Modern Bathroom Blog

From design ideas to cleaning best practices, the Modern Bathroom Blog provides tips and tricks for creating or maintaining a beautiful bathroom.

Common Plumbing Questions: Answered

As a homeowner, it’s only natural to have plumbing questions. While some plumbing problems are quite complicated and may require the expertise of a professional, many issues are minor and can be fixed with a bit of time and elbow grease. Not only will homeowners who understand the complexities of plumbing be better prepared to make the best decisions when a plumbing problem arises, but they may be able to take care of the problem themselves.

Q: What are the most important plumbing tools to keep at home?

A: The most well-known tool is the plunger – an essential tool that should be found in every household due to its usability and effectiveness. It can be used for unclogging toilets, sinks, showers, and tubs. Next on the list is a hand auger, which should be used for difficult clogs. With over 25-feet of steel cable, the hand auger is capable of handling clogs a plunger can’t. Finally, a wet-dry shop vacuum, though not strictly a plumbing tool, can be a lifesaver in the case of a flood. If a broken pipe or appliance has flooded a room, getting the water up as quickly as possible with the vacuum can mean the difference between saving a floor and having to completely replace one.

Q: How can I increase my water pressure?

A: Typically, issues with water pressure can be attributed to a volume or flow issue. A restriction in a line, or having a line that’s too long or under sized, could be the problem. If a pressure gauge is installed, you can check the pressure yourself. Water pressure in most households should be around 50 PSI. Look at the gauge with all the water off, and then once again when the water is on full. If the pressure is okay until you turn the water on, then it’s a flow problem. If the pressure problem only happens to a particular faucet, it might be possible to improve the pressure by cleaning the faucet or installing a new aerator on the end of the spout. Over time, faucets can clog and reduce the flow.

Q: How can I avoid frozen pipes?

A: If the pipes in question are exposed to an unheated area (garage, basement) or are outside, the pipes should be wrapped with foam or some type of insulation material and bound with electrical tape. If you can get your hands on electrical wire heating wrap, this will keep the pipes above freezing even in very cold weather. If you’re concerned about pipes within a wall, you can poke small holes through the wall and cover the pipes with insulating foam. If the pipes are totally inaccessible, leave a trickle of water running– this will warm the pipe slightly and slow down the freezing process.

Q: Is there a difference between hard and soft water?

A: Yes, and the difference can be damaging to both your home and your body. Hard water is water that contains a noticeable amount of dissolved materials, like calcium and magnesium. Soft water is treated in such a way that the only ion present is sodium. If you’re experiencing damaged clothing after laundry, excessive soap consumption, pipe scaling, deterioration of faucets and fixtures, or undesirable odors or tastes in your water, you may have a water problem. In addition to improving soap lather and removing soap scum, using a water softener can have financial benefits as well. In homes with water softeners, energy bills are noticeably lower and, since appliances don’t have to work so hard, the lives of washing machines, dishwashers, and water heaters can be prolonged.

How to Transform Your Bathroom into a Relaxing, Spa-Like Retreat

If you’re as busy and stressed out as the rest of America, you probably don’t take time out for yourself very often. Although personal pampering has known stress relieving benefits, we don’t all have the time or financial freedom to book a spa day at a high end resort. Instead, you can transform your bathroom into the relaxing, spa-like retreat of your dreams. By following these tips, you’ll be one step closer to feeling just as pampered and relaxed as you would after a day at the spa – except without the costly bill.

Ensure Privacy

One of the most important parts of any home spa experience is ensuring you have uninterrupted time just for you. If you have to jump out of the tub to answer the ringing doorbell or soothe your crying toddler, you may end up feeling even tenser than you did before entering the bath. By making arrangements for uninterrupted solitude you’ll be fully prepared to indulge in the luxury of a bath. Keep your cell phone out of the room, let the phone go to voicemail, and consider taking a bath while the kids are in school or are otherwise occupied – you’ll thank yourself later!

Don’t Forget the Tunes

If you can arrange to have music in your bathroom, you’ll be glad you did. Whether it’s a soothing, classical record or an acoustic performance by your favorite band, music can work wonders to melt away stress and remove you from reality. Additionally, if you share a space with others, music can help drown out the sounds of everything that’s going on elsewhere in the house. Some use their phones to stream music, while others opt for waterproof, Bluetooth enabled speakers. Whatever the method, music shouldn’t be overlooked when transforming your bathroom into your own personal retreat.

