Updated December 25, 2018
You’ve lived through a shower which was falling apart at the seams. You said you would not get fooled again. You’ve made these proclamations (sounds very official, doesn’t it?).
I’m done with dingy and moldy grout joints.
I will not put up with a cracked shower base which caused a leak onto our dining room table below.
I will not buy or own a home which has wafer-thin plastic wall panels. The last one yellowed and looked nasty.
I won’t own another ‘brown-ish’ shower pan I can’t get clean no matter what toxic solvent I use.
I will not get stuck cleaning the bottom track of a flimsy and pitted aluminum framed shower door ever again.
I will spend less money on disinfectants and fighting back mold problems in my next shower.
I will have a shower which will last me for the next 20 years – or it better, because as Dad used to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
You’ve heard the old saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”
When it comes to shower remodeling, I will tell you (and I talk to people about shower remodeling every day) I’ve seen many people get fooled again. They have the best intentions to eliminate the nightmare which was their last shower. However, they get fooled and fall into ‘traps’ like these.
- They tell their remodeler they don’t want a cheap-plasticky fiberglass shower. Then their remodeler does what remodelers always do and offer them an upgraded beautiful tile shower. As time goes on they find out they’re scrubbing grout joints until their arms are soar. They ‘traded off’ the difficult to maintain dirty, yellow fiberglass shower pan for another difficult to maintain tile shower.
- They say they want a shower which will last for 20 years. Then after a life event happens (for example, Mom’s mobility takes a turn for the worse and she needs to move in with you) your cool almost-brand-new 5-year-old shower is getting ripped out accommodate her.
- They buy a brand-new home (with the industry-standard-oh-so-impressive – sarcasm intended- one-year warranty) and love, love, love the cool features like the quartz countertops and Shaker cabinetry in the kitchen. They pay no attention to the one-piece fiberglass tub/shower in the boy’s bathroom with framed glass doors (it looked so pretty when it was decorated in the model home). In a few short years the bottom of the fiberglass pan is scummy (you don’t expect your boys to clean up after themselves now, do you?), and the doors are practically falling off. It looks like it’s time to remodel already -and of course, replacing a nasty looking shower 5 years later is not covered under your builders fabulous one-year warranty.
The question is – whether you are remodeling or building a new home – how do you make sure you don’t get fooled again with a shower which fails?
If the title of this article reminds you of the song by The Who titled, “We Don’t Get Fooled Again” – you might be an ever-so-slightly graying 70’s rocker like me. And I’ll fess up and say I’m a guy in the late 70’s who sported a ‘quasi-mullet’ as well. But no, I’m not sharing a picture of my mullet here. While this Who song was not exactly written with shower remodeling in mind, I’ve still included a video below to get you in the spirit of the ‘new revolution’ of a new shower – so you won’t be fooled again.
In this article I’ll present 5 foolproof ideas to help you get a stylish shower which looks sharp and lasts, so you won’t be fooled again. My list is not comprehensive. At the end of the article add your ideas 6,7 and 8. Let’s learn from one another.
Idea #1 – If you choose a new shower wall surround system other than fiberglass make sure the ‘new boss’ isn’t the same as the ‘old boss.’ It’s not a pain to maintain and doesn’t look ugly.
You have the desire to get rid of the dingy and cheap fiberglass shower (the ‘old boss’ you might call in the words of this Who song) and you’re looking to invest in a ‘new boss,’ (i.e. a new shower system which actually looks nice and isn’t a pain to maintain).
Here’s a smart idea to make sure the ‘new boss’ (your new shower surround) isn’t as bad to maintain as the old boss (your old fiberglass shower). Invest in a high-quality wall panel system. There are now 3/8” thick solid surface or cultured stone wall panels, ¼” thick decorative faux stone panels and even (coming soon to the United States) these stylish laminate shower wall panels. Grout free shower panels do not have to be the cheap ones of the past.
With this being said, I will tell you, you’ll often have to fight with your new home builder or remodeler to use ‘something new.’ Mind you – these panels really aren’t something new – but they often are for your builder. Get help from your shower panel supplier who can talk your fearful builder ‘off the ledge’ of their panic of using something new.
Idea #2 – Insist on either a higher quality shower door system or design a walk-in shower
Cleaning the bottom tracks of framed shower doors is a major hassle. It’s a job you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, but if it must be done you’d like to dump it off on another family member. The reason most builders slap-in these framed doors in new homes is they are low cost (OK – let’s call it what it really is – they’re cheap). If you want a shower which lasts, DO NOT use a 1/8” thick shower door with a frame and track at the bottom. Here’s four better ideas for you.
- 1) If you lack the money now for a nice quality shower door put up a shower curtain with a tension rod. The curtains can easily be replaced with a better door when you get the dough down the road.
- 2) If you like the idea a fully enclosed shower enclosure with some zip seek out high-quality enclosures with matching acrylic bases. It is possible to get a cool shower design without using custom frameless door prices.
- 3) If your newly remodeled bathroom or custom home requires a custom shower size– have a glass shop measure for ‘fully frameless’ 3/8” thick shower door system. Do this after your wall surrounds are finished. Yes –custom glass is pricey, but it’s also stylish.
- 4) Consider blowing off the door all together and go doorless. Two examples of cost effective doorless showers are curved glass block walls (note: with this product you can make a walk in inside a space as small as a tub area (60” width) or using shower screen which pivots in and out.
