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Plumbing Fixtures

Plumbing Fixtures

When designing your kitchen or bath, there are a plethora of elements that go into making your design stylish and cohesive, such as tile, cabinetry and countertops. But there is another very important element that shouldn't be overlooked - the plumbing fixtures!

Years ago, tubs, toilets, sinks and faucets where relatively standard in design and material, but today, more and more manufacturers are recognizing not only the functional importance of these fixtures, but their appearance as well.

However, it's not only their appearance that has evolved over the years, plumbing fixtures have become technologically more efficient and glamorous - offering many high-tech features, such as LED mood lighting, preset temperature controls and remote control operation. These practical and functional essentials of kitchens and baths have been elevated in significance and play a very important role in the design of a space - the icing on the cake!

KITCHEN SINKS
The kitchen sink is the central fixture in one of the most used rooms in the house and it sees plenty of action. It's the focal point of food prep and cleanup and should be attractive and durable.

Kitchen sinks are available in a wide variety of materials, shapes, sizes, depths, and even come with accessories, such as integral drainers, cutting boards and drying racks.

When choosing your next kitchen sink, there are basics to consider, such as the size of the space you have, how many bowls you want, will it be under-mount or self rimming, and how many faucet holes do you need?

Other elements to consider are the style of your kitchen – will it be traditional or modern - and the material and finish of your sink - design will come into play but be sure to consider durability carefully as well.

Kitchen Sink Configurations
The configuration of your kitchen sink includes the overall size, the number of bowls, and the number of holes for faucets and accessories.

Size
Most kitchen sinks are sized to fit in a 36" wide base cabinet with the most common kitchen sink sizes ranging from 30" to 33" wide by 19" to 22" deep.

When choosing your main kitchen sink, you'll want to be sure to pick one that's large enough to accommodate all the tasks you plan on performing – washing and soaking dishes, prepping food, etc. If you're looking for a vegetable prep sink or a bar sink, consider smaller sizes.

The average depth of a sink bowl is 8" to 10". If you cook a lot with large pots and pans, consider a deeper sink to avoid splashing.

Also, consider your height. Choose a sink depth that doesn't have you bending over too much, putting undue stress on your back. Remember, however, a deeper bowl will reduce the amount of storage you have in the cabinet below.

Number of Bowls
Typically, sinks come with one, two, or three bowls. Often, the bowls will vary in size, depth and shape. The number of bowls you choose is usually a matter of personal preference. Single-bowl sinks are great if you wash a lot of dishes by hand, especially larger pots and pans; however, two and three-bowl sinks allow for multi-tasking.

Number of Holes
If you're installing a drop-in or self-rimming sink, you'll need to decide upon the number of faucet holes you want the sink to come with. The number of holes depends on the type of faucet you're installing and any additional accessories, such as a soap dispenser or side spray. See our Kitchen Faucets section in this guide.

Faucets come in two configurations: single handle, which requires one hole, or double handle, which require three holes. If you add soap dispenser or side spray, you'll need additional holes.

If you're installing an undermount sink, the faucet holes are drilled into the countertop, so you can customize the number and location of your faucet holes. To learn more about kitchen faucets and their accessories, see our Kitchen Faucets section in this guide.

Sink Materials
When selecting a sink material, consider how much and what type of use the sink will get. If you're shopping for the main kitchen sink, it'll probably get a lot of heavy use. Pick a sturdy surface material that'll maintain it’s appearance of a long time. You'll also want to consider aesthetics; pick a material that compliments your kitchen design as well as other fixtures.

Here are some of the more popular sink materials:

·         Stainless Steel - is durable, easy to clean and available at a wide variety of prices. High quality stainless sinks are made of a thicker material (18 to 16 gauge steel) to minimize denting and scratching, as well as reduce noise. For additional noise reduction, look for vibration damping insulation on the underside of the sink.

Stainless steel can show water spots and scratches – especially the shinier finishes, so stick with satin finishes to minimize the appearance of these blemishes.

