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The Plumber: “Back-to-wall” tubs fit in freestanding spaces

By Ed Del Grande
Tribune News Service

 Dear Ed: I read your article on “freestanding” tubs and like the look of having a shower stall and an open style bathtub. But, our bathroom is too small to have the tub located away from the wall. Any ideas you can share with me?

Jerry, Massachusetts

Back-to-wall tubs may be a better fit in smaller bathrooms. (Kohler)

Dear Jerry: Freestanding baths have become trendy plumbing fixtures. As mentioned in previous articles, not only do they function as a comfortable place to take a bath, they also add classic beauty with “stand alone” styling. However, a freestanding tub may not be the best choice for smaller bathrooms because of space restrictions, until now. I’ve worked with new freestanding-like bathtubs called “back-to-wall” tubs that are designed to be installed against a wall. This design may fit smaller spaces and allows for back of tub access for an easier install. Final tip: If you choose a Back-to-Wall tub that features lumbar support, a built-in overflow and a “toe-tap” style drain that’s foot operated, this can also be a step in the right direction!

Updated shower column kits anchor to the existing tile walls. (Kohler)

  Dear Ed: I have a shower stall with good plumbing and nice tiles but the shower pipe and head is boring, worn out and outdated. Without getting into a remodeling job, what can I do to add some nice features and improve my shower?

— Ted, Maine

Dear Ted: Sounds like you could use a refresh job on your tile shower stall.

“Refresh” means to improve your present shower setup without remodeling the tile walls or the in-wall plumbing. Basically, you can work off the shower arm connection and install a new interior shower setup.

This is possible because of updated shower column kits that anchor to the existing tile walls. A shower column kit usually includes a showerhead, hand shower and a specially finished vertical pipe column. The column can also include a diverter, sliding hand shower bracket and rain head-style setup as well.

Bottom line: For a refreshing shower option that may not wash away your budget, look into a shower stall refresh job.

Hi Ed: We have a very modest but very nice master bathroom. Without changing any fixtures I would like to dress up this bathroom with decorative accents. Since you are in a lot of bathrooms, what suggestions can you give me?

— Don, New Mexico

Dear Don: I get to see a lot of nice bathrooms and one thing I noticed is little details make a big difference. The little details I’m talking about are accessories that can be easily added to any bathroom without any remodeling work.

Items like higher-end matching bath towels, bath rugs and even hanging bath robes are a good start. Then you can add on to your new bath linens with matching bath and body items. Luxurious soaps, lotions, candles and bath salts are some good ideas. The cool thing is not only are these collection accessories visually attractive, when coordinated correctly the aromas also blend nicely with each other.

Look for bath/body products that are professionally designed and sold together.  (Kohler)

Final tip: Look for bath/body products that are professionally designed and sold together. This way your bathroom can smell as nice as it looks.

Master Contractor/Plumber Ed Del Grande is known internationally as the author of the book “Ed Del Grande’s House Call,” the host of TV and Internet shows, and a LEED green associate. Visit or write