They can make a small bathroom look larger, too.

Lots More Information

Related Articles


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