When it comes to bathrooms, by far the most popular improvements are to sinks, toilets and showers.

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Don’t let the prospect of a bathroom repair dampen your spirits. Addressing a problem with a sink, shower or toilet is also an opportunity to update or upgrade your bathroom, making it easier to use, easier to clean, and much more attractive.

“Most of the bath updates we do start as a repair job,” says E.J. Snyder, service manager for South West Plumbing of Seattle. “We get to talking and realize that once things are taken apart to be fixed, it’s the best time to make a significant improvement.”

South West Plumbing, serving King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, focuses on plumbing repairs, replacements and remodeling projects. Snyder reports that when it comes to bathrooms, by far the most popular improvements are to sinks, toilets and showers.

Give your sink a lift

The most common pain point for bathroom sinks involves broken faucets. They leak, drip and the handles come loose. Metal finishes on the faucets chip, corrode or discolor. “New, functional faucets make a real difference,” Snyder says.

Replacing a faulty faucet set not only gives you better performance but enables you to make the bathroom easier to use. Some households find a streamlined single-handle faucet more convenient, while others prefer a two-handled faucet that makes water-flow easier to control. “It’s a matter of personal preference,” Snyder says. “But in general people are moving away from knob-style faucets and choosing the easier-to-use lever-style controls.”

Most faucet sets come with a matching drain, but Snyder wants you to beware of low-quality drains. “Take the opportunity to get a solid brass, heavy-duty drain installed,” he advises. “These are easy to open and close and really give you the ability to adjust the drainage. A good drain can be easily lifted out for cleaning.”

If you are replacing the sink basin itself, this is an opportunity to add color and drama to the bath. Most replacements involve swapping out a chipped or cracked sink for a new white porcelain sink that drops in to an existing counter, Snyder says. Remodels that include a new vanity may include a “vessel” sink, a large decorative glass bowl with a tall faucet that arches over it.

Take the toilet high tech

Snyder is enthusiastic about the new higher toilets with elongated seats — and so are many of his customers. “Just about every toilet replacement we do involves taking out an older toilet with a round-type seat and replacing it with more comfortable model,” he says.

You’ll hear the newer toilets referred to as “ADA” toilets because they were originally designed to meet specifications established through the Americans with Disabilities Act. Being higher, they are easier to sit down on and stand up from. “They are much easier on the joints,” Snyder says.

He reports with some surprise that many customers are asking to have bidet or “washlet” features added to their existing toilets. Popular in Japan, these systems attach to the inside of the toilet bowl and spray warm water for hands-free cleaning after toilet use. The more elaborate systems include warm-air drying features, a heated seat and a remote control.

While pricey, bidet systems are not difficult to install. “They attach to the existing toilet water system, so all you need is an electric outlet near the toilet,” Snyder explains. “There’s no need to open up walls or floors.”

Shower upgrades for safety, space and style

While design magazines are full of stand-alone bathtubs, plumbers are finding customers clamoring for bigger and better showers instead. “People are rapidly moving away from the idea that you need a tub in the bathroom,” Snyder says. “We’re taking out old tubs and using that space to put in larger, modern showers.

The new shower stalls typically include spacious built-in niches for storing shampoos and other shower products. Many include hand-held shower heads on slide bars that make it easy to adjust the height and angle of the spray. Some showers even have built-in seating, or steam-generating showerheads.

“Whether you go with acrylic or tile, everyone wants a better-designed, more functional shower,” Snyder says. Replacing an old tub with a new, easy-access shower can make a world of difference for older people looking to stay in their homes as they age.

“For most shower work, we have to open up the wall, and possibly do a complete demolition of the existing shower or tub/shower combination,” Snyder says. “On the other hand, the shower upgrade is without any question the bathroom update that gives people the most satisfaction when it’s done.”

South West Plumbing has been serving King, Pierce and Snohomish counties for more than 35 years. All South West Plumbing plumbers are highly trained and arrive prepared with fully stocked trucks. We work evenings and weekends at no extra charge.