Budget Friendly Bathroom Products

We all dream of that bathroom environment, where we can close the door and be transported to another world.  This bathroom has a steam room, a whirlpool tub and a walk-in shower that is big enough to have multiple showerheads raining down on you. It has ample space for a double vanity with tons of storage, a multi-functional toilet that spritzes and dries, a heated towel rack and lighting that can be adjusted to fit any mood.  And of course, the floor needs to be radiant, so our tootsies are never cold.  Okay, snap back to reality!!!

I must say, that I do love to dream.  Maybe one day, but for now, I have to trade in my champagne tastes for the beer budget.  Here are some ideas to upgrade your loo.

Drawer Knobs

glass adds a classic touch

I am a sucker for unique and cool drawer pulls.  I could spend hours rummaging through options to find that one of a kind piece.

brilliant colors add a marvelous touch

finished knobs provide a simple look

Decorative Towel Hooks or Racks

Towel hooks or racks are a big bang for your buck item.  They need to be strategically located,  so post shower or tub spluttering is kept to a minimum. Don’t be deterred that it is mostly covered, they can be mounted on all kinds of objects.

for the boat enthusiast

shaped metal to create a cascading effect

no frills

Bathroom Lighting Fixtures

The bathroom is a room, where you can keep it conservative or you can show a little pizzazz.

to heck with canning tomatoes

polished chrome adds a lovely feel

we conservatives like to stick our knitting

Decorative Drains

We stand over the sink and the shower drain and watch the water disappear.  Where does it go?

drain covers by linkasink

metal can be cut in any shape and configuration possible

square or round, it doesn't matter.

Decorative Mirrors

We have to face it every morning.  Goodness knows, the frame can’t change our view, but it can beautify the bathroom.

our disposition might not be sunny, but our mirror is

overlapping etched metal provides a beautiful border

is there such thing as too much exposure

Shower Curtain

The shower curtain can be funky, artistic, elegant or fun.  Don’t forget the hooks.

go bold or go home

fit for a queen

adding to that sunny disposition

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Product Spotlight: Showerheads

When Gene Kelly takes to the street in ‘Singing in the Rain‘, he losses the umbrella and let’s the rain take him away.  This is the same feeling that we should get when we step in the shower every morning. The challenge with this, is that water is a precious resource and manufacturers of showerheads need to be mindful of gpm (gallons per minute).  Although most manufacturers have adopt the EPA’s WaterSense program, showerheads can still provide a good dousing with a smooth look.  Here are some showerheads from Kohler, Grohe and Rohl

Kohler

Kohler Artifact

Artifacts™ Single-function 2.0 gpm showerhead with Katalyst® spray

Kohler Artifacts Handshower

Artifacts™ Single-function 2.0 gpm handshower

Kohler Moxie Showerhead

Moxie® 2.5 gpm single-function showerhead with wireless speaker

Grohe

Grohe Euphoria

Euphoria Cube

Grohe Rainshower

Rainshower Icon 190

Grohe Power & Soul

Power&Soul Cosmopolitan 190

Rohl

Rohl Bordano

6" Bordano Anti-Cal Showerhead

Rohl Rodello

8" Rodello Circular Showerhead

Rohl Santena

4 3/32" Santena Showerhead


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Finishing Touches: Choosing the Right Finish for Your Fixtures

The first word that comes to mind when thinking about finishes for fixtures is durability.  Whether it is a kitchen faucet, a bathroom faucet, a tub filler or a shower head,  it needs to hold up to years of wear & tear.  But before exploring the plethora of finishes, it is important to understand that a finish is the top coat.   What lies beneath that finish layer is vitality important to durability.  The best material for adhering a beautiful finish to a fixture is forged brass.

Steel and zinc can also be finished, but neither of these materials has the staying power of brass.  Plastic is an option, but it is not advisable unless you are price sensitive ( That’s a nice way of saying ‘cheap’).

Fixture Finishes

The most popular finish is polished chrome. Chrome is tough and scratch resistant. It also comes in a brushed style, which provides a little bit of depth and contrast.  Chrome will show water spots and fingerprints.

