Bathroom and shower windows are a blessing and a curse.
They’re a blessing because they make your bathroom safer, light-filled and when opened give fresh air to keep moisture and mold away.
They’re a curse because they ‘open you up’ (ready or not) to the world (or your neighbors in this case). If you don’t find a way to make your bath windows private, you’ll give neighbors an unwanted ‘show’ in your ‘birthday suit.’ As someone who won’t be mistaken for Matthew McConoughey without a shirt – I’m not sure my neighbors would be looking forward to my ‘show’ anyway!
Because of the desire for privacy I’ve seen homeowners completely cover up windows in the middle of their shower with shower panels. This not only eliminates natural light – creating a closed in feeling, it looks ‘butt-ugly’ from the outside. You’ll see a wall behind a window. How dumb is that? Doing this should be a bathroom remodeling crime punishable by 1 years in solitary bathroom confinement in a dark, moldy shower with a rusty shower head.
The challenge is this. How do you find a high privacy shower or bathroom window which adds style?
In this article I’m going to give you 7 practical and creative ideas, so you can maintain your dignity (and privacy) without sacrificing light (and to get fresh air as well). At the end let me know which idea(s) makes the most sense to you, or others you’ve used with success.
The good news is – you got here. You’ve raised Michael, Jessica and Ashley. Now they are only ‘partially’ draining your wallet. Although you’re not sure exactly when Michael will finish college. They are ‘mostly’ out of the home. You’re officially an empty nester.
The bad news is – you got here. You’re not as nimble as when they were cute little ones running around the backyard. You’ve got a few dollars to spend on yourself and your husband John (and you’d even have more if you weren’t continuing to fund Michael – but let’s not dwell on that sore subject now).
Your home (and especially bathroom) is looking worn around the edges. OK – if we’re being real, it’s one step above a disaster! Your focus had been getting the kids to high school band practice, cheerleading, football games and into a college which wouldn’t force you to take second job.
Now you’ve got the time, money and desire to do something about your ugly, high maintenance and so behind-the-times master bathroom. You’d swear your existing fiberglass shower and mosaic tiled floor could be used as a set for a rerun of The Brady Bunch.
The problem is you don’t know where to start designing and remodeling this space. You’re asking yourself:
How can I give this bathroom some ‘cool’ factor?’
How can I make it safe? I need it to work for Mom, if she comes to live with us, but not butt-ugly like Grandma’s bathroom used to look. I need it to be safe for John. He isn’t moving around well after his knee replacement.
How can I create a shower which won’t eat up my time scrubbing tile joints until I want to pass out?
The goal of this article is to give you answers to these questions. It’s to give you 7 bathroom design tricks to make your ‘empty nester bathroom’ awe-inspiring for someone of any age. Let’s check out the tricks.
Does your bathroom only feel a tiny bit more spacious than the last time you had the ‘pleasure’ (sarcasm intended) of ‘taking care of business’ in an airplane bathroom? Instead of enjoying your shower you’re used to banging your elbows against the shower doors. Bumping into the sides of the vanity cabinet is also something you’re all too familiar with. And we’re not even talking about the lack of storage and the risky proposition of climbing over the tub rail to take a shower. This small bathroom and tub/shower combo unit is an accident waiting to happen.
Bottom-line – your small cramped bathroom is dangerous, not stylish and a place you’d rather not have to use.
Moaning about small bathroom frustrations is simple. Figuring out what you can do about it is tough.
The question becomes, how can you fix/reinvent a small bathroom to not only be functional, but fashionable? As crazy as this may sound I believe this is not only possible, but easier than you think.
In this article I’m going to dish up 11 proven ideas to fix what today you may think is un-fixable – your tiny bath and shower. Some of these changes will involve more extensive bathroom remodeling. Others are cosmetic and lower cost. Pick and choose the ideas which make sense for you, but whatever you do, don’t ‘settle’ for your current space which is only a tiny bit better than an airport bathroom (at least in the airplane you still get one free drink and a small bag of pretzels!).
Educators are creative. They’re industrious. They pursue knowledge with reckless abandon. They’ll encourage you. They’ll give you feedback (whether you like it or not). They’ll throw in a dash of their personality to make sure you’re awake (and learning).
Right now, you’re probably asking, “Mike – what does this description of an educator (or teacher) have to do with a glass block walk in shower in a bath remodeling project?” Good question.
When it comes to fun, creative and successful DIY bathroom remodeling projects, I’ll tell you they all begin with education and learning. You’re digging into products, installation methods and resources to get your arms around the unknown (especially if you’re doing a job for the first time).
These ‘resources’ could be your next-door neighbor. They could be a local contractor or supplier. They could be a company 2,006 miles away (in this project the distance from Las Vegas Nevada to Columbus Ohio – where the glass block shower system was built).
Here’s where our ‘research queen’ comes into the story. The queen in this ‘construction story’ is Geri David of Las Vegas, Nevada.
While Geri would describe herself as a ‘retired educator,’ I will tell you she is (and will always be) an educator. You see Geri ‘met’ me, long before I met her. Here’s how.
