The planning process must, however, start with a look at the five main items of equipment that we may want to install or replace in the bathroom suite, beginning with basins. The various types of basin available are discussed in full elsewhere on the site and in parts of our reference section. Broadly speaking, there are two main types:
*Wall-hung (with or without a pedestal), and
*Countertop or vanity basins, which are becoming increasingly popular.
Your choice will depend on cost and on the layout of the room. The main planning point to remember when choosing and siting a basin is that there should be adequate space to use it easily, with enough room to stand at it and sufficient elbow space at either side. It may sound too obvious to need stating, but the fact is that plenty of bathrooms exist where one cannot step back far enough to bend over the basin without bumping into the bath and where basins have been fixed so close to a side return wall that it is impossible to wash comfortably. In practice, 200mm will be needed on each side of the basin and about 700mm in front of it.
Wall-hung basins are, of course, easier and cheaper to install with yourbathroom suite and they generally take up less room than counter-top basins – particularly the smaller models. Even in a very small bathroom, however, they may not provide the best solution. It may well be that a carefully thought out counter-top with an inset basin will work better in a limited space, tying up all the loose ends caused by left-over spaces and providing valuable shelf space above and storage below. And conversely, the best possible overall layout for a larger bathroom might not lend itself to the use of a counter-top basin; to insist on having one might simply result in having a basin set into a piece of furniture with unusable spaces each side and awkward corners to bump into.
The choice, your budget apart, should not depend so much on the size of bathroom as its overall layout. Don’t let glossy advertisements blind you to the principles of rational planning. Apart from fixing to the wall and plumbing in, wall-hung basins require no complicated additional constructional work. Any basin has to be connected to hot and cold water supplies and to a waste pipe, ideally with the plumbing concealed. Unless the supply pipes can be hidden in the wall, along with the waste pipe, some other way of concealing them will have to be found.
Pedestal basins, in theory at least, hide all the plumbing from the bathroom suites, but many of them leave a considerable gap between the pedestal and the wall and the plumbing has to be arranged in a particular way. There is often insufficient room to take the waste pipe down to the floor inside the pedestal and so, whichever route it takes, it is bound to be visible; the result looks like an attempt to hide something that failed. Furthermore, it is often a good idea to keep the bathroom floor as free of obstructions as possible – WCs and bidets that cantilever out from the wall are made for this purpose – and a pedestal merely adds to the clutter at floor level. One suspects that pedestals are, to some extent, a leftover from the days of unsightly U-bend waste traps before the coming of the more elegant bottle traps of today.
Another and better way of hiding the plumbing is to build a duct out from the wall and up to about 150mm above the chosen suite to provide a useful shelf. If your budget allows it and the layout is suitable, you can go for a counter-top basin. There are a number of different models available to suit different methods of construction, some lead to more elegant results than others. The simplest choice is to use one of the ready-made ceramic countertops with integral basins which are made to fit onto joinery fittings. Provided that one of the lengths in which these tops are available works well in the scheme, their use overcomes the problem of building a specially finished top.
Ready-made vanity units can also be bought with a basin set into a plastics laminate topped cupboard or kneehole dressing table. As with all ready-made furniture units, intelligent planning is needed to integrate these into a scheme if awkward left-over spaces and sharp corners are to be avoided.
Fitting a basin into a purpose-designed and built counter-top is inevitably rather expensive because it involves special joinery work and, depending on the choice of finish, maybe other trades as well. Nevertheless, where your budget and the layout permit it, this can be the best solution. There are basins on the market for setting into any sort of top in several types of material. Some are made to lip over the top; these are relatively easy to lit as the hole for the basin does notneed to be very skilfully cut. On the other hand, water splashed onto the surrounding top cannot be swabbed back into the basin because of the raised lip.
A more attractive, but more expensive, arrangement is provided by a ceramic basin fitted under the worktop, but this means a high standard of workmanship when fitting the bathroom suites. Any counter- top provides a large area of shelf space and can help to unify the room as a whole. Moulded plastics tops can have an integral splashback to do away with the potentially leaky joint where the top joins the wall. Other suitable materials for vanity tops include ceramic tiles or mosaic on block- board, marble and terrazzo. It is worth considering where the basin taps should be mounted. Basins are normally provided with tap holes, although not all of them have these spaced so as to allow a mixer tap to be used and mixer taps may be an advantage, particularly for hand washing. Where the basin is fitted against a duct or hollow partition the taps can be wall- mounted and for this purpose, many basins can be ordered without tap holes.
Wall-mounted taps look particularly neat and leave the basin and counter-top clean and free of obstructions. If space is at a premium, it may be worth mounting taps on the worktop to one side of the basin. Some mixer taps have a combined pop-up waste device which is operated by a knob between the taps and eliminates the conventional plug and chain, but these cannot be wall-mounted. Accessories associated with the basin, such as holders for toothbrushes, tooth mugs, and hooks or rails for face cloths and towels, should all be fitted close to the basin. It is worth positioning these and any shelves that are required as carefully as possible together to give the best overall arrangement. For those who want to put shaving and washing things out of sight, a bathroom cabinet can also be provided close to the basin. Unless the basin is unusually deep, however, or built out from a duct, nothing bulky should be fixed to the wall behind the basin that can prevent people putting their heads down over the basin for washing their faces or hair. It is a good idea to have a mirror behind the basin and this should be large enough to enable people of all sizes to use it without bending or stretching.
Good lighting at the basin is an obvious requirement but one rarely finds that one’s face is brightly lit when looking into the mirror in most bathroom suites. In fact, it would seem that the principles of mirror lighting are often not appreciated. If the basin is sited in front of a window, natural lighting will be enough during the day, but the good artificial light will still be I essential after dark. The clue to the best solution is to be found in the theatre dressing room arrangement in which the mirror is surrounded by bare bulbs that light the face from all directions. However, this is a rather extreme answer in the domestic situation. The main requirement is that light should fall on the face from several angles if possible. A single strip light above the mirror is not really good enough, but if you do decide on this, it should be as long as possible and fitted with a diffusing shade. A downlighter or an opaque shade will simply throw a beam of light onto the worktop and basin and your face will stay in shadow. Strip-lights, either tungsten or fluorescent, on either side of the mirror will light the face well. A more sophisticated solution is to have the mirror spaced out from the wall with strips of opal glass along its sides through which fluorescent strip-lights can shine.