Nickel is another finish that comes polished or brushed. It’s darker than chrome and can give the impression of changing color with different levels of lighting.  It is a bit more expensive than chrome, but that can be justified because it hides water spots and fingerprints.  Nickel can also be hammered to give a unique classic feel.  It is relatively new as a finish option, but it has a great deal of appeal.

hammered nickel

To create a truly distinctive look, choosing a bronze finish provides a rich textured feel.  The oil rubbed bronze finish has an old world sense.  Bronze finishes are often coated with a PVD (physical vapor deposition).  PVD coatings are charged metal atoms that bond chemically to the surface of the metal to give it a harder, more corrosion resistant surface.

If you are looking for your fixtures to have a high end look at a reasonable price, then your best bet is polished brass.  A brass finish is never out of style. It can also come in satin, which is much subtler then it’s showy brethren.

polished brass

satin brass

Getting the right finish is about ‘touch & feel’.  To truly appreciate the differences, you need to see the fixture that you are seeking in it’s proper finish. You have to remember that it is part of the a bigger picture. Once you’ve made your final finish decision it behooves you to coordinate all of your finishes in that bathroom to have the same finish.  That is not to say that you can’t mix and match finishes, but one misstep can have your bathroom looking like a hodge podge.  You can avoid this by working with one of our sales consultants or a design professional, whose has a specialization in bathroom environments.  Feel free to stop by one of our thirteen stores in the New England area.

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Product Spotlight: Spa Baths by Bain Ultra

The hallmark of any great company is innovation.  Our friends to the north, BainUltra set the standard in innovation for spa baths.  BainUltra believes that inner wellness is achieved through daily, life-long attention to harmony with the world around us. This unique perspective sets BainUltra apart from any other bath manufacturer in the industry.  A perspective that is dedication to enhancing their client’s well being by creating an insperience as opposed to just a soak.

BainUltra was the first manufacturer to develop the air jet technology, in fact, they have trademarked the term Hydro-therm massage.  Hydro-therm massage is a combination of therapeutic techniques that use air, water and heat.  A variety of natural products can also be added for specific results: essentials oils, algae, mud, bath salts and more.  Hydro-therm massage was created to mimic the traditional massage, so that the end results would relax the body and mind, reduce stress levels, stimulate circulation and revitalizes your energy.

BainUltra’s newest therapeutic bath is the Citti. Citti™ is derived from the sanskrit for “free spirit.” At the same time, the name evokes today’s great cities: these are the perfect baths for urban living. This bath can be installed in an alcove (between 3 walls), perfect for smaller spaces such as those found in urban dwellings.

Bain Ultra Citti Therapeutic Bath

Citti 6032 had 42 jets and is available in standard colors: Almond, Biscuit, White and Bone. Optional colors are Black, Cashmere, Grey, Mexican Sand and Sandbar.

BainUltra’s Evanescence is a free standing unit that incorporates Bain’s Geysair technology. Evanescence™ means “state of transformation”. The collection is an invitation to turn your relaxation space into a veritable sanctuary of elegance and wellness.The collection’s first freestanding bath will delight consumers with its flowing modern lines and thin walls: a prestige bath that makes a great centerpiece of any bathroom.

Bain Ultra Evanescence

The Evanescence 6634 Therapeutic Bath provides 38 jets that provide hot bubbles to relax and relief your tired, achy body.

The Amma, which derives its name from the word “massage” as represented by two Chinese characters, AN and MO, meaning “calm through touch”.  It’s ergonomic design (oblate or egg-shaped) offers superior comfort and an enhanced hydro-thermo massage experience.

Bain Ultra Amma Therapeutic Bath

The Amma's 43 jets, armrests and heated back rest make this bath is easy choice for design professionals .

All of these bath can be combined with BainUltra’s unique well being therapy: Thermasens.  BainUltra’s Baths can be seen at your stores in Portland, ME, Concord, NH, Manchester, NH,  Groton, CT, Westerly, RI and Burlington, VT.