·         Cast Iron - has a porcelain enamel layer that provides a hard, durable surface that is easy to clean. It comes in many colors and the smooth glossy finish is good at hiding water spots and streaks. However, if hit hard enough (which means really hard), the enamel surface can crack or chip revealing the cast iron underneath.

Cast iron sinks are heavy and require a sturdy counter and cabinet base.

·         Composite Materials - usually made from a mix of granite or quartz particles, composite sinks are available in a wide range of colors and prices. They're extremely durable, low maintenance and heat and scratch resistant. The higher the granite or quartz content, the more durable.

·         Solid Surface and Acrylic - made from the same material as solid surface countertops offering seamless installation. They come in a wide range of colors and prices. Because solid surface material is non-porous and stain resistant, it's very easy to care for and scratches and blemishes can be easily buffed out.

·         Fireclay - consists of a clay base with a glazed top coat that's fired at a very high temperature creating an incredible strong and non-porous surface. Fireclay is resistant to acids and heat and is easy to clean.

Like cast iron, fireclay has a smooth glossy surface that comes in many colors. It is also extremely heavy and requires a strong countertop and cabinet base to support it.

·         Brass and Copper - although beautiful, brass and copper are not as durable as other sink materials making them better choices for secondary sinks, like bar sinks. Both copper and brass are non-porous and stain resistant, however they will oxidize and change color over time if not cared for regularly. You can preserve their natural luster with proper cleaning and polishing, or you can use a wax treatment to seal the surface; however, many folks choose these metals exclusively for the beauty of their natural patina.

Because they are softer metals, copper and brass sinks are susceptible to scratching.

Sink Accessories
There a number of sink accessories than can improve the over all function of your kitchen. Many manufacturers offer cutting boards that fit their sinks perfectly, making food prep a breeze. They also make colanders, drying racks and even bottom racks to protect from scratches.

Types of Kitchen Sinks

·         Undermount Sinks
Undermount kitchen sinks are extremely popular because they offer a clean look and great functionality. They install under the counter eliminating any rims or seams where food particles can collect making clean up a breeze. Undermount sinks work best with any solid countertop material such as granite, quartz or concrete.

·         Drop-In Sinks
Also called self - rimming sinks, this style is the most common of kitchen sink styles. They're dropped into a hole in the countertop and have a built-in rim that overlaps and covers the edge of the hole in which it sits. The rim can interfere with cleaning by collecting food and other particles.

·         Apron Front Sinks
Sometimes called farmhouse sinks, these sinks have a traditional look. The front face, or apron, of the sink is exposed and is usually a flat surface in the same material as the sink or it can have some decoration on it. These sinks have special cabinet requirements ,so be sure to consult with your cabinet manufacturer prior to purchasing.

·         Bar Sinks
Bar or entertainment sinks are smaller versions of a standard kitchen sink. They can be drop-in or undermount and come in a wide variety of materials. Bar sinks present a great opportunity to use a specialty finish, such as copper or brass, since they don't see the heavy use that the main kitchen sink does.

·         Utility Sinks
Utility sinks are typically used in laundry and mud rooms and are just smaller versions of a standard kitchen sink; the truly utilitarian ones are self-standing units with legs.

Popular Kitchen Sinks Brands
Kohler
Blanco
Franke
Elkay
Rohl
American Standard

BATHROOM SINKS
Round or square, vessel or pedestal, polished or matte...how about hand painted or hand carved! These are just a few of the choices you have when selecting a new sink for your bathroom. No longer are these fixtures simply functional - they've become artfully-designed pieces that can make a statement in any bath.

Bathroom sinks, also called lavatories (stemming from the Latin word lavare meaning to wash), come in many different styles, shapes and sizes. When choosing a style consider how you will use the sink, the space you have available and the overall look of the bathroom.

For example, a pedestal sink may be the perfect choice for a small powder room, but it may not be the best choice for the master bath where you need more counter surface and storage space. Also, a small sink bowl may be suitable for hand washing in a powder room, but a larger sink bowl is more useful in a family bath where face washing, shaving, and teeth brushing occurs.

