Bathroom questions answered by the specialists

Q. What’s the best way to care for tiles? How should grouting be sealed and cleaned?

A. Ensure the surface is free from dust and adhesive before you start grouting. Sponge the area with clean water and work in small sections. When the grout is dry, refresh your water and wash the tiles. Once the tiles are up and the grouting has been done, ensure all moisture is released from the surface of the tile before sealing. We’d recommend you wait for at least seven days before sealing. This is to ensure that the tiles have dried thoroughly and that the liquid has evaporated out of them. Now you can apply your sealant of choice. Read the product’s instruc­tions. Work it into the surface of the tile with a dry paint­brush. To test if the sealant is dry, place a few drops of water on a tile – if it forms beads, the sealant has worked. If not, repeat the sealing process, making sure you allow enough drying time between coats. Lee Thornley, Bert & May

Bert & May

Pradena tile, Bert & May

Q. I want my new bathroom to have plenty of storage. How do I make it look good?

A. A bathroom should be calming and relaxing, but the clutter created by towels and bottles of lotions and potions can really spoil this ambience. So think about how your bathroom is used and which areas are subject to the most clutter, then plan in some storage accordingly. This will ensure the room works on a practical level. Wall-hung storage will make the bathroom feel bigger, so is a good option if you have a more compact space. Freestanding furniture allows individual storage items to be added to a current bathroom layout, which is helpful if you decide you need more space in the future. Modular furniture allows for even greater flexibility and has the added advantage that it can be easily replaced or added to over time. Joanne Langton, Laufen

Laufen

Palace washbasin and furniture, Laufen

Q. I want to conserve water and energy – what are the best fixtures and materials to buy?

A. Water wastage through flushing can easily be reduced by installing a dual flush toilet system. This lets you choose between two strengths of flush. The dual flush typically uses four to six litres of water per flush instead of 13. A low-flow showerhead
requires less energy than a standard shower, since less water needs to be heated. Look out for products that feature clever tech, such as Grohe’s EcoJoy, which conserves water and energy without reducing the performance of the shower or mixer. And products with the WELL Water Efficiency Label are designed to cut water consumption. Michael Gray, Grohe

Grohe

Sensia WC, Grohe

Q. How should marble be cared for?

A. Most bathroom products won’t harm marble. But when water stops beading and instead starts to be absorbed into the stone, it’s time to reseal that area. Lee Collins, Kenneth Anderson

Q. Which areas of the bathroom need extra lighting and how can it be used to subtly create different moods?

A. In a small room the light should be mounted over or in the mirror. This will stop shadows being thrown on your face when you’re shaving or applying makeup. Ceiling down­lighters are not advisable. Our wall-mounted AJ Eklipta has a soft, diffuse light that is excellent for lighting the face. If the bathroom is big, the set-up can be more atmospheric. Install a dimmer function on some of the general light fixtures, but don’t forget to light the mirror correctly. Claus Østergaard, Louis Poulsen

AJ Eklipta, Louis Poulsen

AJ Eklipta, Louis Poulsen

Q. Is it worth using wood for cabinetry? Can it be protected against water damage?

A. The natural beauty of wood will add warmth to a chic, modern bathroom scheme, where it can be used to great effect as a wood veneer. This is particularly useful in a humid environment, as solid wood cabinets can suffer from expansion as moisture levels rise, which is inevitable in a bathroom. If you prefer painted furniture, spray-painted cabinets provide a fantastic alternative to hand-painted ones as these will instantly be more durable. Andrew Hall, Woodstock Furniture

Woodstock Furniture

Bespoke open-plan ensuite, Woodstock Furniture

Q. Is it possible to create a wet-room look in a normal bathroom?

A. Yes – you just need to avoid thick-framed enclosures and deep shower trays. The Matki Boutique Walk-In is an enclosed area that still looks spacious and sleek. Frames are kept to a minimum with the glass panels fitting straight down into a thin-profile shower tray, with a frameless and silicone-free bond where the panels join the tray. The tray can be sunk into the floor to give a real wet-room look; it’s easier to keep clean and maintain than tiles, and does not require tanking. Georgina Spencer, Roca