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Store vs. Big Box: Why Bath & Plumbing Experts are Better for Homeowners

Back in the early part of 2013,  we made a conscious decision to change our brand from the “Ultimate Bath Showroom” to the “Ultimate Bath Store”.   For us, the word ‘showroom’ had connotations of ‘exclusive’ or ‘expensive’ and although, this may seem subtle or inconsequential, the results are these words have a tendency to knock out a large percentage of the buying public.  By soften the word ‘showroom’ to ‘store’, you completely change the buying rationale.  A store is much more approachable and inclusive.  A store is more iconic.  We can relate to the grocery store or the hardware store.

It is more inviting and American apple pie.  This is especially important for those homeowners, who are about to commit to a kitchen or bath project and one wrong step can lead to host of issues.

Specialty Store vs. Big Box

When my wife enters a Home Depot or a Lowe’s (aka: Big Box),  she is already looking forward to the time that she is leaving this environment.  She finds it overwhelming and not very useful.  On the flip side,  there are plenty of DIYers (do-it-yourselfers), who relish the opportunity to go to the Big Box store.   It is like going to mecca.  The big difference is that most of these DIYers are male and as a rule, men are not making the design decision in our households.  Big Box stores have very little appeal to women, because they are overwhelmed by the size and underwhelmed by the lack of expertise.

The Big Box stores also have a tendency to sell inferior products than a specialty store.  For them, it’s more about price and turnover.  If a product is not moving in a Big Box store, it has a tendency to be dropped by the Big Box, because they buy the inventory and if the inventory isn’t moving, it is costing them money.  Specialty stores like the Ultimate Bath Store carry a wider variety of product offerings because they are looking to make sure that the homeowner is getting what they want.  They carry less inventory, because their products come with different features and finishes. They are less concerned about turning inventory as opposed to providing quality customer service.

Finally, the single most important differentiator between the specialty store and the Big Box, is the level of expertise. Like the inventory at a Big Box, employees turnover as well.  The Ultimate Bath Store sales consultant is a seasoned professional, because  like most professionals, they are always learning and improving.  They have dedicated themselves to the complete understanding of their product lines and they can troubleshoot a problem in a heart beat.  They are compensated as professionals and their average life span  is over 15 years.   So, when you’re looking to start a kitchen or bath project, put your faith in the expertise of the specialty store.  It will save you time, effort and many cases, money.

Visit one of your 13 locations before you start your next kitchen or bath project.

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Faucet Technology: Motion Sensors

Motion sensors aren’t new technology.  We have all experienced them in same form or another.  Whether you were stepping away from a toilet in a public restroom or approaching the sink in that same bathroom, a sensor detects your movement and initiates some kind of action.  But, you have ever been curious about how it works?

There are three key components to a motion sensor faucet also know as a touchless faucet: a sensor, a solenoid value and a power source.  The sensor is typically at the base or the lip of the faucet.  This sensor is actually detecting the presence of an object.  Most sensors use an infrared beam and when an object passes within a few inches of the sensor, the beam bounces off the object and sends a signal to activate the faucet valve.  The sensor controls a solenoid valve. The solenoid is an electromagnet that can push or pull.  The valve is normally held closed, but in response to a sensor signal that an object is present, the solenoid pulls the valve open allowing water to flow from the spout then pushes the valve closed again when the sensor says the object is gone.

In order for these touchless systems to function, they require a power source.  Power can come from dry cell batteries or low-voltage current from an AC transformer.  Electricity powers the sensor, control electronics and water valve.

touchless technology requires some more planning, but having the ability to turn your water on and off with a single motion: well worth it

Touchless Faucet Options at the Ultimate Bath Store

Sensate Kitchen Faucets from Kohler

Sensate Touchless Kitchen Faucet by Kohler

The Sensate touchless faucet frees your hands so you can speed through prep, cooking and cleanup without spreading messes and germs throughout the kitchen. Response™ technology makes Sensate respond to your every move. Simply wave your hand--or an object such as a pan or kitchen utensil—to turn Sensate on or off. Its state-of-the-art sensor is in tune with your every move, precision-designed to provide reliable operation every time. So there’s no need to worry about false activations when you're working in the sink area.

