What will your bathroom be?

By Francie Healy

What makes a really great bathroom? Is it colour? Size? Fixtures? If you’re going to renovate, where should you start?

If you have the right designer and renovator to suit your style and interests, you’ll almost certainly end up with everything you need.

But most professionals will first want to know the very questions you’re probably already asking yourself.

So, to help you sort it all out, we asked three top experts to give us some pointers on what to consider before you begin.

Chuck Mills, owner of Chuck Mills Residential Design and Development Inc., advises looking at space, layout and visual impact.



            Chuck says you should first consider the space you have available and who will be using the bathroom. If this is a main bathroom that your kids and guests will use, he says, you might consider a separate tub/shower combination with a toilet (wet area), and a separate space for vanity and basins (dry area). That way several people can use the space at the same time.

If your new bathroom is an ensuite, however, and you’re looking for privacy or perhaps relaxation, you’ll probably want more extravagant “pampering” features – for instance, a two-person walk-in shower or a beautiful “slipper” tub.



Think about what fixtures you want or need, says Chuck. Once you’ve figured that out, how much space do they require? Ask: how will we move in and around that space?

Chuck says you should do plenty of research. Look at bathroom designs in magazines and on the Internet. Visit bathroom showrooms. Go to home shows. See what products are available, and what might work in the space you have.

He adds: don’t forget to imagine how the layout of your bathroom will work in relation to other spaces − bedrooms, for instance – in the house.


Visual impact

Regardless of which bathroom in the house you are designing, says Chuck, it should have something that leaves an impression…that “wow factor” that is so pleasing to the eye.

He suggests if you want your bathroom to have an elegant freestanding tub, or his-and-hers vanities, sexy light fixtures or interesting materials and finishes, go ahead and use them.

“If properly selected,” he says, “they can all be used together, or one major element can stand on its own to create a stunning yet overall look.”

Lauren Bowen, a designer at Tego Bathroom Solutions, says you should start by dreaming BIG. Make a wish list and see how far you can get with it. You can always cut back to accommodate budget and space realities.



Take a look at your life, advises Lauren. Make a mental list of what you do, what you like, and what you need to make your life run smoothly. Do you want a functional bathroom that serves you day in and day out as you’re rushing out to work? Should it be a place to shower fast and get out? Or do you want a sanctuary for a couple of hours while you light candles, soak in the tub and listen to music from your tub-speakers and iPod dock? (Maybe you want both, she adds: speed and efficiency in the morning; refuge after work.)



If you visit Lauren, she’ll ask: How do you use your space? What’s important to you? Do you want storage in your bathroom? Do you put on your makeup in that room? Would you like to have a seat – even a folding seat that is just there for you if you need it?

These are other questions she suggests you ask yourself first, because they will help you to know what kind of bathroom you’d like best.


Consider the future

If you think you might live in your house for many years, now would be a good time to think about the future, suggests Lauren. Planning to “age in place” can be a matter of beautiful design, too, she adds. It doesn’t mean your bathroom needs to look “clinical” – far from it, in fact. There are products – grab bars, for instance – that are so elegant they become part of the look of the room.

But she reminds clients that safety is a factor for any age.

“People will say, ‘I’m not old yet’; but you don’t need to be older to fall in the shower.”


Hugh Trueman, Director and Construction Project Manager at Reno Rescue Ottawa, says there are critical behind-the-scenes aspects to consider before renovating your bathroom.


Know your house

How old is your home? Have the electrical and plumbing systems been maintained or upgraded? Is there room on your panel for new or additional circuits? How reliable is your water pressure? Is your water heater capable of handling the new demands you will be putting on it?

“These are some of the things your renovator will need to inspect before you think about installing some of the fabulous new systems in your bathroom,” says Hugh. “For instance, if you’d like body jets in your shower, they could require 1.5 gallons per minute of water each.” He adds with a shower head running at the same time, you could be using seven to ten gallons of water per minute. “That means a five- to seven-minute shower for the first person,” he says, “and cold water for everyone else.”

He explains a bigger hot water tank will use more electrical power. “And although you can add an on-demand water heater, they too have their limits and are quite expensive as a retrofit or upgrade.”

But it doesn’t stop there. If you increase the amount of water coming in, Hugh continues, “you have to allow for it to get out when it goes down the drain”. He warns this could mean reworking the drain pipes.


Don’t do this at home!

This job requires professionals. “Bathrooms are usually the most complicated room in your home, and often one of the smallest,” Hugh says. “Everything has to be done right, and in the right order, or you can run into a multitude of issues down the road.”

He reminds people to watch for the RenoMark™ logo: “If your contractor is a member, and there are mistakes, you’re completely covered.”


Plan for the best

If this is your first renovation, Hugh recommends you do it as fully and properly as you can, because a good renovation will last for years. His advice, if you think you’ll stay in your house for more than five years, is to design for yourself, not for resale. “If you use a tub, get the one you love. If you don’t, there’s no law that says you have to have one.” He likes radiant in-floor heating, including under the shower. “There’s nothing nicer on a frosty morning than stepping onto a nice warm floor,” and he adds, “if you really want to be cozy, think about adding ceiling heat lamps and a wall-mounted towel warmer”.


There’s a lot to think about. All the experts tell you to take your time, know what you want, and have a good idea of your budget.

They also say if you do your homework and work with proven professionals, you can have the dream bathroom you have always wanted.