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5 Bathroom Problems We See Over and Over and Over Again

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Franke Chung)

Bathrooms are tricky little devils. They’re highly used spaces, must function very well, and require extensive cleaning. Unfortunately, there’s lots of room for error: either poor design to begin with, or wear and tear that rears its ugly head over time. If it’s your bathroom we’re talking about, the best case scenario is you become aware of some of its flaws. The worst case is something goes disastrously wrong with all that damaging water around. Here are just five signs it might be time to fix or renovate your bathroom.

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#5: Awkward Design

Time to take a shower! You’ve brought your post-shower outfit into the bathroom, but there’s no place to put it where it will remain dry and unwrinkled. Now it’s time to dry off! But the towel hooks and/or bars are across the room, so your towel is crumpled on the floor next to the shower—and there’s nowhere to hang your bathmat to dry when you’re done either. Or it’s time to do your hair! But there’s no place to set your styling tools and products while you work because you just have a sink with no vanity countertop.

If your bathroom makes even the simplest task an acrobatic version of Tetris, it might be time to make some changes. These could be as simple as additional hooks for towels and clothes or bars for towels and bathmats, or as involved as installing a vanity. No matter what you’re doing in the bathroom, you have to be able to put things down for a second!

#4: Lack of Storage

If your bathroom has a sink but no vanity countertop, that makes it difficult to perform your 12-step skincare regimen, but it makes it impossible to store all 12 products! I suppose there are folks out there who have masterfully Kon-Mari-ed their bathroom and only own 3 products total, but for most of us, the bathroom storage list is more like this: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body scrub, deodorant, lotion, makeup remover, face wash, moisturizer, sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, mouthwash, razors, shaving cream, tampons, contraceptives, prescriptions, vitamins, first-aid kid, nail polish and remover, blow dryer, styling tool, hair products, brushes and combs, candles, air freshener, toilet paper, paper towels, towels, washcloths, and a hamper. All of that stuff needs a place to go, and if your bathroom can’t accommodate most of it, it’s probably time for a change.

Installing a vanity around a sink will add a ton of storage, as will adding wall shelves, an over-the-toilet shelving unit, and a generously-sized shower caddy. If you’re totally redoing your bathroom, now’s the time to create as much built-in storage space as possible—and admit to yourself how much storage space you actually need.

#3: Water-Vulnerable Materials

I believe all bathrooms should be like the ones in the Self-Cleaning House invented by Frances Gabe: “Every room contained sprinklers in the ceiling that sprayed soap and water in circular motion, which would land on floors coated with waterproof varnish. Well-placed drains and hot-air vents helped dry things afterward, while resin, waterproof fabric and awnings protected the furniture and accouterments of the house.” But instead of waterproof, resin-coated walls and tiny umbrellas for our decorative items, we have bathrooms with painted or wallpapered walls, wood vanities, framed paper art, and other water-vulnerable materials. Years and decades of steam and splashed water can cause irreparable damage to your bathroom, and when it’s done, it’s done.

If your wallpaper or paint is bubbled, your floor is warped, your ceiling is stained, your vanity has swelled, and/or there’s any sort of leaking, mildew, or mold, it might be time for a major makeover. And remember: severe water damage in the bathroom can cause larger problems for the rest of your home down the road, so take care of the issues before they spread.

#2: Inadequate Systems

Bathrooms are very tricky when it comes to all matters HVAC-related. A bathroom should be warm and cozy (you’re wet and naked!) but very well-ventilated (it’s steamy and sometimes smelly!). A drafty bathroom can make bathing a stressful experience that you dread, and a lack of proper ventilation can cause water/steam damage to walls, floors, and decorative elements.

If your bathroom is cold, overly steamy, drafty, or consistently stinky, it may be time to make some major changes. Installing (or repairing improperly installed) in-floor heating, an exhaust fan, a baseboard heater, or a heat lamp like in a hotel can transform your bathroom from stuffy, chilly, and unpleasant to a place of relaxation and pampering.

#1: Nothing Looks or Feels Clean

This one is the worst. You spend hours scrubbing your tub, tile, floors, and toilet, but the room still looks dingy and dirty. All the drudgery, none of the shiny, satisfying results! If your grout, tub, sink, shower surround, and/or tiles are permanently stained or damaged, or if there are spots that are impossible to clean (this one is hard to describe but if you’ve ever lived in an old house in which there are weird spaces between walls and floors or sink and walls, you know what I mean—tiny pits of despair that you simply can’t clean), it might be time for a makeover.

The ideal bathroom surfaces are smooth, easy-to-clean, sturdy enough to stand up to a good scrubbing, water-resistant, and perfectly flush with each other—and they’ll actually look and feel clean after their weekly scrubbing. Get clean in a clean room!