Delta Touch20xt Technology

Dryden Lavatory Touchless Faucet by Delta

Dryden Single Handle Vessel Lavatory Faucet with Touch20.xt Technology

Moen MotionSense

Moen MotionSense

Delaney with MotionSense spot resist stainless one-handle high arc pulldown kitchen faucet

Come visit one of our 13 stores to see this exciting technology.

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Springtime Remodeling: Time to Spruce Up that Old Bathroom

Whether you’re a ‘do-it-yourselfer’ or you’re happy letting the professionals handle it,  the spring is an excellent time to remodel the bathroom.  Before you begin, understand that remodeling a bathroom is no small task.  Unless you are replacing a cabinet or changing out a faucet or sink, it would be wise to consider consulting a professional.   There is too much at stake, if the decision is to tackle a full-on bathroom remodel. Here are a number of things to consider:

Space: Is the bathroom staying in it’s current footprint or is there the possibility of expansion, which will require walls being torn down and plumbing having to be moved.

bathroom floor plan

Hidden secrets: Hopefully, the existing bathroom was buttoned up, so water drained appropriately and standing water couldn’t find places to hide.  There is always the possibility that as you start removing old shower stalls, bath tubs, tiles or other surfaces, that water might have penetrated the sub-structure.

What lurks underneath?

Storage: Is storage going to come from free-standing shelves or exist underneath the sink or in a separate closet?  No matter how small or large, this area typically gets filled up pretty quickly.

The bathroom closet is often overlooked.

Privacy: Let’s face it, sometimes people are bashful, so if you’re thinking about a shower enclosure, it might need to be opaque.  The loo may also need to be walled off for additional privacy.

Growing Old: Aging in place is critical, so you have to think about if you want a bath tub or a shower.  If the choice is a tub, how accessible is it.  If it a shower,  thresholds need to be eliminated and it needs to be big enough for seating.  Grab bars need to be considered and hand held showers are a must.

Is the bathroom going to be accessible as you grow old?

Kohler Elevance Bath Tub

Kohler's Elevance Bath Tub

Too Tub or Not Too Tub: Tubs can take up a fair amount of space, but they provide a place of refuge from life’s daily challenges.

Bain Ultra

Bain Ultra INUA 7240

The Right Height for Accessories: Decide where to put things early on so that you can add extra blocking where needed before finishing the walls.

Speaking of Accessories: Again, another part of the project that is an afterthought.  Accessories can add a beautiful finished look to any bathroom setting, so remember to leave ample room for hooks, towel bars, a toilet paper holder, mirrors, a medicine cabinet, soap holders, knobs & pulls and a cup/toothbrush holder.

Think Water Preservation: Most of the new toilets have the capacity to do the job with less water and are WaterSense approved.  Shower heads also have the ability to restrict water flow and preserve this precious resource.

Surfaces: Tile, wood, paint, granite, laminates, glass mosaics and bead board are all considerations for surfaces.  Most surfaces will need to be sealed to prevent damage from water. There are specialized paints used for damp or wet areas like a bathroom.  You also need to consider how these surfaces will be cleaned.

Lighting:  Lighting can be broken down into four types: task, accent, decorative and sparkle.  Lighting fixtures can create varied moods to the bathroom setting.

Proper ventilation: Choosing the proper ventilation can be the difference between keeping your surfaces free of water vapor or having lots of drip marks.  Exhausting odors is also a major consideration.

Creature comforts: Perhaps, you like your tootsies to be warm when you step into the bathroom or you like a warm towel when your drying off.  A bathroom can also feature wet heat via a steam system or dry heat via a sauna.  These creature comforts are nice to haves.

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Shower Doors by Basco – Simplicity and Elegance

Creating simple transitions in a bathroom can enhances the overall look & feel of any bathroom environment.   A well crafted shower enclosure is one of the most important design features in the bathroom.  Smooth gliding slide enclosures and swing doors add a subtle touch of elegance.

