Bathroom remodeling with Matt Muenster | Home Front

Matt Muenster
Sep 15, 2016

DIY Network expert and licensed contractor Matt Muenster sees every house project as a chance to achieve great design while integrating earth-friendly elements. On DIY Network’s “Bath Crashers” and “BATHtastic!,” he transforms boring bathrooms into fantastic ones.

Muenster is sharing his home design knowledge at the Capital Home Show Sept. 23 to 25 at the Dulles Expo Center.

He joined the Home Front to answer your bathroom remodeling questions.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than ten years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

DIY Network expert and licensed contractor Matt Muenster stars in the popular shows DIY Network’s “Bath Crashers” and “BATHtastic!,” He is known for his amazing transformations of boring bathrooms into fantastic ones.
Muenster is sharing his home design knowledge at the Capital Home Show Sept. 23 to 25 at the Dulles Expo Center. But today, we have him all to ourselves. So let's chat!

Great to be with you guys!  Anxious to hear your questions and excited to come see the DC area next weekend!  Lets do this!

What are sources for durable, attractive vanity cabinets that aren't too expensive?

This is tricky. The durable vanities aren't usually at the big box stores. I'd recommend visiting a plumbing wholesale showroom -- you can touch and feel and get a good idea on quality with your own eyes.

I have a very awkwardly laid out bathroom. You basically walk straight into the toilet, then have to slide to the left to get to the sink, or slide to the right to get to the shower. I'm thinking of trying to reconfigure the room by switching the shower and the toilet, so you walk in, turn left to the sink, walk through a threshold-less shower area and then the toilet is at the end of the room and therefore there is no sliding around a toilet that just out into the room. Is this too weird of a configuration? I can't figure out how else to fit a sink, toilet and shower into a long, narrow bathroom. Any suggestions?

Layout is tricky and expensive to change.  I would suggest bringing in a designer to consult with you and give you a plan to move forward with that also fits your budget!  Good luck!


I have a very small bathroom behind my laundry room. Right now it has paneling (ick!) and a dropped ceiling. There is ductwork above the ceiling and a vertical sewer pipe behind the paneling. I want to remove both the paneling and ceiling, so it's less cramped, and I'm thinking of painting the ductwork and pipes to match the walls. What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions? There are also wires running across the ceiling, but I would have an electrician put them inside conduits.

This is why drop ceilings exist.  You need access and it isn't always pretty up there.  You certainly can paint, but maybe a more attractive drop ceiling would suffice!

Four-year-old, one-story house built on a concrete slab. Hate master bathroom tile on floor and walls. How much of a disruption is it to remove and replace tile? Trying to get in the right frame of mind for a bathroom remodel.

Removing tile is a complete disruption. You won't be salvaging the material behind the tile. When you demo tile, you demo the wallboard/backer board with it.  New tile installs will require the proper backing anyway, so reusing the existing isn't an option.

Hi Matt! Excited that you will be coming back to town for the upcoming Capital Home Show! What are you seeing as new bathroom renovation trends? We are considering eliminating our bathtub and expanding the shower - good idea or bad?

I stay away from the term trends.  But I'm excited to come back and share my design thoughts with you all next weekend.  Eliminate the tub as long as you have a tub elsewhere in your house -- it's fair game.

Because I can't afford granite counters, I am choosing between laminate or concrete. Which would be the better choice?

Concrete > laminate.  But if you can afford concrete, you can afford almost anything available for countertops. I'd recommend quartz.

We had our masterbath redone a few years ago with carrera marble but I went with easier to clean white ceramic subway tile in my shower stall. The grout was supposed be special with some kind of mold inhibitor etc., but even with a professional tile /grout cleaning ( a company specializing in that), I still have dark spots. What is the solution to this? Can grout be replaced without removing the tile which is in great condition? We squeegie and wipe down the stall with a microfiber cloth after each shower and there is a fan too. Help. Do you recommend/use a certain type of grout or color? The bathroom is all white.

It sounds like mold/mildew.  My 1st question would be do you run your exhaust fan?  Its going to continue to occur until the moisture issue is taken care of.  I rarely/almost never grout with white/light grout anymore - darker grout, even with carerra marble (dark grey) keeps this from being noticeable.

Should the tile on the shower walls go right up to the ceiling or should there be about a foot of space between the wall tile and the ceiling. I've seen both ways and I'm not sure which way would work best.

I see no reason to stop the tile short of the ceiling ever.  

Good Morning, I have a house that was built in 2003. The tile, tub and shower are original to the house. The bathroom has a large acrylic triangle tub at the corner of the house with two large windows (48" width by 36"height). The tub never gets used since it would take massive amount of water to fill it. Could I replace the tub with a large shower and keep the windows? Or do the windows need to be removed and smaller ones installed?