Pay Attention to Details

Did you know eliminating labels can help you relax? By transferring cotton balls and Q-tips to clear, glass jars you can reduce the stress caused by clutter in your bathroom. If shower space is an issue, consider using a curved shower curtain – it’ll create space and ensure your showers are relaxing. Another easy way to create a relaxing atmosphere in your bathroom is to trade colorful towels for white, fluffy ones – they’re clean, simple, and won’t act as a distraction. When’s the last time you went to a spa and were given a striped or brightly colored towel? Spas use white towels for a reason, and so should you.

Take Advantage of Your Senses

If the lights are on, your eyes will wander and your brain will follow suit. Lighting the room with candles is ideal, since the flickering of the flame when combined with the soothing scent of a candle will do wonders to relax your body and mind. By using lavender-scented bubble bath or aromatherapy bath salts you can take advantage of the soothing effects scent can have on your body. Many spas incorporate fresh flowers, so why not include a vase of fresh cut flowers in your bathroom?

How to Find the Perfect Contractor

Whether you’re thinking about renovating the guest bath or want to give the master bathroom the whirlpool tub you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll want to find the right contractor – because a home remodel is only as good as who you hire. As a result of the sluggish housing market, many Americans are staying in their homes for a longer amount of time, and many are choosing to remodel and renovate along the way. With these tips, you can be sure you choose the perfect contractor for the job.

Personal Referrals

Chances are, you have a few friends and family members who have recently remodeled or renovated their home. By asking those whose homes have recently gone through remodels their opinion on their contractor, you’ll be able to get personal testimonials from a trusted source. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for neighbors’ projects that seem to be going well. The advantages of personal referrals include opinions you can truly trust, the option to gauge the quality of work firsthand, and, in all likelihood, the referring friend or family member has already shopped around to find the best offer in the area.

Make Plans & Get Bids

Once you have a list of contractors whose track record is clean and work ethic seems responsible, you’ll want to stop looking back at their past work and start looking forward to your own project. A reliable contractor will not only want a complete set of blueprints, but a general idea of what homeowners want out of the project and what they’d like to spend. In order to best compare bids, ask each contractor to break down the total cost into the following categories: materials, labor, profit margins, and other expenses. Generally, materials should account for 40% of the total cost, with the rest covering overhead. A typical profit margin for home renovation work is 15-20%, depending on the size and depth of the job.

Don’t Let Price Be Your Guide

If an offer sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. In fact, many contractors and home design professionals urge homeowners to throw out the lowest bid, as it could be a sign of desperation or low-quality work. Beyond technical competence, homeowners should look for someone they’re comfortable with. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor should be how well the two parties are able to communicate. At the end of the day, it’s better to spend more and work with someone you’re comfortable with, then spend less and end up with a contractor who is difficult to work with.

Confirm Licensing and Insurance

If your state licenses contractors, you can typically do an online license check. As far as insurance goes, the Better Business Bureau’s website indicates what the insurance requirements are for each state – so that’s a good place to find pertinent information. At the minimum, all contractors should have worker’s compensation insurance, so you’re not financially liable if one of their employees injures themselves while on the job. To verify, ask to see a copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance. Any reliable contractor should have these items on hand and will gladly provide them upon request.

Don’t Ignore Red Flags

With a large number of scam artists posing as professional contractors, homeowners should be aware of who they’re dealing with. If a contractor pressures you for a quick hiring decision, accepts only cash, wants to skip the building permit, tries to cut you a deal using materials leftover from a previous project, or quotes a final price without seeing the job, consider cutting all ties and moving onto your next option. Although some reliable contractors solicit door to door, be wary if they’re not local to the area.

Put Everything in Writing

Once you’ve chosen a contractor, be sure to draw up a contract that details every step of the project, including payment schedules, proof of liability insurance, a start date, a projected completion date, specific materials and/or products to be used, and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases from all subcontractors and suppliers. Lien releases will protect you if he or she doesn’t pay their bills. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t a sign of mistrust, it’s a sign of insuring a successful renovation from start to finish. Happy home renovating!

Organize Your Linen Cabinet in a Few, Easy Steps

Linen cabinets are an awesome addition to any bathroom – they ensure extra towels and linens are always within reach and, depending on the style of linen cabinet chosen, can also act as a beautiful focal point in your bathroom space. Typically, linen cabinets are used as a catchall for bath essentials, towels, sheets, and personal hygiene products. With such a variety of items being stored, it’s easy for the space to become overwhelmingly cluttered. If you avoid opening the doors of your linen cabinet for fear of what lies within, these tips can help you condense and organize your linen cabinet.

Bundle Spare Sheets

For many people, the main source of their linen tower clutter is sheet sets that somehow get separated or tangled. By bundling sheets together, you can avoid mismatched sets and heavy piles that topple over. Sheets can be bundled together by stacking sheets in a wicker basket, or tying the sets together with leftover wrapping paper ribbons. Don’t forget to add labels so you’ll know which size bed the sheets are intended for. Aim to have at least two sets of sheets for each bed in the house.

