Tiling and plumbing: essential advice for a home reno

Home renovations can be a nightmare when you're trying to create your dream house. You'll need to be flexible, but more importantly, the knowledge you go in with will save you a lot of money and headaches. These tips for tiling and plumbing should be a good start.

Tiling and plumbing: essential advice for a home reno

1. Check your toilet trap

Some toilet makers cut corners to lower costs. Sometimes they cut curves as well — trap curves. When buying a toilet, make sure the trap (the S-shaped tube underneath the toilet that the water goes down when you flush) is fully glazed.

  • Like the outside of the toilet, the inside of the trap should be shiny and smooth. Otherwise, toilet paper will get caught on the sides of the tube and clog your toilet.

Very inexpensive toilets may seem like a bargain but the unglazed traps prove that all toilets weren't created equal.

2. Look for a lifetime faucet warranty

Some manufacturers brag that their kitchen and bath faucets come with lifetime warranties. But it's up to you to read the fine print. Read carefully.

  • You may find that certain aspects of a faucet — the finish or valves — are covered for only one to five years, not for life. And since valves can total 25 percent of the cost of a faucet, you want to make sure the valves are also covered for life.

3. Don’t fall for a cheap faucet

Hidden beneath the gleaming exterior of kitchen and bath faucets is the truth about how they were made.

  • Cheaper faucets are metal shells covering copper tubes.
  • More expensive faucets are cast brass, which means the brass has been poured into a mold and the faucet is all one piece.

Buying one of the more expensive faucets may save you money in the long run. Eventually, water will erode tiny holes in the copper tubes of the cheaper faucets. This can occur very quickly if the water is acidic (lots of chlorine), leading to the need for a new faucet in as few as three years. The cast brass will last much longer.

4. Check that brass finish

Brass fixtures can make a beautiful addition to your bathroom or kitchen, but looks can be deceiving. Some brass is coated with a lacquer finish that regular cleaning with bathroom chemicals will remove, leaving you with a tarnished brass showerhead.

  • Make sure the product description of the brass fixture mentions PVD (physical vapour disposition). Brass finishes using this process means that the coating will not come off and your brass will not tarnish.
  • PVD is a must for exterior door hardware, which is often exposed to acid rain and, near the coast, corrosive salt air. PVD-finished brass may cost a bit more, but it will maintain its good looks longer.

5. Use porcelain tiles sparingly

Some contractors and tile sales reps like to push porcelain tile, touting the fact that its through-and-through colour consistency means that chips hardly show up.

  • Ceramic tile, on the other hand, features a surface colour and a differently-coloured inner core (usually terra cotta). If it chips, they'll say, the inner colour stands out.
  • Of course, they'll downplay the fact that porcelain tile costs more and that they earn more when they sell it. The benefits of porcelain are real, but sometimes unnecessary.
  • Before you buy, think about how much foot traffic a room will get. Hall bathrooms, where guests will be wearing heels and boots, might need porcelain. Bedroom bathrooms, where people walk around with slippers on, might be fine with ceramic.

6. Test a tile pattern with photocopies

Having trouble picturing how those fancy tiles will look as a backsplash for your kitchen counter?

  • Make photocopies of the tiles and tape them to the wall. Rearrange them until you get the look you desire.
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