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Basement Bathroom Design: The Art of Lights, Ventilation and Plumbing!

Yes, the title seems a bit silly – running a movie has nothing to do with doing a basement remodeling project, or doing a basement bathroom design. Or does it? Both are projects that require a lot of up front preparation and planning before they can succeed, and in a lot of ways, the credo specified above is a checklist of what needs to be done to make your basement bathroom design work right.

The ultimate goal of a basement bathroom design, aside from the obvious, practical ones of just having another place in the house where someone can use the facilities, is to create an inviting and comfortable space that people will want to use. If you've seen homes where there's this crowded, narrow and fusty smelling basement bathroom, you know what we mean when we say there's a right way and a wrong way to do this.

So, like a movie, style counts. Also, like a movie, there will be two jobs that need to be done that really need to be separated. There's the director-analogue job (the person who tries to get the vision of the film put into place) and the producer job (the person in charge of making sure all the practical details are adhered to and the project remains within its funding boundaries).

We're going to cover both of those job requirements within each of these three categories.

Lighting is critical on a movie set; its how they make camera shots work, and they schedule everything around when and where the lighting will be available. The reason why most professional actors are up at 5 AM during a shoot is so that they can be ready for filming at first light with all the makeup prep work. While you don't need to be up at 5 AM to do the lighting in your basement bathroom design, you DO need to remember that your basement doesn't have the same sources of natural lighting that an upstairs bathroom does. You'll have to use some of the same techniques that movies and film shooting does to make sure your bathroom isn't claustrophobic or overly close. These techniques include:

Color balance – use the lightest colors you can when designing your basement bathroom; and vary the shading or tinting on the walls, going from darker at the baseboards to lighter at the ceiling molding. This uses a psychological trick that the human brain plays on us to make something seem larger than it is (this technique is also used onboard US naval vessels to help morale). Make sure that your lighting fixtures, as much as possible, give indirect light. Yes, a vanity mirror with lots of bulbs over it is great for applying makeup – but having lighting going through frosted glass and aimed at the upper part of the room will reinforce the illusion that there's a horizon within the room.

Visual space – within the constraints of what you want to accomplish (putting on the producer's hat here); you want to give as much space as possible to each of the fixtures. Not only does this open out the room and make everything easier to get at, but also it helps make up for the lack of direct sunlight in the room psychologically. Also, while you're dealing with visual space and lighting, look for ways to make energy efficiency more important to your bathroom basement: Consider indirect LED lighting if possible; they use less power, and if used on bathrooms with the right color of paint, can help a lot in opening the space out.

Ventilation is an important consideration in basement bathroom design. You're going to need a fair bit of it – something to pull steamy hot air away from the shower when it's on, something to remove odors from the use of the facilities. This usually puts most bathroom basement designs up against an exterior wall; a somewhat more expensive and creative solution is to feed that ventilation duct into the outgoing air stream for your central air or heating system; if you've got a passive solar system for heat distribution, this can also be a good way to go through this.

The direct analogy to shooting a movie is that most every movie set has a series of blowers on to make sure that stray breezes are isolated, and to make sure that the lighting used for filming doesn't roast the actors. Like a bathroom basement design, there's a lot of thought put into breezeways. The difference is that the breezeways on a move set are temporary, and the entire thing is torn down fast enough that mold isn't an issue. In your home, especially in a basement, you're going to want to dry that bathroom basement design out as much as you can, to keep mold from growing and taking over your home.

And last – there's plumbing. The entire process means you need good plumbing to work at all. First, check to see where the drainage pattern on your floor is to see if you need to install a floor drain (odds are, you will). Second, be aware of where the plumbing fixtures are, and understand their flow rate capacity. If at all possible, give your new bathroom its own hot water heater, just because of this issue. (This is especially important if your basement bathroom design is meant to be part of a basement apartment setup.

Remember, if you plan well, your basement bathroom design doesn't have to be a showstopper. Use the lists above to make sure everything runs the way you need it to.