Styles of Bathroom Sinks

·         Drop-In Sinks
Also called self-rimming sinks, drop-in sinks are the most common type of bathroom sink. They offer easy installation by simply dropping into a hole cut in the countertop. An integrated rim covers the seam between the countertop and the sink.

Drop in sinks come in a wide variety of sizes, materials and shapes. Some have pre-drilled holes for faucets while others do not requiring the faucet holes to be drilled into the countertop.

·         Undermount Sinks
Undermount sinks are installed under the countertop and do not have a rim; they provide a clean, smooth surface around the sink - great for easy clean up. Undermount sinks require a solid surface countertop, such as granite or engineered stone; they are available in many sizes shapes and materials.

·         Vessel Sinks
Vessel sinks feature a bowl that sits either entirely on top or partially on top of the counter; they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes as well as decorative materials, such as stone, glass and metal. Because the sink bowl sits up high, wall-mounted faucets or tall vessel filler faucets are required. Also, because the top of the bowl sits above the top of the vanity, the countertop that the vessel sink sits on should be lower than a standard countertop height, which is usually 32" to 34" high.

·         Pedestal Sinks
Pedestal sinks are free-standing and feature a pedestal that supports the sink. They are available in a range of sizes, typically 21" to 36" wide and are usually around 34" high. Historically, they've been more traditional in design, but these days, they're available in many designs to suit any style of decor.

·         Console Sinks
Console sinks are much like pedestal sinks in that they're free standing, yet they usually provide more counter space than a pedestal. They typically have two to four legs rather than a single pedestal to support an integrated sink and top.

·         Wall-Mount Sinks
Wall-mounted sinks are attached directly to the wall and are great where floor space is limited. They can be installed at any height and there are even models that can be mounted in a corner, great for tight spaces. Plumbing is typically exposed, however some models have covers made of the same material as the sink.

Bathroom Sink Materials
Besides the wide range of styles available, sinks come in a wide variety of materials.

·         Vitreous China and Fireclay - both ceramic-based with a smooth, glossy or matte finish, these are the most common sink materials. They're very durable and come in a wide variety of colors to coordinate with any decor - they can even be handpainted for a unique designer look.

·         Glass - comes in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and textures and is commonly used to make beautiful vessel sinks in a variety of shapes and styles from eclectic to contemporary. Look for sinks that use tempered glass, which is much stronger than regular glass.

·         Metals - there are several popular metals used for bathroom sinks: stainless is one of the most sturdy and easy to clean and has a contemporary flair, however it can scratch; and brass and copper lend an old world feel and can develop a beautiful natural patina if left un-coated, but require special care. To learn more about metals sinks, see our Kitchens Sinks section in this guide.

Specialty Sinks
If you're looking for something truly unique for your bathroom, there are amazing new designer sinks available today. How about a vessel sink carved out of natural stone? Or a sink handpainted with sterling silver or 24k-gold paint? Or perhaps a cast bronze sink with an art nouveau inspired design embossed into the bowl? There are plenty of artisan sinks to enhance any style of bathroom.

Popular Bathroom Sink Brands
American Standard
Bates & Bates
Belle Foret
DecoLav
Duravit
Herbeau
Kohler
Porcher
St Thomas Creations
Toto

BATH TUBS
Bathtubs...they've come along way, baby! With advancements in technology, your choices go well beyond soaker or whirlpool. Now, there are air massage tubs, tubs with chromatherapy, and even infinity edged tubs.

Bathtubs are being designed in every conceivable shape and size and in a wide variety of materials, including the standards - cast iron, fiberglass and acrylic - and more luxurious materials - metal, stone, concrete and wood. They can be freestanding, undermount, drop-in and alcove style.

If you enjoy a good soak, one of the most important considerations will be comfort, and the best way to discover what is comfortable? Go to your local showroom and actually sit in a few models! If you're planning for your senior years, there are some great ADA compliant tubs on the market that enable easier access and egress.

So, whatever your needs, style or budget, there are plenty of choices to choose from.