Geri had a vision.
Geri’s vision was an open walk in glass block shower. It wouldn’t look ugly like her current builders-grade obscure glass, framed sliding door with a dingy fiberglass base.
Geri’s shower would be doorless. She wouldn’t have to ‘fight’ cleaning hair and dirt out of a metal shower door frame. She wouldn’t be scouring the Net looking a shower curtain which wasn’t butt-ugly.
Geri would put in the time, energy and relentless keyboard-burning research to make her vision a reality, at a price she could afford. This is where I showed up in this story.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for Geri) her research on Houzz, Pinterest and Google kept leading her back to me. You see I’m a ‘construction educator’ (AKA a blogger on all-things bathroom remodeling- and in this case a glass block shower). I guess to Geri I ended up being the bad rash she just couldn’t get away from (my wife of 34 years – Rose – knows this feeling all too well – ha! Ha!).
If you’re like Geri and hate your framed shower doors, fiberglass shower walls and or shower curtains but are unsure if you have the space and ability to make a walk-in shower (or glass block doorless shower) work, you’ll want to read further.
In this article I’ll give you a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look showing how Geri took her creative vision, put in the ‘finger-grease’ (i.e. Internet research) and assembled a team to make a walk-in glass block shower work in her small bathroom. Along the way Geri (like an excellent educator) gave out praise – and wasn’t afraid to let others know where they need to improve their ‘grades’.
Let’s stroll through 5 steps of Geri’s journey to a successful glass block walk in shower.
Perhaps you find yourself in one of these situations and are kicking around a barrier free shower system:
Mom is not moving around so well. You’re considering having her live with you. You’re not sure how to make your home and bathroom safe.
Your spouse got hurt at work. Climbing over the tub to take a shower is an accident waiting to happen.
Your son was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. He’s now in a wheelchair. Life won’t be the same. You need to design a shower which works for him and won’t add to his (already) frustrated state of mind.
In my years helping people with one level, walk in and barrier free showers, I’ve experienced all 3 situations above.
Life happens. Reduced mobility gets in the way of living the way you’d like. Showers and bathrooms by their nature (as wet spaces) can be dangerous to people with (and without) problems getting around.
When you’re faced with mobility challenges – whether it’s a natural part of the aging process, an accident, or a temporary health bump in the road – figuring out the perfect shower system can be a hassle. You may be asking questions like these:
What do I need to know about safe shower systems? More importantly, how can I get up to speed QUICKLY?
Should I trust my contractor? They ‘seem’ like they know what they’re doing, but they’re also in a big rush to get to the next appointment. They only offered me one option. Is it the right one?
Do I have to cut into the structure of the home (i.e. the joists below the floor) to make a barrier free shower?
My goal with this article is simple. I want to get you up to speed quickly, not only on barrier free shower pans, but more importantly I’d like you to view one level showers as a system of products (not just a single component that slapped into the bottom of your bathroom floor) which makes showering for someone with limited mobility simpler. I’d like to give you a deeper level of insight beyond the the ‘old-school-methods’ (used by too many contractors IMHO) of dropping the floor and pouring concrete.
Simply, I want to make sure you don’t make the 9 mistakes I’ve seen people end up ‘living with’ after it’s too late when a barrier free shower is done wrong. Let’s check out the 9 mistakes so you don’t fall into them. I’ll start with the shower pan and work my way up.
Since you’re reading this article you deserve a round of applause. Learning about shower pans is as sexy and ‘interesting’ as seeing your Mother in Law ‘attempting’ to imitate your teenage daughter’s hot new look. Not a pretty picture. Certainly not sexy.
Shower pans literally get walked on and ignored daily. They get no respect.
However, I’d argue they’re propping up the entire ‘show.’ The show is your fancy shower heads, niches, contemporary sleek wall panels, tile surrounds and body jets people do notice.
If your base fails, you’re in a heap of trouble. You can throw in the dumpster all the cool features above the base (and your dollars – literally – down the literal drain with it). Sure, you can ‘cheap-out’ buying a low-cost shower pan or ‘zone out’ with no thought put into the design of a shower base. However, if you take this route as they’d say in high school Latin class – caveat emptor (that’s a fancy term for ‘let the buyer beware.’).
There’s a huge (or hugely as Trump would say) price to pay for a shower pan which fails, is designed incorrectly or doesn’t work as a family member ages and their mobility goes in the wrong direction.
There are 2 pivotal questions in selecting a shower pan you need to get your arms around:
Question 1 – What are the biggest mistakes, blunders, pitfalls (insert your negative adjective here) when selecting shower pans? The more important question is this second one.
Question 2 – How can I avoid the problems posed in question 1 to save time, money and aggravation having to ‘re-remodel’ (not a word, but it happens in reality) or throw away a costly shower purchase?
The purpose of this article is simple. Answer questions 1 and outline the 7 biggest blunders I’ve seen in bad shower pan purchases through my years (when I started in the bathroom remodeling business I had more hair, and none of it was grey either!) Next, I’ll cover question 2 and give you tips to make sure you don’t fall victim to the mistakes in question 1.