Ideally, the windows won't serve you well in that corner shower.  When we do this on the show, we replace the windows with long skinny windows near the ceiling to let the light in, but keep them away from splashing water.

Remodeling small bathroom off the master bedroom. We have hired a contractor. We will replace the existing bathtub with a walk in shower. Tile will go from floor to ceiling the area is 90 sq ft. Want to do some decorative element with some beautiful glass mosaic tile. I don't like borders as they tend to make a small space even smaller. I'm thinking of something vertical against the majority of the tile which is beige with some texture that sort of looks like stone. Any suggestions?

There are literally a million suggestions - and its 100% personal preference.  I would suggest an afternoon on or Pinterest and flag some installs you like.  Then pass those images off to your contractor.

My husband and I are hoping to completely renovate our original 1936 bathroom (a total gut job). I have two questions: (1) Is it reasonable to consider demolishing the old bathroom ourselves? I'm sure the wall and floor tiles were thick-set into mortar but we're skilled renovators and are thinking it will save a fair bit of $ if we tackle the demolition ourselves. (2) We'd like to get rid of the shower/tub combo and just have a walk-in shower. Will this hurt our resale value? The house won't have a tub if we get rid of this one. Thanks for whatever advice you can offer!

Demo is completely a DIY friendly thing.  Just make sure you know where pipes are behind the walls. You can cost  yourself a lot of money by making a mistake during demo.  As for the tub, my rule is there needs to be at least one tub in the house somewhere.  If not, I think you'll be doing yourself a resale disservice.  

I hope you can help us out of a conundrum. Our 1960s house has two bathrooms with a common wall where the shower/bath plumbing runs. The hall bath has a tub with shower, while the master bath has just a shower. We know the drains are connected in a funky way from when we had to snake out the line and it came out the other drain, and so we are suspicious about what we may find inside the walls. We need to keep at least one shower operational at a time, if at all possible. What should we be thinking about so that we don't end up in a situation where what we did in one bathroom either causes a problem in the other or means we have to redo something we've just done?

Hiring a pro will solve this.  It's not unheard of that two showers empty into the same line. But during a reno, a plumber will do this the right way if you call his or her attention to it.  

We have a classic black and white 1930s bathroom . The tile is actually in good shape. Will this detract when selling our house ?

No. If it's in good condition, it may be the thing that helps sell your house.  But if it's not your style and you're planning on staying, who cares what the next person will think of it?  It's your house, make it what you want!

A friend offered me a claw-foot tub in perfect condition. I love claw-foot tubs and have always wanted one! But I would have to remove my current tub, which butts up to walls on three sides in a small bathroom. How realistic a DIY project is this? The current tub is made of iron.

Clawfoot's are beautiful, but are meant to be free standing.  You have an alcove tub that will need to be completely demoed to remove. Then it's a question of whether the tub fits in the same alcove and if you can get a tub filler to work.  It's a lot of work, not a DIY recommendation. This one is for a pro.

Looking back on what was "hot" five or 10 years ago what kinds of today's current design elements/features are most likely to appear hopelessly dated in 2021 or 2026? Any suggestions on design approaches that would lend themselves to a less-costly "soft" upgrade 5 to 10 years hence?

This answer requires chapters of information.  The short answer is: anything poorly executed will look dated. Even ugly bathrooms that are expertly crafted earn my respect.  "Soft" upgrades don't really exist in a bathroom. It's not that kind of space like a living room or bedroom where paint and new furniture solves the issue.  Come to my talks next weekend, we can discuss!

I have a half-bath in my basement that's in pretty good shape, but I'd like to add a shower to make it a full bath (in order to create a rental apartment down there). How difficult/expensive would that be? There's plenty of room outside the bathroom to expand.

It's not a simple addition, and "expensive" is a relative term.  Hard to put a price to it without seeing it all and inspecting. Consult with a contractor to get a bid would be my best advice.

What are your favorite tile resources? I'm looking for affordable options, definitely not designer stuff.

My tile resources wouldn't necessarily be called "affordable." :)

I'd look into your local Tile Shop.  They're nationwide and have a more interesting selection that the big box places and prices are very affordable.

I live in a home built in 1932 & one of my bathrooms has the original tile floor. Is it true you can tile on top of the old floor or is it structurally better to demo the old floor and lay new tile for a new floor? Thank you!