Buying Considerations
Before purchasing a new tub, consider a number of factors:

·         Replacing a Tub
Space and drain location are the most important things to consider when you're replacing an existing tub; be sure to measure the length and width of the existing tub or space. Today's tubs come in a variety of sizes and depths, so you have options when it comes to the depth of the tub - be sure to also note the height any wall-mounted fixtures, such as the tub filler. It's best to match the location of your existing drain to avoid having to move plumbing, which can get costly.

·         Planning for a New Tub
If you're in the planning stages of building a new home or remodeling a bathroom, you have much more flexibility in the size and shape of the tub you select. When selecting size, consider how you'll use the tub: like to soak - look for bigger and deeper models; like to bath with a partner - there are bathtubs built for two; bathing young kids - consider a shallow model to allow easier access. Also, when selecting a larger size tub, make sure your water heater can generate enough hot water to fill the tub!

Bathtub Materials
Bathtubs come in a variety of materials, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. The type of material you choose will depend on budget, style preference, durability and the ease maintenance. Here are some of the more popular bathtub materials and their pros and cons:

·         Fiberglass - one of the most cost-effective materials available. It's light-weight and easy to install, however it's less durable than other materials and tends to scratch easily and may fade. Fiberglass is a good, inexpensive choice for a tub that doesn't get a lot of use.

·         Acrylic - heated and molded into a shape, then reinforced with fiberglass, acrylic is a lightweight yet durable bathtub that will hold heat well if insulated. It's more expensive than fiberglass, but also more durable and fade resistant. If it gets scratched, you can usually buff it out.

·         Cast Iron - one of the most durable bathtub materials on the market, cast iron can last for years, but can be quite expensive. It's highly resistant to dings, dents and scratches and retains heat very well. Because of its weight, a cast iron tub needs a subfloor strong enough to support it. Other limitations include it comes in limited sizes and is not available with special features, such as whirlpool jets.

Aside from these popular materials, bath tubs also come in more exotic materials such as glass, marble, copper, and even wood. If you're looking to make a real design statement and cost isn't an issue, these unique materials may be an excellent choice.

Special Features
With today’s technology, it's easier and easier to create your own spa-like bathroom. If you want to relax tired, aching muscles, consider either a whirlpool tub or an air massage tub. There are also tubs that combine both whirlpool and air massage.

To further enhance your bathing experience, add light (chromatherapy) and sound to your bath tub to help soothe not only your body, but your mind. Most of these therapeutic tubs are contoured to fit the body and feature arm and neck rests. Some even have integrated heaters placed in strategic locations, such as in the back rest to ensure ultimate comfort.

Types of Bathtubs

·         Alcove Tubs
Alcove tubs are one of the most common types of tubs and are generally considered the standard for bathtubs. They're called alcove tubs because they're installed into a space, or alcove, with walls on three sides of the tub. They come in either "right hand" or "left hand" installations, which refers to the drain location. Most come with an integrated front panel, or "apron," although some allow you to add your own panel or tile to the front. Alcove tubs are available in either 5', 5 1/2', or 6' lengths and varying depths. Although not as common, it's also possible to get alcove tubs with special features, such as whirlpool jets.

·         Corner Tubs
Corner tubs are similar to alcove tubs except they're installed in a corner and surrounded by two walls rather than three. They also come in a variety of sizes and with special features.

·         Drop-In Tubs
Drop-in tubs, also called deck-mounted tubs, are dropped into a hole in a built-up deck with the rim covering the hole and resting on top of the deck. They're available in many sizes and shapes as well as materials. Most whirlpool and air massage tubs are installed in this manner and have access panels on the side of the deck to allow access to the motors.

·         Undermount Tubs
An undermount tub is basically the same as a drop-in tub except that the rim is concealed under the surrounding deck creating a seamless installation. A disadvantage with this style of installation is that if the tub ever needed to be replaced, the only way to get it out is to break the surrounding deck.