Design with soft close slider, Simpsons

Design with soft close slider, Simpsons

Q. What new advances can we expect to see in bathroom technology this year?

A. Look out for touchscreen panels on digital showers to control lighting, scents, water temperature and pressure. LED lighting can be incorporated to identify how hot the water temperature is, and flow rates can be digitally controlled to help reduce water consumption – it’s now even possible to generate a report that documents how much water has been used over a specific period of time. Technology will make more livable spaces that strike a balance between design and experience. Dan Cook, CP Hart

Q. Any suggestions on the best way to bring techno­logy into the bathroom?

A. The tech should be designed specifically for bathrooms – will a standard household TV, built into the wall of a bathroom, still work reliably? Is it safe or waterproof? The best tech will be designed from the outset for a bathroom, so check out the manufacturer. Are they specialists? Are they supporting products they sold five or even ten years ago? Buy the best product you can afford from a reputable UK-based manufacturer with a proven history, good warranties and support facilities. Richard Henton, Aquavision

Aquavision

In-wall waterproof television, Aquavision

Q. How do you create a space for some­one with trouble walking, who wants to be able to use the bathroom on their own?

A. The design process should be exactly the same as it would be for an able-bodied client. Start by discussing their wish list and adapt the design to suit their tastes and requirements. The days of offering bland utili­tarian products to someone simply because they are disabled are, happily, long gone.
Most clients with impaired mobility prefer a shower to climbing in and out of a bath. A modern low-level shower tray with a small step of 40mm may not be suitable. It is more reassuring to have no step at all, and therefore a wet-floor shower or flush tray would be preferable. Think about the height of the wash basin and WC: if these are wall-mounted, the height can be set to suit the user. Shower chairs / WC aids and grab bars can be installed to assist – these can be stylish and modern in their design, and many such aids now fold against the wall when not in use, making the area suitable for all the family. Flooring must have the highest possible slip rating. And make sure the room is well lit and ventilated – this will help to prevent slips. Kenneth Thom, Create Bathroom and Kitchen Studio

Create Bathroom and Kitchen Studio

Wet floor system from Impey, Create Bathroom and Kitchen Studio

Q. How best to ventilate a bathroom?

A. Mould and mildew, lingering odours or a musty smell are common signs that there isn’t enough ven­tila­tion in your bathroom. We recommend installing a 6-inch extractor fan. Most new-builds get a standard 4-inch fan, which recirculates the air but possibly not enough to extract the steam. A 6-inch extractor, though, will keep your room steam-free with daily use – it removes 74 litres of air per second against 21 litres from a 4-inch fan, making a noticeable difference to your space without a corres­ponding increase in noise. A good test of your fan’s power is to hold a single sheet of toilet paper up to it: the extractor should be able to pull it off your hand. A new market in the UK is the combined bidet/WC. One of our recommendations is Villeroy & Boch’s ViClean U. It has all the standard functions of a WC but with the added features of a bidet and automatic odour extraction. The final option, of course, is to open your window! Even just keeping the bathroom door open for a while each day will help. Fiona Lowry, The Bathroom Company

Q. What are the flooring trends for showers?

A. Flush-to-floor shower areas are safe and easy to use as there is no rim to trip over. Applying Bette’s anti-slip coating, which is baked onto the floor, makes it even safer. Flush-to-floor showers make bathrooms look more spacious, especially when they match the rest of the flooring. BetteFloor comes in over 1000 colours, to work alongside your tiles. Sven Rensinghoff, Bette