No.  Never tile over an existing anything.  You need to tile over the proper tile backing, or you're asking for failure.  Demo out the old floor and assess the situation.  Then install proper tile backing and take your time.  Its a 1932 house - so it won't be perfectly flat or prepped... and likely the tile demo will be quite an adventure! :)  Good luck!

We have a Jacuzzi tub in our master bathroom that we would like to replace. The problem is that it is "tiled in" using the same tiles that cover the entire bathroom floor, and we can't find replacement tiles. I would like to replace it with a soaking tub without having to retile the entire bathroom. Would it look alright to use a completely different tile under and around the tub that would set off the bath area? Or should I bite the bullet and retile the entire bathroom?

If the tub is tiled in, it's also likely mortared in and screwed to the wall. The tile will have to come down to remove it. In which case so will the top of the tub deck to accept a new tub.  At that point, it's personal preference/budget that will determine what you do in the rest of the space.

Planning to sell our house within two years. Surface of iron tub, which we think is original to our 1930 house, in bad shape. Should we reglaze or consider replacing?

If you're planning to leave, a resurfacing is the answer. However, don't do this yourself. Hire a pro. Someone will come in and reglaze the entire tub area. Do some research and you'll find a company locally.  It'll look brand new and you'll likely get a 15 year warranty you can pass along to the new owners.

What is better beige or white? And is it okay to mix both in a bathroom?

Tough question. My honest answer is neither! :)  I'm more of a cool grey color guy in a bathroom, but I appreciate you thoughts to keep the walls neutral.  Cooler grey is more in tune to the color temperature already in a bathroom. Water is a cool color itself. Beige is something I paint the walls when I'm not trying to offend anyone, and I'm past the point of not trying to offend anyone anymore with my designs. :)  Mixing in some white to any palette in a bathroom is a good idea though.

What color bathrooms are trending?

Neutral cool grey is my color of choice.  I try to create calming spaces in the bathroom, and an attack of color isn't really the best way to do that. Plus, a neutral color like that for the walls lets the material selections I make stand out, which is the point.  I'd rather see my tile pop than my $30 bucket of paint.

Hi, I have a rather small townhouse. The first floor opens into a small dining room, then drops down to a small living room. Ceilings are about 8 ft. I recently purchased some antique Russian furniture, because it was beautiful. I plan to put the taller wardrobe against the wall next to the TV and a sideboard in the dining room. The pieces are very sturdy and painted a light green, which are my room colors. They haven't arrived yet. I'm hoping that they won't make the rooms too crowded. Your thoughts?

I'm sure it will be fine, but sadly impossible to answer this question without dimensions and scale to analyze. A good rule of thumb before doing any furniture shopping is to have a scale drawing (even on graph paper) of your space that you can bring with you so that these concerns can be alleviated before you write the check and wait to see.  Good luck!

Hi, this is a MOST interesting discussion! We have a windowless (interior) bath (original to the 1920's house, 1960's tubs/tiles). After a total gut and re-plumbing, we will still have no windows.  What is your experience with Solar Tubes/sun tunnels and their ventilation accessories over a shower?

Solar tubes are AMAZING!  We use them quite a bit on "Bath Crashers." Solatube is my favorite brand. The bring a ton of light into the space during daylight hours and Solatube has a light fixture within the tube that you can turn on at night. They don't offer ventilation though that is done through your exhaust fan separately.

For small jobs, there are often stacks of high quality tile (including floor tiles) at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStores.

Good advice. If you've got a small job on a budget and you're willing to hunt and peck for something great, by all means, Habitat is a great resource for that!  Just buy extra tile if you can. You never know when a screw up will happen and you don't want to come up short. 10 percent - 20 percent extra.

Which have you had the most success with: conventional drain at one end or a longer one on the long axis of the shower? And as a threshold or in the middle of the pan?

I love the linear drains up against one wall or the shower bench. It makes for a much easier tile installation as you're only sloping from one direction. I prefer those to not be in the center of the shower though as it sort of defeats the purpose of not having to stand on the drain.  

I love wall-mounted faucets, but I'm worried they are a trend that will pass. Thoughts?

I love them too. But its really a personal preference. They are more difficult to install and give you limited access if they ever experience any failure. I only do them when they solve an issue for me -- shallow countertop depth or deep vessel sinks.

To the chatter who asked about their classic 1930s black and white bathroom with tile in good shape. I am so jealous! That's the exact look I'm wanting for my 1918 bathroom. Now this is addressed to our chatter hosts. Since the foundation is pier and beam, which causes the house to shift, I'm thinking linoleum might be better than tile, and am looking for art deco and am wondering if there are any websites or companies you can recommend that specialize in vintage-style designs?