Idea #3 – Use “Universal Design” Principles to Design your Shower for the Long Run
Remodeling a bathroom or building a new home is a BIG expense (you’re probably saying right now, “Mike – tell me something I don’t know). What can be beyond frustrating is designing a glamorous spa bathroom only to encounter a difficult life-event.
For example, it may be unsafe for Mom and Dad to live on their own due to mobility problems and they will be moving in with you. Or one of your family members has an accident and needs a low barrier shower. Perhaps they’ll need a roll under vanity for their wheelchair. You come to the realization the beautiful bathroom you recently put in will have to be removed.
The key is to think long term in your shower design, while not compromising style. The key is to create a ‘universal design.’ Not sure what universal shower design is? Simply it’s design which can accommodate everyone from grandkids to grandparents. Here’s important features to include in a universal designed shower which won’t cost any more– but can save you from expensive remodels later:
- Use a low-profile shower pan. A low profile shower bases uses a curb anywhere from 1 ½” to 2” tall which is simple to step over. These pans are available in standard and custom sizes. If needed they can be converted into a roll in shower adding a simple ramp kit (without the need to remodel).
- Install plywood behind the walls and/or use decorative grab bars which look like towel bars – Safety doesn’t have to be ugly. Yes – you heard that right. When you plan this project right you’ll want to put plywood behind the walls, so you can install stylish grab bars – when or if – they’re needed. Grab bars are now designed as stylish as fun towel bars, so they won’t scream ‘grandma lives here’ anymore.
- Use wall hung cabinetry – When you have a vanity cabinet which touches the floor it is very difficult for someone in a seated position to use. Opt instead for a floating bathroom vanity. They not only are sleek and easy to clean underneath – but they work for people who are mobility challenged.
- Don’t forget seating – If you want a relaxing shower – which will work for family members of all ages – seating is a must. If your shower is small (say 36” x36”) a fold down seat is convenient and can be pulled down when need. If you have a moderate sized shower (48” or so) a 14” corner seat can be nice and it’s small enough to not get in the way. For a larger 60” plus shower – you’ll have enough room for a bench seat.
Idea #4 – Get serious help to tame the ‘tile grout monster’
Much as you may want to dump every drop of grout from your new bathroom, most showers (and the bathroom floors which surround them) use tile. With tile, comes his evil stepbrother (or stepsister – I want to be politically correct here) – grout. Here’s strategies to fight-back against future grout problems?
- 1) Use better quality grout – Most tile shower remodeling projects use sanded grout – which is OK – unless you’ve been unofficially chosen as the ‘cleaning crew’ in your house. Instead of sanded grout use either urethane or epoxy grout. Sure – they are a pain to install (this is one reason most tile setters don’t like these materials), but they will save you blood, sweat and tears with less maintenance.
- 2) Use larger tiles to cut down the number of joints – If you can’t eliminate grout joints, minimize them. Big tiles and tight grout joints are a good start.
- 3) Use waterproof wall backer boards – Major problems can (and do) happen when water gets through grout joints in a shower pan or wall surrounds. You’ll be able to say ‘no worries’ if you use a waterproof wall backer system like Wedi or Schluter behind your shower walls or underneath your shower pan.
Idea #5– Don’t ‘get on your knees and pray’ for a mold-free shower. Do focus on improved ventilation, a more thoughtful creation and commit to a new constitution.
A moldy bathroom is nasty. A moldy bathroom is a health problem waiting to happen (anyone who has dealt with coughing, wheezing, eye or skin irritation knows what I’m talking about). How can you make sure you design a mold-free shower? Here’s a few tips:
- Tip 1 – Focus on ventilation – Mold loves damp spaces without circulation. If you’re remodeling a bathroom with no windows add an exhaust fan and run it during and after the shower. Better yet – if you have a window crack it during your showers. In a new home add an operable skylight or a slider transom window in the shower.
- Tip 2 – Build a more thoughtful shower creation – As we discussed earlier, if you dump tile in favor of shower panels you won’t need to towel down your shower walls to keep the wall surfaces dry. Shower wall panels are nonporous, so you don’t have to be concerned about mold.
- Tip 3 – Take on a ‘new constitution’ – Sometimes a mold free tile shower can best be prevented by changing ‘our ways’ – adopting new ways of doing things (a new constitution). After your shower instead of closing the shower door, leave it ajar to give the shower enclosure room to breathe. Make sure to run the exhaust fan (OK – I’ll admit it, I’m terrible at this). Squeegee or wipe down tile shower walls.
Let’s face it – showers are a place you and I can simply not escape (unless you’re an 11-year-old boy who lies to his parents about showering). Whether you’re remodeling an old shower or creating a brand new one, don’t be fooled again with one which looks nasty and doesn’t live well.
If you apply the 5 ideas above you can, however, take a bow for your new revolution (a shower which is stylish, low maintenance, will work for everyone and is built to last). Do not be fooled again. Designing a shower which is built to last is not the impossible dream. I’d love to hear your ideas for a shower which is built to last in the comments below.
How can I (or a member of my team) help you?
If you’re struggling with a bathroom or shower remodeling project I (and my team) would love to help. For assistance and factory-direct product supply of grout free shower wall panels, shower bases and glass enclosures nationwide contact Innovate Building Solutions at 877-668-5888. For a bathroom remodeling project in Northeast Ohio call Cleveland Design and Remodeling at 216-658-1270 or The Bath Doctor in Columbus at 614-252-3242.
If you want to connect with me and/or learn more about remodeling, but don’t want to put up with my wacky humor (I get it). Follow me on Twitter @Mike Foti, or my companies @InnovateBuild or @InnovateHomeOrg.
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