Q. Surfaces, how do you incorporate work space?

A. Incorporating a work surface area into the bathroom can look amazing and be a practical solution, whether the space will be used for nothing more than keeping toothbrushes and soap handy in the bathroom or as a vanity unit in the master en-suite.
It’s important that your chosen surface is durable, scratch-resistant and easy to wipe clean. A quartz composite surface would work perfectly here, as it offers great endurance against the everyday scratches and stains that are an inevitable part of family life, while also being extremely easy to clean.
This effortless cleaning matters not just as a way to save you time with the housework – it also enables a sparkling finish to be achieved without the use of strong chemicals or cleaning agents, so your surface won’t get damaged.
This type of surface can also be used as a splash back or as an alternative to floor and wall tiles. It will give a seamless finish, leaving no grouting or unsightly gaps in which dirt can linger.
Just as in the kitchen, the work surface also offers the perfect opportunity to inject some personality and colour into the bath without being overbearing. Composite surfaces are available in thousands of different colours, textures and finishes. Pick one to blend in with the sanitaryware and furniture or to contrast with them, making the bathroom’s wash­basin area a striking yet practical focal point.Okite

Porcelain tiles from Fiandre, Stone Age

Porcelain tiles from Fiandre, Stone Age

Q. What are the advantages of compartmentalising a bathroom and what are the trends?

A. When considering your bathroom design, it is essential that the layout is tailored to suit your personal requirements. A bathroom should not only be functional, it should be arranged in such a way that it will enhance your mood as you enjoy the space.
Separating the WC/bidet elements of a bathroom for reasons of modesty is a practicality that can also work from an architectural perspective, but any enclosure must be designed in such a way that it doesn’t make the user feel hemmed in or claustrophobic. (If feng shui is a consideration, segmenting can help – its principles insist the WC should never be positioned in the direct sight line of the door.)
Subtle separation can often improve the overall feeling of a bathroom and can be done in a variety of ways. We’ve had success through introducing softer, more tactile materials, such as timber, to create a feature separating wall, with niche boxes punched out at strategic points. Japanese paper screens are another option, adding a soft tone that is conducive to a calmer space while still allowing energy and light to circulate around the space. It is also the perfect contrast to the sharp, clinical lines created by tiling, which can often overpower a bathroom.
Introducing such subtle shielding details need not necessarily be expensive, but if the design is given a good deal of thought, the perfect spatial layout can be created, enhanced with complementary materials. Colin Wong, Development Direct

Q. Where to start with bathroom furniture?

A. Bathroom furniture is no longer just about hiding things away. It should provide surfaces on which to display personal possessions and favourite toiletries, helping to create an environment that show­cases your personality, just like the rest of your home. When sourcing storage solutions, make sure the furniture combines functionality and form. The latest innovations not only offer aesthetic appeal but are as efficient and organised as kitchen cupboards. It is furniture that frames the sanitaryware and it can set the tone for the entire bathroom. It also takes on a more visible role if storage is an important issue in the room, with stand-alone items such as vanity units making a bathroom feel like a more useful, liveable space. Wall-mounted modular units remain a favourite for storage. They come in a range of heights, widths and depths so you can always create semi-bespoke furniture that best suits the space. In terms of materials, composites like Kerlite are taking centre stage. This modern material gives a matt, almost stone-like finish that looks great in bathrooms. Linen prints, wood grains and grey are all in fashion at the moment. Corian and ceramics (used in the Artelinea furniture ranges) are also growing in popularity thanks to their resilience and form. Rachel Martin, CP Hart

Q. Are there any developments in bathroom door locks? What are the considerations for child safety?

A. All sorts of bathroom locks are available, from old stainless-steel, brass or chrome slide bolt, to latch locks – these let the user lock the door from the inside, but in emergencies someone can use a coin to get access from the outside. These are often fitted in disabled bathrooms and in new-builds. They don’t look great but their function is important – especially if the only alternative is to smash the door down!
More stylish options include the lever door handle with a lock and key (some people like to decorate the key with tassels). This doesn’t solve the problem of gaining access to a locked bathroom, though. Progress has also brought us digital door locks and simple door knobs with press lock security and so on.
The ideal scenario would be to have no lock at all. A closed door would signify that the room is occupied, but I’m not sure Britain is ready for that yet. Ever since Victorian times, we’ve preferred tight security during bathroom breaks.
So we’re back with the most common, least expensive and most certain lock, the slide bolt – and the hope that the outside won’t get in! Johnny Bacigalupo, Napier

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