·         Free-Standing Claw Foot Tubs
A claw foot tub, sometimes called a vintage tub, is a free-standing tub that sits by itself on the bathroom floor. The tub itself is supported by claw-like feet - thus the name. They come in several configurations: a standard claw foot tub has one sloped end for the back rest, and a slipper claw foot tub has a higher back on the sloped end for added support. There are also double versions of the standard and slipper tubs that feature two sloped ends. Claw foot tubs are very traditional in style. Sizes range from 4' to 6' in length.

·         Free Standing Pedestal Tubs
A pedestal tub is the modern day version of a claw foot or vintage tub. It's free standing, but instead of the claw feet, it rests on a pedestal or base. Pedestal tubs come in a variety of styles from vintage to modern as well as many sizes and shapes.

·         Soaker Tubs
Soaker tubs are any style of tub that doesn't feature whirlpool jets or air massage. All standard or basic tubs are considered soakers until you add the water or air jets. However, you can get a soaker tub with other features such as chromatherapy.

·         Whirlpool Tubs
Whirlpool, or jacuzzi tubs, have been around for awhile and are still quite popular. These tubs feature multiple jets that produce streams of water that massage and relax the body. When selecting a whirlpool tub, in general, the more jets the better. It's important to note the location of the jets while considering where you sit in the tub: some people may like a jet to hit them in the center of their back, while others might prefer it near the sides. If you want your feet massaged, make sure there are jets located towards the end of the tub where your feet will be.

·         Air Massage Tubs
Air massage tubs are similar in concept to a whirlpool tub except they massage the body by streaming blasts of warm air through tiny holes in the bottom of the tub, resulting in millions of tiny bubbles that gentle massage the body. Air massage tubs provide a quieter experience than whirlpool jets.

·         Chromatherapy Tubs
Chromatherapy tubs feature LED lighting technology to produce soft-colored light in rainbow colors to help calm and soothe the senses. Different colors are said to have different calming affects; for example, red stimulates and rejuvenates, while blue relaxes and calms. With the touch of a dial, you can choose one color depending on your mood or let it cycle through the full spectrum of colors. Combine chromatherapy with air massage or whirlpool jets to create your own spa-like bath.

·         Infinity Edge Tubs
An infinity edge, also known as a negative edge, is commonly seen in high-end swimming pools and gives the illusion that the water flowing over the edge. Infinity edge bathtubs feature an overflow rim that continuously allows the water to fill to the very top of the tub and overflow into a reservoir that collects and re-circulates the water. Not only is it very cool looking, but it allows a bather to be fully submerged and embraced by warm water.

·         Walk-In Tubs and ADA-Compliant Tubs
Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to get in and out of a regular bath tub. Walk-in tubs allow the elderly, handicapped and disabled to enjoy a long hot bath. They' re deeper than a standard tub with a low threshold and feature a door with a water-tight seal. These tubs usually feature a contoured, built-in seat, as well as safety grab bars and a slip resistant floor; some walk-in tubs are available with whirlpool jets too.

Popular Bathtub Brands
American Standard
Aquatic
Kohler
Jason International
BainUltra
Toto
Porcher
Hydro Systems
MTI
Neptune
Jacuzzi Whirlpool
Elizabethan Classics
Jetta
Victoria & Albert
Signature Walk-in Tubs

SHOWER AND TUB FIXTURES
Whether you're simply replacing a shower head in your kids' bath or creating the ultimate spa shower in your bath, there's no shortage of choices available on the market today. Just like kitchen and lavatory faucets, shower and tub faucets are available in a multitude of styles and finishes, and have some amazing special features too!

Special Features
Imagine pre-programmable temperature and flow settings, LED lights indicating hot or cold, and a hand-held showerhead that flips around to offer different levels and patterns of spray - these are just some of the innovative new features you can incorporate into your shower or bath.

Tub Faucets
Tub faucets or filler are available in the different configurations: wall mount, deck mount and freestanding. The type you choose largely depends on the type of tub you have.

·         Wall-Mount Tub Faucets
Wall-mount faucets are usually used with alcove style tubs where the pipes are concealed in the wall. Controls can be single-handled combining temperature and water volume, or double-handled having separate hot and cold controls. If the tub also serves as a shower, there will be a diverter, typically on the spout, that directs water from the spout to the showerhead.

