Volume 40,   Issue 8                                  August  2005

A Life of Luxury

Homeowners are Opting for Upscale Amenities in the Bathroom

by Ellen Girard Chilcoat

According to a National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey, when given the choice between more space or high-quality amenities new homeowners are going for the upscale amenities—63 percent, in fact, when surveyed by the NAHB, said they’d take a smaller home with high-quality products and amenities, over a larger house.

“While homes do not appear to be getting bigger, they are definitely getting better,” said Jerry Howard, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the NAHB. “There is a marked increase in quality, with updated features and amenities.”

And the bathroom is one of the top spots for renovations and additions. According to the NAHB survey 78 percent of homeowners ranked a separate shower enclosure their number-three bathroom amenity, following linen closet (91 percent) and exhaust fan (88 percent).

Bill Jackson, of Southeastern Aluminum Products in Jacksonville, Fla., agreed that bathrooms are definitely getting larger.

“That’s a trend we’ve been seeing for some time,” says Jackson, “But the trend we’re seeing more of is large bath stalls.” Larger stalls, he explains, means heavy glass enclosures. “They are what the industry calls frameless; 3/8-inch or ½-inch glass doors with only pivots or hinges. We’re seeing a lot of that type of enclosure.”

And what about the glass used in these enclosures? While there are numerous patterned glass options, Jackson says they don’t see much of those choices with heavy glass.

“Generally, [homeowners] want clear glass,” he says.

Jonathan Schuyler, lead estimator at Giroux Glass’ Las Vegas facility, agrees that frameless enclosures are popular.

“By frameless I mean a simple U-channel application at all wall conditions with ½-inch or 3/8-inch glass covering the duration of the enclosure in lieu of a fully framed shower door with ¼-inch glass,” he adds.

Like Schuyler, David Drexler, vice president of Drexler Shower Door Co. in Atlanta, says most of his customers are going for the 3/8-inch glass, frameless doors, too, and adds that interest is continuing to grow.

“There’s a broader awareness,” he says. “It used to be only a few [were asking about these products]. Now, people see shower enclosures in magazines [or on TV] and everyone knows about them and knows exactly what they want.”

Drexler adds that the high prices of frameless enclosures keep them primarily in high-end homes. But they are still popular.

Accessories and Fixtures
Showers aren’t the only part of the bath getting more luxurious. The Freedonia Group has also conducted a study that looks at trends in bathroom renovations (see chart on page 104). Though the housing construction market may be relatively weak, the study shows a number of renovation factors involving the bathroom will offset this growth. Included among those factors are the following:

• A continuing increase in the number of bathrooms per unit;
• A tendency toward larger master bathrooms with separate shower and bathing facilities in higher-end homes; 
• A healthy outlook for improvement expenditures;
• A trend toward spa-like amenities at a variety of price points;
• An increase in manufactured housing shipments and multi-unit housing completions; and
• An aging U.S. population requiring more accessible features in the bath.

Following the Trends
Though bathrooms are getting bigger, many homeowners are not only choosing to go larger with their shower enclosures, but also to add more amenities. In fact, according to HGTV, the bottom price point for a deluxe shower begins at $15,000 and increases from there. The following list provides some of HGTV’s hot trends for the shower. 

• Completely eliminating the tub and having only a shower;
• Showers with large amounts of space, eliminating the need for a water barrier (i.e., full door or curtain);
• Bringing natural light into the shower (this can be done through the use of windows and skylights);
• Framed and seamless shower doors. Homeowners like clean lines, which a frameless enclosure provides;
• Multiple shower heads; and
• Sophisticated control valves that meet the demands of more than one showerhead.

As bathrooms continue to evolve and become more customized, shower door installers and manufacturers will have to follow these changes as well. 

“Our hardware and glass choices and availability will need to continue to expand,” said Drexler. 

“We are seeing customers’ awareness of the products increase, and therefore, their expectations are getting higher. As long as they continue to pay a premium for specialty products, that’s fine with us.” 

© Copyright 2005 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.