There is nothing more important in achieving a visually satisfactory bathroom than concealing the pipework. In nearly all the examples illustrated in this book, this has been done and the results speak for themselves. Some architects, due to their early functionalist upbringing, like to expose, or as it is sometimes called express, the pipework; this can be effective in really large industrial buildings, where the brightly colour coded pipework is a feature of the plant room. In your domestic bathroom, such exposure is more likely to offend; there will be a mass of bends, connectors, fittings and so on, which will give an impression of untidiness.
There is something appealing about highly polished copper and brass towel rails as seen in the better quality public lavatory or hotel toilet. This is due perhaps to the feeling of old-fashioned loving care, or naval associations, rather than any intrinsic aesthetic qualities. Copper, galvanised steel, and stainless steel are all used for hot and cold water supply pipes, while PVC or polyethene can be used for cold water and waste pipes. There seems little advantage in departing from the conventional materials, particularly where the quantities of pipe- work involved are comparatively small. Price differentials between alternative materials vary from year to year.
Pipe- work in the lead has now largely ceased to be used in domestic installations. Concealing the pipework presents certain difficulties and these can best be overcome by some sort of ducting. In building terminology, a duct is a vertical or horizontal space that conceals pipes, wires, conduits, etc. In the bathroom itself, horizontal ducting to hide the hot and cold water pipes can be built using timber framing, and covered with a choice of materials, such as painted or plastics- faced plywood or boarding. Access must be provided for maintenance and repairs so that neatly designed fixings will be needed. The vertical soil pipe must be hidden if it has to be located in the bath- room and again access should be possible.
Concealed fixing devices are available and concealed hinges make for a tidy solution. Rows of cups and screws, although commonly used, are unsightly and irritating to deal with in an emergency. A professional designer will achieve a good-looking result by detailing the joints in the access panels in such a way that they are coordinated with the design of the room as a whole.