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Choosing The Lavatory Bathroom

Updated on July 15, 2013

Choosing The Lavatory Bathroom

If you buy the lavatory pan and cistern separately, it's still possible to have the old-fashioned arrangement with the cistern high on the wall, and the handle hanging from a chain. Purists might find this worthwhile in a traditional bathroom. Otherwise today's cisterns are low-level or close-coupled.

The advantage is visual rather than functional. A low-level cistern only needs about a foot of exposed pipe to connect it to the lavatory pan; and the lavatory chain gets replaced by an unobtrusive chrome handle. Close-coupled lavatories look even neater, because the cistern connects directly to the lavatory pan, so there is no exposed pipe left showing at all. As these tend to be lower overall, they could be the answer if you need to fit a lavatory directly underneath a window.

But the neatest of all lavatories is the cantilevered type, where the lavatory pan is fixed to a special bracket, so it appears to hang in mid-air. Her the cistern and plumbing need hiding behind a false wall, with a removable access panel-a good idea for anyone with a traditional bathroom because it minimizes the amount of mod con left visible. If you can't afford to give up much space to a false wall, it's possible to buy slim line plastic cisterns-the slimmest projects no more than 11.4 cm (4 1/2 in). These can be ordered with a top -fixed handle if you want to you want to replace a high-level cistern without having to move the existing pan and plumbing forward.

Seats are usually sold separately so there is no need to limit yourself to the one displayed with the lavatory in the showroom. Wooden seats are warm and handsome-but are likely to sit or stand on the seat-lid, choose a more expensive and therefore more rigid, plastic. They come in plain and marbled colours.

Traditionally British lavatories have always been the wash-down kind where flushing water roars noisily through the pan. If you are prepared to spend more money, you can buy the symphonic type instead where a combined flush and suction action empties the pan quietly. In theory this is supposed to be more efficient, but in practice it's much more prone to blockage.


Basically there are two kinds of bidet. The cheaper type is filled by conventional taps and can be plumbed in relatively simply. The more expensive type is filled by a flushing rim with an ascending spray-and most local water authorities insist that because there is a risk of dirty water siphoning back into the supply pipes, they must have their own independent supplies which means plumbing in new pipes from the hot water cylinder and cold water tank. Whichever type of bidet you finally decide upon, plumbing costs are likely to remain high unless you can site the bidet near to the lavatory. This is because for some incomprehensible reason, most local water authorities decree that the waste has to be directed into a soil pipe, rather than be allowed to join the bath or wash-basin waste. If placing it near the lavatory means a really fit it might fit be best to abandon the idea altogether because you need plenty of knee room either side of bidet. If it's the type that butts up close to the wall makes sure there is enough room front-to-back.


Although few of us would forgo the occasional soak in a hot steamy bath, there are plenty of good reasons for having a shower too. They are more hygienic better for the skin, safer for young children and economical-you can have at least five hot showers for the price of one bath. They also take up far less space. Most shower areas are either 81 cm (32 in) or 91 cm (36 in) square; although if the shower is enclosed you will need to allow as much space again for drying and dressing. However you also need an accessible water supply and drainage system nearby, unless the plumbing costs are to be astronomical.

The water Supply

If you have a good and adequate supply of hot water from a central heating boiler, immersion heater or water storage unit you can usually have a shower connected to it. But the water flow and pressure must be correct, otherwise the shower will only manage a dribble of water. To ensure sufficient pressure the cold water storage tank should be at least 1 m (3 ft) higher than the level of the spray-head. Provided there is enough headroom a too-low tank can be raised by lifting it onto a wooden platform. If not you will need to have a small electric pump installed to boost the water flow-something that could be expensive if there is no power supply nearby.

Where there is sufficient water pressure but no adequate supply of hot water you can heat the water direct from cold by using an independent electric or gas water heater. With the former water for the shower gets warmed as it circulates around an integral electric element but because of limitations on the mains electricity supply the heater can be no larger than 7.2 kW. This means the hotter you want the water the less there will be so you have to settle for a rather weak jet if you like very hot showers-or merely warm water if you like a powerful spray. All BEAB-approved models onĀ  the market have safety cut-outs and come with hose spray-head and either an adjustable wall brackets or sliding bar arrangement for fixing the shower-rose. Although they can be installed by a competent handyman if you are in any doubt at all it's best to call in a professional.

Instantaneous gas heaters are more expensive to install, because they require an expert to fit them to an outside wall with a flue: but they are cheaper to run and more efficient. If you already have a gas water heater, you may be able to have a shower connected to it.

NB Before fitting any kind of shower you must check that the installation complies with the local water authority bye-laws: this is usually a routine matter.

Where to put the shower

The simplest way of adding a shower is to introduce one over the bath. Ideally you should have a wider-than-average bath with a flat non-slip base at the tap end for standing on safely. The extra width will prove important if you want a glass or Perspex panel instead of a flexible shower curtain, because otherwise you will be short of elbow room.

All you have to do is replace the ordinary bath taps with bath/ shower taps. These are usually supplied with a wall-socket to hold the spray-head but some have a wall-fitted sliding bar so the spray-head can be adjusted up and down to accommodate the tall and the small. For a neater result you can use a more sophisticated version where the control taps and shower-rose are a fixture, either surface mounted or built into the wall. The pipes running to the bath taps still supply the shower but the shower has a separate control which works quite independently of the bath taps. These units are also suitable for use in a shower cubicle.

The next simplest way of introducing a shower is to buy a ready-made and self-contained shower cabinet which just needs connecting to the water supply and waste. This means it could be installed on a landing near a bathroom or in the corner of a bedroom. Alternatively it could be installed on the ground floor near the downstairs plumbing. The only snag is the most cabinets are pretty hideous to look at; you will need to hunt carefully for something inoffensive.

If you want to build your own shower cubicle you have to lay the floor so that it slopes to the drain-something that will involve creating a false floor if you are not starting completely scratch. This explains why most people buy a reedy-made shower tray as a basis. These are available in acrylic or fireclay but although fireclay is better-looking and stronger acrylic is cheaper, lighter (which could be good for upstairs), and safer because the surface is less slippery. However shower trays create as big a problem as they solve because it's extremely difficult to achieve a watertight join between the shower tray and the cubicle walls. Your only hope is to use flashing or continue the waterproof cladding of the walls so it overlaps down into the tray. If you are cladding the cubicle walls with ceramic tiles, be sure to use waterproof adhesive and grouting.

A thermostat control nearly doubles the price of a shower but could be well worth having in any household where there are elderly people or children to consider. This is because water temperature can change from warm to scalding hot when cold taps are turned on elsewhere in the house reducing the flow of cold water to the shower. Whether or not this happens depends on your water system: best get it checked in advance before buying anything.
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