One of the finest manufacturers of shower enclosures and swing doors is Basco.  For over 50 years, Basco has been helping bathroom designers and showroom professionals fabricate the right enclosures for their client’s bathroom projects.

RODA - Preceria

RODA by Basco - Preceria Enclosure

To learn more about what makes Basco, one of the leading shower enclosure manufacturers,  we did a little Q&A with Basco’s Director of Marketing Communication, Linda Garman.

1) Tell us a little something about Basco’s mission
Since 1955, Basco has earned the trust of millions of customers by designing and fabricating custom shower doors and shower enclosures. Basco’s approach centers around their commitment to customer care, craftsmanship and quality. They are consistently rated number one in quality and brand preference.

2) What separates Basco from other shower door manufacturers?
Experience and commitment to this category -  We have been in the shower door business since 1955.

Other things that set us apart:
Custom Capabilities
Extensive range of product offering
Factory Installation Network
Lifetime warranty

3) How does Basco work to support the showroom representatives?
Basco’s website was designed to make the selection process easy. Tools such as the Style Quiz and the ‘Build Your Door’ section help homeowners and showroom personnel determine the ideal door for every taste and application.  In addition the trade professional section features guides such as the simple to use cross reference to determine the best fit for manufactured tub and shower bases.

Our knowledgeable customer service and technical service associates are happy to assist with all product and design questions.  Shipping information is available 24 hours a day through Estatus Basco’s online order tracking program.

4) What should a homeowner consider when going for your signature frameless look?
The RODA collection offers eight distinct styles allowing homeowners to create the shower enclosure that aligns with their decorating preference, from traditional to transitional to contemporary.

Precise measurements and expert installation are important components of the highest quality fit for your new enclosure.

We will help you design the enclosure that brings your vision to life.

5) What new offerings does Basco have 2014?
Basco will be expanding our RODA line with additional collections and offerings.

6) What should a homeowner consider when thinking about finish and glass type?
Today’s most popular finishes for bathroom fixtures are silver and brushed nickel followed by oil rubbed bronze.  With more than 12 color options Basco and RODA have a finish to complement any bathroom décor.

Clear glass is often selected to show off beautiful tile or stone wall surfaces and offers an open feel to the shower.  Homeowners often choose to add a glass coating like Basco’s AquaglideXP to clear glass to keep make it easy to clean and maintain the like new appearance.  Patterned glass offers more privacy and can make the shower enclosure the focal point of the bathroom.

In 2010,  Basco launched RODA, a new portfolio of luxury shower enclosures developed around today’s trends for aesthetic design and user functionality. The RODA brand on each hand-crafted shower enclosure symbolizes Basco’s long standing commitment to our customers.

ENJOY A RODA PHOTO GALLERY

RODA by Basco_Rolarie

RODA Rolaire

RODA by Basco_Dresden

RODA Bresden

RODA by Basco_Evo

RODA Evo

RODA by Basco_Vonse

RODA Vonse

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Water Conservation: Start with the Bathroom

More than 45% of water use in the average American home occurs in the bathroom, with nearly 27% being used by toilets, 2% used for baths and 16% used for kitchen & bathroom faucets.  With this understanding,  it is clear that the bathroom is an ideal place to curb water use or to practice water conservation.

water cover

Where to Begin?

Toilets

The amount of water that gets flushed down a toilet can vary.  Older toilets can use between 3.5 and up to 7 gallons per flush, so if you have a toilet that was installed prior the federally mandated 1992 plumbing standards, it is time to start looking into a low flow toilet or a high efficiency toilet.  The low flow toilets can use only up to 1.6 gallons per flush and the high efficiency toilets, which are a result of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  WaterSense Program must use no more than 1.28 gallons per flush.  Many bath & plumbing manufacturers have participated in the WaterSense Program and since its inception in 2006, more than 8,600 different models of toilets, faucets, showerheads and flushing urinal have earned the WaterSense label.

