Question: We are adding a new steam shower to our master bathroom, which will require a layout change. I want to place it on an outside wall, but my husband is concerned about the pipes freezing once cold weather arrives. Is there a way to build the pipes inside without sacrificing aesthetics?
Answer: Robin Hartl, host of TV shows such as New Home Lifestyles and Hometime, says, "Although it is possible to run water pipes along an outside wall, I definitely don't recommend it (especially if you live in a colder climate)." If it's your only option, add as much extra insulation around the pipes as possible, and make sure there are no cracks in the exterior that might allow cold air to enter the building. The other option to consider would be to run the lines inside by building a bump-out wall around them. Building a wall around them is probably the best aesthetic option. With proper decorating, this new niche could serve as a darling focal point in your new bathroom. However, a word to the wise: Before you make a decision, get a professional involved to make sure you're making the best choice. Frozen pipes can be a pain -- and a mess.
Question: I have a small bathroom with a very dark shower. The vanity and shower are on one side of the room with a wall between them. How can I get more light into the shower without using skylights or a solid-glass enclosure? I like my privacy. Is an interior window between the sink and shower an option?
Answer: An interior window is a good way to share the light and brighten a dark shower. Just because you have an opening between the sink and shower doesn't mean you have to sacrifice privacy. Consider obscure glass, frosted glass, or glass block. Some glass blocks permit 75 percent light transmission with complete privacy. These products are also good choices for low-maintenance -- but private -- exterior windows in shower or tub areas.
Question: Our current shower has separate handles for hot and cold water. Many remodeled showers only have one handle for the hot and cold water. Is this a trend that will stay, or should we stick with the two handles? Our shower remodel is going to be a complete tear-out, so we could do either.
Answer: Whether you have two handles or one in your shower is a personal preference. In most states, building codes require an antiscald mixing valve, and many homeowners choose a single-handle option, such as the Symmons Temptrol system (symmons.com). If you have an older home that does not have an antiscald mixing valve, a professional plumber can install one fairly easily, even in a tiled shower, no matter your shower fixture.
Question: I want to replace the shower and one wall in my master bathroom, but I'm not sure where to start. I'm trying to do this on a budget, and I found out that hiring a contractor will double the price of the project compared with purchasing the materials myself and hiring a licensed plumber and construction worker. Help!
Answer: There are a couple of things to consider when planning this project. Should you act as your own general contractor and supply the materials, most subcontractors will not warranty the materials. Also, consider hiring a handyman to do the carpentry (framing, etc.) versus a construction worker. A handyman will be more versatile and able to complete most aspects of your project. You might have a great resource nearby -- your local National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) chapter. This group of industry professionals adheres to a strict code of ethics and standards of practice, and they can help you find professionals for your project. Visit nari.org to find a chapter near you.
Question: My husband, who uses a wheelchair, has trouble getting in and out of our standard tub-shower unit. I would like to convert the existing unit into a tiled shower stall and do most of the work myself. How should I begin?
Answer: If you have never handled a bathroom remodel of this scope before, call a professional. It sounds as if you might want to make structural changes in the current room. If so, ensure the space is structurally sound and your plans won't endanger the structure. In addition, tiling an area that's regularly exposed to water requires special skills. Proper materials and installation are required to avoid major issues down the road; water leaks, rot, and mold are all extremely expensive and time-consuming to repair. Contact a NARI professional in your area to determine what parts of the project are do-it-yourself and what should be handled by a pro.
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