Bathroom fixtures have become more water-efficient, especially if you choose WaterSense-qualified models. But the trend toward tricked-out showers, often with his-and-her “shower towers” that might include multiple showerheads and body sprays, will likely result in your water and energy use going up. It also means your bathroom's existing drain and plumbing lines might require an upgrade. “You may need to resize your water lines from half-inch to three-quarters,” says Petrie, an upgrade that can add hundreds, if not thousands, to your project. Thirsty fixtures may require you to upgrade your water heater as well, say, from a unit that holds 50 gallons a day to one that holds 80 gallons. That could cost you another $1,000 or so—figure on roughly $2,000 if you choose one of the energy-efficient hybrid water heaters that Consumer Reports' test have found to be good long-term investments.
Consider a humidity-sensing unit that will automatically turn on and off depending on the amount of moisture in the air. As for lighting, the goal is to bring different layers of illumination into the room. A ceiling fixture is suitable for general lighting, but it will cast shadows on your face when you're seated at the vanity. That's why you'll also want sconces or other vertical fixtures mounted on either side of the vanity. Some medicine cabinets are available with vertical lighting strips. The shower and toilet should also have a dedicated task light, such as a recessed canister light. Consider fixtures that use LED bulbs. Many provided bright, even illumination in our lightbulb tests with the promise of 50,000 hours, though they do cost more. Remember to put the fixtures on dimmer switches so that light levels can be adjusted depending on the mood and task at hand.
To add floor space to a narrow room, consider having cabinets cut shallower than usual, and bump out the counter area around the sinks. A pullman-style bathroom will look more interesting without a long, straight line of cabinets. If your space has room, consider having the countertop installed at two heights. The lowered area can serve as a dressing table. You might even have a whole wall of cabinets built in to store towels, rugs, and bathroom necessities. Tile, while many bathrooms have laminate or solid surface countertops, ceramic tiles of all shapes and styles are the choice of the day. For any variety of looks and durability, choose glass, ceramic, stone, or metal tiles.
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