EPA WaterSense

If you have an older, conventional toilet, you can displace water that comes into your reserve by placing an object, like a plastic bottle full of water to reduce the amount of water that gets flushed or deploy the motto: “Yellow is mellow, brown you flush down.”   My suggestion is to get a new toilet.  There are many models at different price points and you’ll be doing your part to conserve water.

At the Sink

Federal Plumbing Standards required that the bathroom faucet use no more than 2.2 gallons/minute (gpm).  A big culprit for water waste is a leaky faucet.  A leaky faucet that drips at a rate of one drop per second can waste more than 3000 gallons of water a year. Another way to conserve water is to replace the aerator, the screw-on tip of the sink faucet.  A change in your bathroom routine can help conserve water, like turning off the faucets, when your brush your teeth or shave.  Again,  the manufacturers of bathroom faucets offer a wide variety of styles that meet or exceed the Federal Plumbing Standard.  A local showroom is a great place to start for product information and water conservation standards.

In the Shower

By installing a low flow showerhead, you can reduce the water used by showering by 40%.   WaterSense showerheads use no more than 2 gallons /minute (gpm).  Showering uses less than water than taking a bath and shorter showers minimize water waste.  It is also recommended that a showerhead should be replaced every 10 years.  This is an effective low cost way to decrease your overall household water consumption.

In the United States, we have create the necessary infrastructure to bring fresh water directly to our homes and on a daily basis, we go about our daily routines with very little concern of our water use.  If we want to conserve this precious resource, we must make some changes in our daily bathroom routines and the products that deliver us water.  The Ultimate Bath Stores are a great place to get educated about water conservation and the right products for this endeavor.


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Aging in Place: Showers

There are soakers and there are showerers.  The shower reins supreme in my household.  The problem with this, is that if you decide to stay in our house, you’ll eventually need to make some necessary renovations, so that you can age in place.  Fortunately,  the kitchen & bath industry has come a long way in universal design.  Many manufacturers of bathroom products have recognized the necessity to keep up with the fact that people are living longer and wanting to stay in their homes.

The bathroom is one of the primary rooms in the house that will require alterations.  Thanks to our friends at NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), there is a checklist of things to consider for a bathroom renovation.

1)       Doorways widened to 36” to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers;

2)      Wheelchair maneuverable space, such as a 60” turning radius, or appropriate t-turn space;

3)      Adjustable, multiple shower head units, which include a hand-held shower head, a 6ft hose and off-set controls  to allow for a comfortable shower either sitting or standing;

4)      Braced walls around the shower, tub and toilet to ensure  benches and grab bars can hold up to 250 pounds,

5)      Curbless showers with a minimum 36” door width, eliminating the need  to step up to get  in and out of the shower;

6)      Grab bars in shower, tub and toilet areas; (Your home is not a hospital and it does not have to look like one. Many reputable manufacturers make decorative grab bars that blend well into a well-designed bathroom.)

7)      Lever handles on doors and plumbing fixtures to accommodate decreased hand strength;

8)      “Comfort height” toilets, which are 2.5” taller than standard toilets, for easy access for the less mobile;

9)      Wall-hung sinks with protection from the pipes to accommodate wheelchairs;

10)   Non-slip flooring in the bathroom and the shower;

11)   Rocker light switches for easy on/off capabilities;

12)   Toilet paper dispensers that can be refilled with one hand – no more fighting the springs.

Safety is paramount element to any renovation and for a shower unit, having a low lip that keeps water from running onto your floor is essential. This low lip means that it’s easier to get in and out of the shower. Another main factor is that you don’t need to give up design for functionality.  Let’s take a look at some examples of well appointed shower areas that provide age in place functionality.

MTI Bath_Aging in Place

MTI Baths

Sterling Seated Shower

Sterling's Accord® Seated Shower

All of our showrooms have examples of products and accessories for those seeking to learn more about aging in place design and renovations.  Our experienced showroom associates have worked with interior designers, builders and architects, who are creating functional age in place bathroom environments for their clients.  Stop by and click your heels and say, “There is no place like home.”

All of these images except the last two come courtesy of Age In Place website.

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