·         Deck-Mount Tub Faucets
Deck-mount faucets are typically used with drop-in or undermount tubs. Rather than being mounted on the wall, they're mounted on the tub deck with the pipes concealed in the deck.

·         Freestanding Tub Faucets
Freestanding tub faucets typically come up out of the floor and are secured to either the outside of a claw foot or pedestal tub or to the wall.

Shower Faucets
Shower faucets are typically wall mounted and, like tub faucets, consist of a valve and trim with single-handled or double-handled operation. Most shower faucets are available in "suites" that include a matching showerhead and tub spout for tub/shower combos, or you can customize them by individually selecting the controls, showerhead and valve.

You can also have multiple showerheads and body sprays. A third handle or diverter is often needed when there are body sprays or multiple showerheads in a shower/tub combination.

Types of Shower and Tub Valves
One of the critical components of every bath is one that's "behind the scenes" and that's the valve. There are three different types of valves available, all of which are available with many different trim styles.

Trim refers to the parts you see - the actual controls - and the valves are hidden in the wall. Valve trims come as single handled or double handled; single-handle trims combine temperature and flow into one control, and double-handle trims allow the user to control flow and temperature separately.

The basic types of valves are: standard, pressure-balanced and thermostatic.

·         Standard Valves - are the least expensive and do not regulate changes in pressure and temperature resulting in possible inconsistent flows and temperatures. If someone in your home flushes the toilet while you're in the shower, you can get a burst of hot water! If they run the washing machine using the hot water cycle, you can get a burst of cold water! Depending on where you live, these regular valves may no longer be allowed - you may be required to install anti-scald valves, also known as pressured-balanced valves.

·         Pressure-Balanced Valves - automatically adjust for changes in hot/cold water pressure, avoiding the threat of scalding.

·         Thermostatic Valves - actually measure and regulate the water temperature - once you set these, they'll maintain that exact temperature.

If you plan on adding body sprays or hand-held showerheads, you may need additional parts, such as diverters or extra volume controls - consult with your plumber or contractor before making your purchase.

Types of Shower and Tub Fixtures

·         Fixed Showerheads
Fixed showerheads are mounted on an arm that's fixed to the wall or ceiling; they come in many sizes, styles and finishes. Besides the standard showerhead, there are massaging varieties that feature different pulse settings ranging from hard to soft; and "rain" showerheads that feature a large head surface ranging in size from 5" up to 12" in diameter! They can be mounted to the wall or ceiling.

·         Hand-Held Showerheads
Hand-held showerheads are attached to a flexible hose that's connected to the wall in a shower, or the deck of a tub. They can be used as a fixed showerhead or as a hand-held showerhead. Some models attach to a wall-mounted bar that allows the showerhead to be adjusted up or down to accommodate different heights. Hand-held showerheads are great for use in bathtubs for bathing, as well as rinsing out the tub.

·         Deck-Mounted Tub Faucets
Deck-mounted tub faucets are used with drop-in or undermount tubs, and often come in sets that include the tub spout, controls and a hand-held showerhead. They come in many styles and finishes, and can be mounted in pre-drilled holes in the rim of the tub or directly to the surrounding tub deck.

·         Freestanding Tub Fixtures
Used with freestanding tubs, these fixtures come up through the floor next to the tub; they're available in modern and traditional styles and many different finishes.

·         Tub and Shower Sets
Use a tub and shower set when you have a bathtub that also serves as the shower. These sets include a tub spout, showerhead, and valve for volume and temperature controls. A diverter changes the flow of the water from the tub spout to the showerhead and is typically located on the top of the tub spout or on the valve trim.

·         Body Sprays
Body sprays are smaller versions of showerheads mounted in multiple places on a shower wall. Most are adjustable, so you can aim the streams of water to soothe aching muscles - it's like creating a vertical whirlpool!

Shower Systems
Shower systems, sometimes called shower towers, are a hot trend right now! A shower system usually consists of multiple showerheads - a fixed showerhead, a hand-held showerhead, several body sprays, and the valves and volume controls. Shower systems have special plumbing requirements, such as higher water pressure levels, more drain capacity, and larger hot water heaters in order to function properly, so consult with a plumber before purchasing.