You're likely right to lean toward a more forgiving flooring. Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) might be a direction you could look. Google the term and see if you find anything that fits the deco look you're trying to achieve.  There are many MFRs that do a great job with this, but as with any material selection, one person's "Art Deco" isn't the same definition as another's. Try and do a search there. They might tip you off to some good vendors as well.

I have a 1946 bathroom with tub that looks like it was unsuccessfully glazed when we moved in (surface is peeling). Is there a chance it can be reglazed successfully? Replacing the tub is more than we can afford right now, and I don't trust the bathfitting routine.

Possibly, depending on how bad it is. A lot of reglazing companies will bondo and fill any areas that are pitted or not smooth. They may even sand out any drips or blemishes. Then a respray can perhaps achieve the look you're after! Good luck!

According to the FAQ page on Solatube's website:  The Solatube® Daylighting System 160 DS is available with an attractive optional Solatube Ventilation Add-On Kit. When the Solatube 160 DS is combined with a Ventilation Add-On Kit and a Solatube Light Add-On Kit, it becomes an attractive 3-in-1 ceiling fixture. •Quiet, remote in-line fan motor with opposing rotation to overcome pressure and increase speed and volume of airflow, even under extended duct runs •Fan motor moves up to 110 cubic feet (3 cubic meters) per minute •Optional Roof Vent Cap: Self-flashing design for easy installation. Gravity damper prevents back flow. Low profile in black color blends with roof.

Ok then go for it!  If it has the right number of CFM's for your space and you're comfortable with it, then it sounds like a great solution. We've never specified the model with the exhaust fan as I like to keep them separate because ventilation is my #1 concern in any bathroom I renovate.

How long can they be? We have a VERY steep attic space.

I'm not sure the length of the tubes, but they don't have to go straight up, more often than not, we set them at an angle to get to the hole in the roof.  Never ran into a pitch issue yet.

We would like to add an attic bath to our 2br/1ba condo for convenience and resale value. But the quotes we've been getting for the attic bath are in the $28,000+ range. We have been quoted $14,000 for a gut reno of our current bath, which would include new double sink. If you were choosing, would you just do the gut reno of the current bath, or spend nearly twice as much to gain a second bath? We are a family of three, including an 11-year-old girl.

I think the second bathroom will be more bang for your buck, especially considering the 11-year-old girl will be using YOUR bathroom for the next seven years if you don't! :)  Good luck!

How do you feel about those tiles that look like wood? I'm thinking they might be a better option that real wood in a basement, where I'd worry about moisture. But are they tacky?

Not tacky at all.  I love them, but again, I preface every material selection with the statement that style is a personal preference. One person's "tacky" is another person's "dream bathroom". If you like it, go for it!! Just make sure the installation is done impeccably then no one will question why you did what you did!

What waterproofing systems for shower stalls are the most reliable?

I only recommend one because it's the one we use almost every episode and we've had incredible success with it.  It's from a company called Schluter Systems. Kerdi board for the shower walls, Ditra for the bathroom floors and Kerdi band to seal any seams.  Do that and waterproofing should be all taken care of for you. It's not the least expensive option, but it's the best.

That is the question...

Shiny or brushed.  That's the answer.  

Personal preference breaks the tie. I think chrome is a bit more timeless, but brushed nickel is a little warmer and hides water spots and finger prints better. Now you choose! :)

Is it possible to relocate a sink to an opposite wall so that it shares water and drain lines with an existing tub?

Not quite that simple. It will require a rework and it will need to also be vented. Moving plumbing around in your bathroom is the single largest expense you'll find in your renovation, so if its a huge nuisance, bit the bullet and move it. If not, try to find a way to make it work where it is!

Are there any tile types that I should not use in the shower stall due to durability concerns? (e.g. is marble to soft and stains, that kind of thing)

I'm not a big fan of marble in the shower... carerra marble for sure as its very easy to stain.  Travertine is tough too as its likely pitted and hard to keep those areas clean.  Stay to ceramic or porcelain if you can.

Should I tile the ceiling of the shower stall?

You certainly can - but if its not a steam shower, its not required.

Matt you really know how to answer bathroom questions - fast ! Thanks for being on the chat and we look forward to having you at the Capital Home Show next week. Meanwhile, join me here next week for my chat guest Alexandria designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey. Thanks.

I had a blast answering your questions this morning!!  Looking forward to the Capital Home Show in Dulles next weekend! Hopefully a lot of you will come out and see the show, sit in on one of my presentations and ask some more questions! Hang out and take a pic with me afterward! See you there!!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Matt Muenster
Licensed contractor Matt Muenster transforms bathrooms on DIY Network’s “Bath Crashers” and “BATHtastic!"
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