Purge Frequently

How many times have you headed to Costco and bought toilet paper in bulk, only to realize you already had ten rolls hidden in the back of your linen cabinet? A common mistake many homeowners and renters make is purging linen closets and cabinets only when necessary. By adding linen closet organization to your monthly cleaning list, you’ll be able to keep a better inventory and avoid accidentally purchasing the same item twice. In order to better keep control of your inventory, try fixing a dry erase board on the inside of your linen cabinet – as items run low, make a note.

Utilize Hanging Hooks

Every space has a hidden potential if you’re willing to think outside the box and get a little creative. By installing hooks from the walls of linen cabinets, you can conveniently hang loofa, robes, towels, and whatever else you can think of. If you don’t want to go through the effort of purchasing and installing hooks, repurpose your old shower rod and hooks for linen cabinet storage. It’s as simple as trimming down the rod to fit in your linen cabinet, installing the rod towards the back of your linen cabinet, and hanging items like washcloths, hand towels, and spare loofas from the hooks.

Maximize Shelf Space

By using stackable boxes, bins, or basket for storing small items like cosmetics or first aid supplies, you can maximize vertical space on the shelves of your linen cabinet. Another good way to corral small items, like cotton balls and q-tips, together is to arrange them on a tray or in a drawer which you can easily slide in and out of your linen closet. For easy maintenance and cleaning, be sure to use a tray that’s both waterproof and wipeable. If you use your linen cabinet to store shower products while not in use, load up a caddy with bath products so you can easily move the products in and out of the shower.

Father’s Day: Bathroom Gadgets for Dad

Whether your dad is technologically savvy or new to the tech game, these bathroom gadgets are guaranteed to make the perfect Father’s Day gift, no matter his experience level. Forget about embarrassing him with another funky tie or cliché Hallmark card, and really put some thought into his gift this year. Here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Heated Shaving Cream Dispenser

With a heated shaving cream dispenser, your dad’s favorite foam or gel will be warmed for a luxurious, close shave each and every morning. The product works with virtually any brand of foam or gel, and even comes with two separate nozzles. With an attractive, chrome-like appearance, the design of this shaving cream dispenser is sure to blend in with virtually any bathroom design. Setting up the dispenser is simple: use the included tool to pop the top off any standard can, attach the proper nozzle, adjust the heating preference, and in about two minutes the heated gel or foam will be ready to dispense.

The iPad Musical Shower Curtain

If you’d like to turn your dad’s shower into a media-rich bathing event, get him this iPad shower curtain. This shower curtain comes with built-in speakers and a waterproof pocket for an iPad. The shower-facing side of the pocket is made of touch-enabled material so he can navigate through a movie, jump from song to song on his favorite playlist, or even take a call while washing his hair. The integral audio cable of this product connects an iPad, iPhone, Android phone or MP3 player to two speakers in the upper left and right hand corners of the curtain, so he’ll never be bored in the shower ever again.

Single-Handed Soap Dispenser

If your dad’s a bit of a self-proclaimed germaphobe, he’ll love the unique design of this soap dispenser that can be operated with the back of one hand. To use, your dad will just have to place his hand into the C-shaped opening and press down firmly to dispense soap onto his fingers or into the palm of his hand. The dispenser is easy to fill and clean, comes with a soap-level indicator so he’ll never have to worry about running out of soap, and is suitable for all types of liquid hand soap. Additionally, this single-handed soap dispenser will keep the top of the pump cleaner and more hygienic.

Eco-Friendly Water Pebble

For the eco-conscious dad, this palm-sized pebble will take the guesswork out of water conservation by tracking exactly how much water he’s using during his daily shower. Programming the water pebble is easy: simply click the restart button on its base and place it near the shower drain. The pebble will measure his water usage and will flash future finishing times against this benchmark, reducing suggested stop times by 5-7 seconds each time he showers. Before your dad knows it, he’ll be enjoying shorter showers and conserving water in the process.

Towel Spa Towel Warmer

For dads who live in exceptionally cold areas of the United States (or those who just prefer to stay warm after a shower), this towel warmer will produce toasty towels, robes, and small blankets in just a few minutes. Traditional towel warmers take up to twenty minutes to work, but this product will warm your dad’s towels in less than six minutes – more than enough time for him to hop in the shower and enjoy a warm towel upon completion. This towel warmer is small enough to move from room to room, and can conveniently fit on dad’s bathroom counter. Something tells us mom is going to love this one, too!

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