I never expected to become a bathroom wall panel geek.
I grew up a mini-Alex P. Keaton (for those of you not old enough to remember he was the young business-geek son on the sitcom Family Ties popular in the 1980’s – yes I’m dating myself here). My heart and passion were business and finance. The dream job I wanted when I graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with my B.S. (it doesn’t mean what you think) in Business Administration was to get a job as a strategic planning consultant with McKinsey and Company (a hot consulting company).
That’s not how things worked out.
After 4 years doing the ‘corporate thing’ as a Product Manager at a cutting tool manufacturing company, my Dad let me buy (he floated me the loan actually) 50% of his glass block contracting business. Away with the 3-piece suit and fancy mahogany desk. Say hello to jeans and hanging out with ‘gontractors’ (that’s how you say contractors with an Italian accent).
I got into the bathroom wall panel business like most entrepreneurs. I morphed into it. Here’s how:
Glass block shower walls led me to offering shower bases to go with them.
Shower bases lead me to acrylic bathroom surround panels.
Acrylic bathroom surround panels lead me into 4 lines of wall panels (so far) – cultured granite, a decorative PVC composite line, high gloss panels and thin acrylic panels.
I started in bathroom wall panels with standard 1/8” thick acrylic panels – like you see from ‘one day bath’ companies Bath Fitter and Rebath. Today, this line is a small part of what people are buying from us. The world has shifted. We have shifted with it.
With all this being said, my journey into bathroom wall panel geekdom probably doesn’t matter one iota to you (hey- what exactly is an iota anyway?). If you’re like most people, you’re confused researching the plethora (that’s a fancy word I threw in there to make you ‘think’ I’m smart) of choices in wall panels. You’re left to ‘sift through the rubble’ and figure out which bathroom or shower wall panel line will work best for you. Many homeowners are confused in this process. That’s why I wrote this article.
My goal is simple. Explain to you 5 little known secrets I’ve learned in my years educating, selling and (my company) installing bathroom wall panels (you wouldn’t want me installing, I might have the smoothest hands in the bathroom remodeling industry!). I want you to make the best choice for you the first time out.
Below you’ll find these secrets. At the end of the article let me know which ones have helped you and if any others are simply too ‘out-there’ for you (I can – at times – resemble that remark).
Glass block shower walls can be a pain in the butt to install.
Here’s 3 facts I know to back up this statement:
Fact #1 – It’s not the type of job you (or your contractor) do every day – Most people doing a glass block shower wall are embarking (sounds like we’re boarding a plane), on this journey for the first time. So, you’re a newbie. Doing any home improvement for the first time (let alone a unique niche like glass blocks) can be unnerving, scary and can painfully eat up your time and pocketbook, if you’re not careful.
Fact #2 – You (or your general contractor) are desperately trying to find a needle in a haystack– If you’re lucky enough to find a mason contractor to lay up the glass blocks piece by piece you’ll likely get an old ‘grizzled veteran’ who will look like the guy below, not some hot strapping guy with no shirt like Matthew McConaughey. This old-time mason contractor will know he’s got you by the ‘you-know-what’s’ (who else are you going to get to do this job?) and will price you (and treat you) accordingly. He is “THE MAN” and will carry himself on your job as such. No “Nordstrom’s style” customer service here.
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.
I’m supposed to be in the bathroom remodeling business. However, here’s the weird thing. I might have the smoothest hands in the remodeling business – although the ladies in my offices might disagree. How exactly does that happen? The reason is I’m motivated to learn about, write about, promote and sell DIY and professionally installed shower remodeling projects. When it comes to swinging a hammer or sweating in a shower valve (see I sound like a pro contractor now), installing shower surround panels etc., I’ll leave that to our team of (thankfully for our company) professional contractors. Ask my wife Rose about my ‘high level’ of home improvement motivation. She has to beg me for a few hours of time on the weekend to do stuff around the house.
DIY shower remodeling is not for me (although my wife will tell you I can blog and do laundry at the same time. She’s thankful for that).
However, I am fortunate to work with lots of people around the country designing shower systems. These people either need to get a project done themselves (but can’t find a qualified contractor in their town if their life depended on it), or just want to save the money (OK – I won’t call you a cheapskate here – oops – sorry I just did).
The problem becomes how do you motivate your spouse to take the plunge and get ‘er done. Let’s face it they would rather be golfing, playing cards, fishing or even take ballroom dancing lessons or yoga classes with you (OK – they’re not willing to go THAT far).
In this article my goal is to take a tongue and groove (‘er I mean tongue and cheek) look ….and a serious look also, at how to motivate your spouse, family member or friend to DIY your shower (or at least portions of it).
The reality today is it’s getting harder to find a contractor. Taking a hold of a project yourself may be the only way it’s going to get done. Let’s look at 5 ways to motivate someone (your spouse, significant ‘utter, friend, family member etc.) else to pull you through your shower remodeling project.