Steam Showers
Steam showers can be installed in almost any shower, however they must be fully-enclosed with at least a 7' high ceiling. Compact steam generators are usually installed in a vanity, closet, or attic near the shower, and must be accessible in case repairs are needed. Units come in several sizes and should be selected based on the size of the shower.

The electronic controls are mounted either in the shower or outside the shower close by, and come in different trims allowing you to match your fixtures. When locating steam nozzles, place then away from where people will be seated, and to prevent condensing water from dripping down on top of your head, slope the ceiling away from the seating area.

Popular Shower and Tub Fixture Brands
American Standard
Belle Foret
Brizo
Cifial
Danze
Delta
Duravit
Grohe
Hansgrohe
Jado
Kohler
Moen
Newport Brass
Porcher
Price Pfister
Rohl
Showhouse by Moen
St Thomas Creations
Toto

TOILETS AND BIDETS
Ah, toilets...something I've always hoped I could write about! It's definitely not a glamorous subject, but an important one...after all, no bath would be complete without one. And, in all truth, they're becoming more of a design feature than ever before.

Some of today's toilets don't even look like toilets...until you lift the lid. Some are hand-painted creating a one-of-kind piece of art in the bath. Many manufacturers are now creating "suites" offering coordinating sets of toilet, sink, and tub designs for your bathroom.

Special Features
There's no shortage of special features available on today's toilets. The "comfort height" feature is a great option that moves the toilet seat up from the standard of approximately 15" high to around 18" high - ideal for taller people and the elderly. Some toilets are self-cleaning, others have heated seats. There's even a toilet with a remote control and gender-friendly features...like a lid that lowers automatically when the toilet is flushed.

Water Conservation and Toilets
Some of the most important improvements in the world of toilets are the water conservation features. New technologies have enabled toilets to flush using less water without sacrificing performance.

Newly instituted rules required a toilet to be low-flush - toilets must use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush; the old standard was a whopping 5 gallons per flush! Many manufacturers have taken it a step further creating high-efficiency toilets that use even less water - this can translate to a savings of almost 9,000 gallons of water each year for a family of four.

Dual-flush is another great water conservation option that provides different flushing options based on the type of waste: liquid or solid. When shopping for toilets look for the EPA's "WaterSense" label that indicates a toilet uses no more than 1.28 gallons per flush.

Round or Elongated?
There are basically two bowl shapes to choose from: round and elongated. If space in front of the toilet is an issue, a round bowl is a good choice because it's shorter from front to back by about 2" to 3". Round bowls are typically less expensive as well. Elongated bowls protrude further out, but tend to be more comfortable.

Types of Flush
An important feature not to overlook when selecting a toilet is the actual flushing mechanism itself. The most common type of flushing system is the gravity flush, which uses gravity and the weight of the water to flush away waste. Gravity flushing systems are more likely to clog, and because of the newer water restrictions, the bowl is less likely to rinse thoroughly.

Pressure-assisted flushing systems use pressurized air to force water into the bowl. It's noisier than a gravity flush system, but more efficient with the lower water limits.

Trapway and Valve Size
Other important features that effect how well your toilet flushes is the size of the trap and the flush valve. The general rule in both cases is the bigger, the better.

·         The trap or trapway is the tubing through which the water flows. Larger trapways that are glazed reduce the chance of clogging. On some toilets, you can see the outline of the trapway on the sides of the toilet. Skirted toilets conceal the trapway and are easier to clean.

·         The flush valve is located in the bottom of the tank and is activated by the flush lever. The larger the flush valve, the higher the rate of water flow resulting in a stronger flush.

Rough-In Location
Before shopping for your new toilet, don't forget to measure the "rough-in" - the distance from the wall to the center of the drain. A 12" rough-in is standard, but some measure 10" or 14".

Bidets
The most complete bath would include a bidet! Although bidets are more popular in Europe, they seem to be finding their way more and more into luxury bathrooms.

