Bathroom Beautiful: Hidden Areas Homeowners Often Forget to Address

People heading into a bathroom remodel generally apply their minds to the challenge of finding a competent and affordable contractor, the color theme to go for, the budget they have to work with and even the luxuries to splurge on. Bathroom upgrades seem like nothing more than a fun design game.

The 6 upgrades frequently talked about, though, are only one part of the story. It’s important to understand that bathroom remodels are highly technical projects; familiarity with the complex plumbing, ventilation and ducting codes involved in bathroom remodels, rather than the achievement of visual appeal, is where skill is called for.

Every homeowner should realize that quality construction rarely comes simply from hiring a qualified contractor. Thousands of contractor-renovated bathrooms all across the country carry serious design shortcomings under their glossy exteriors. Homeowners can only expect quality construction when they personally pay attention.

Here are three areas that you should personally supervise when you hire a contractor to remodel your bathroom.

Your bathroom should permit good indoor air quality

When you take a hot shower, there’s plenty of steam that comes off the water, and your contractor will probably allow for a ventilation fan somewhere to clear it up. If your bathroom’s ventilation system isn’t large enough (it should be powerful enough to replace all the air in your bathroom eight times each hour) or isn’t ducted outside, all that moisture will merely end up in your home somewhere, usually in an attic, wall or ceiling space. It will usually condense on cool surfaces in these areas, and cause deadly mold or rot. Perennially moist indoor air, according to the CDC, is linked to upper respiratory tract infections.

It’s easy to tell if your current bathroom already causes poor indoor air quality. If you have drywall, you should open it to check on the inside. If your bathroom doesn’t have adequate ventilation, you mayfind horrifying mats of black, white or green mold on the inside. It may or may not smell. Black spots near the baseboards or the ceiling are also a reliable sign.

The answer is to ask your contractor for a large enough ventilation system and adequate ducting that conducts all moist air outdoors.

Your showers could be poorly waterproofed

Modern plumbing codes require that the walls of shower enclosures be thoroughly waterproofed. To simply use tiling or grouting isn’t enough — most such materials are not inherently water resistant. They tend to easily conduct moisture from the air right to the walls within, promoting mold growth. Not only do most contractors simply ignore these requirements, most building inspectors tend to not be alert to them, as well.

It’s important for contractors to put down layers of waterproofing material behind all tiled surfaces in the shower enclosure.

Make sure that you do the drains right

If you’ve ever seen a beautifully designed bathroom that seemed to suffer from odor problems, inadequate adherence to drain design codes could be the reason. Modern codes require that every drain be adequately vented with direct outside access through a separate vent pipe. With poor venting, drains tend to gurgle, traps tend to run dry, and there tends to be an unhealthy odor that hangs in the air.

Good design ability simply cannot be taken for granted. You need to do your homework as you attempt to find a contractor. There is simply no substitute for personal attention.

Karen McMillon has completed several property makeovers and enjoys being able to talk about the aspects of DIY that can make all the difference. She is a regular writer online and often posts for a variety of DIY and lifestyle websites.

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