Designed for personal hygiene, they come in several types and styles, and although they look like little toilets, they actually more like small sinks. Some have a hot-and-cold tap that pours water into the bowl, others have a nozzle that shoots an arc of water up from the bowl's center, and some have a horizontal nozzle that sprays over the bowl's rim. When in the market for a bidet, be sure to choose one that will accept the type of faucet or spray you prefer.

Types of Toilets

·         Two-Piece Toilets
Two-piece toilets are the most common type of toilet consisting of a separate tank and bowl.

·         One-Piece Toilets
One-piece toilets combine the tank and bowl into one seamless unit. They're slightly more expensive than two-piece toilets, but easier to clean because they don't have a seam between the tank and bowl.

·         Wall-Mount Toilets
Wall-mount toilets mount on the wall eliminating the toilet base and concealing the tank in the wall. They're great for small spaces and allow for easy floor cleaning, however they require special plumbing and tend to cost more than other toilets.

·         Corner Toilets
Corner toilets are your basic toilet, however the tank is shaped like a triangle, so that it can be installed in a corner; they're great for small spaces.

·         High-Efficiency Toilets
High-efficiency toilets average approximately 20% less water consumption per flush than the industry standard of 1.6 gallons per flush. For the best performing high-efficiency toilets, look for the
WaterSense label, which certifies that a toilet has met rigorous criteria for performance and efficiency.

·         Dual-Flush Toilets
Dual-flush toilets allow you to choose from two types of flush: a lower power flush for liquid waste, and a stronger flush for solid waste. The lower power flush uses less water (0.8 gallons) than the stronger flush (1.6 gallons) thus conserving water.

Popular Toilet Brands
American Standard
Briggs
Duravit
Gerber
Kohler
Porcher
St Thomas Creations
Toto

MISCELLANEOUS BATH FITTINGS
Although the main ingredients in a well-designed bath are obvious - sinks, tub, shower, and toilet - there are many other important and functional elements that make a bathroom complete.

Shower Doors
Shower doors come in several types: a swinging door, a sliding door or a bi-fold door, with the simplest option being a shower curtain. Shower curtains are the most cost-effective and the easiest to install, however they're not nearly as efficient at keeping water in as a glass door.

The type of enclosure you pick depends on the configuration of your shower. For tub/shower combos, a sliding glass door usually work best. For shower stalls, a swinging door is the best option (they come in many sizes). High-end shower doors come with many different features, such as frameless, decorative glass options and choices of hardware.

Towel Bars and Toilet Paper Holders
No bathroom would be complete without holders for towels and toilet paper. Both come in a variety of styles and finishes allowing you to coordinate them with your baths other fixtures. Many manufacturers have bath collections that have matching sink faucets, tub/shower faucets, towel bars and toilet paper holders.

Towel bars are typically 18", 24", 30" and 36" in length and can be single or double-bar. There are also towel rings for hand towels.

Towel Warmers
Towel warmers add a touch of luxury and comfort to the bath. They're heated either by an electrical current or by re-circulating hot water. There are three types: wall mounted, floor mounted, or portable; they come in many different styles and finishes to compliment any design style.

Bathroom Fans
Good ventilation is critical in any bath to prevent moisture and the build up of mold and mildew. Bathroom fans help capture and remove excess moisture and come in several configurations: as a fan/light combo, as a fan only, or a fan with heat lamps.

The size of fan you'll need depends on the size of your bathroom. The fan should provide approximately 1 CFM per square foot; so a 50 square foot bathroom should have a fan rated with at least 50 CFMs. For larger bathrooms, you may want to consider installing multiple fans where needed, such as over the toilet and near the shower. It's recommended you run the fan for twenty minutes after the use of the shower or bath.

Medicine Cabinets
There are many types of medicine cabinets on the market today from single-door basic cabinets to double-door fully-loaded cabinets; fully-loaded models often have lighting inside and out and electrical outlets on the interior; some even conceal a TV behind the mirror! Medicine cabinets can be surface-mounted or recessed into the wall.