Home Improvement--General/brick shower


Hello Diane,  My home was built in '60 and the downstairs bathroom has a brick shower. I'm going to see about getting it tiled but the problem I'm having is with the ceiling. The bathroom has a "drop" type ceiling. I'm not sure what it's called but the frame is wired and panels are laid in. The shower has the same thing only with plastic panels. I would like to do something more attractive for the shower ceiling and I would like to add a light. The shower is directly below the upstairs toilet so I have to have access to the plumbing. I don't necessarily have to have a light. The shower stall has a low ceiling so I need something that will take an occasion splash of water  Any ideas?
Thank you!

Basement Before Remodeling
Basement Before Remode  

Basement Bathroom After
Basement Bathroom Afte  
Hello, Steve.

You've got a real challenge in the bathroom that you describe. I don't know what your budget is, but my recommendation is to hire a contractor to frame a new ceiling for you, and use drywall. If you don't mind the look, it might be possible to frame the ceiling higher, except where the upstairs toilet is located, unless there are other existing restrictions.

Honestly, in 30 years, I've never had to create access to a toilet from a room below. The trapway doesn't require maintenance, unless there's a major failure -- and that's usually somewhere else in the connection between the toilet and the pipes.

If you're able to frame a new ceiling, it's possible that wiring could be run from a switch, or other light fixtures, so you can have a shower light. Because it sounds like a tight space, you must use a self-contained insulated ceiling (IC) fixture. The contractor (or electrician) should confirm the best location. It may not be perfectly centered, but it will be an improvement of your existing condition.

There are several other things to consider. Brick is porous. The last thing you need is to have moisture trapped between the tile and the brick, which will become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. The brick should be prepared, and a water-resistant backer should be used, possibly with metal furring to prevent the brick from sweating. A professional contractor and/or tile setter should have at least one solution, once they see your bathroom and shower.

The major thing that concerns me, though, is the lack of air circulation. This is something I see in older bathrooms. A window is not sufficient for eliminating moisture from a bathroom; it must be done with an exhaust fan, which brings the stale, moist air to the outside. This could be difficult to achieve with brick, but not impossible.

Two years ago, I helped homeowners create a new basement bathroom, and we were able to squeeze in an exhaust fan between the structural ceiling joists (floor joists from the area above). The wall cap on the exterior ended up above the mud sill and the foundation. It was a lot of work for the contractor and the electrician, but the results were worth their effort (and the money that the homeowners invested). I've attached a picture of the before basement, so you can see the challenges we faced.

Here are links to blogs about bathroom fans: http://www.dp-design.com/why-do-you-need-a-bathroom-exhaust-fan/(there's a picture of the finished basement bathroom, showing the exhaust fan); http://www.dp-design.com/the-6-best-bathroom-fans-for-under-150/.

Your bathroom is not the first time I've heard what seems like a simple request for one or two improvements. Unfortunately, everything is interconnected, and must be addressed (individually and collectively) to really improve your home and your life.  

Wishing you good luck, and good health.


Diane Plesset, CMKBD, C.A.P.S., NCIDQ
D. P. Design

P.S. Every question receives considerable thought. If you believe that my answer is professional and thorough, I greatly appreciate you grading my answer. My main goal is to help people improve their homes and their lives. My secondary goal is to continue my growth as a human being, and a professional designer. Thank you!  

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Diane Plesset


I will answer questions about anything to do with bathroom remodeling: design considerations, safety, function, materials (cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures and fittings, lighting/switching, heating and ventilation, tile, stone, concrete, tub and shower enclosures, flooring, etc.), saving water, trends, ROI, and appearance.


25+ years as a bath-kitchen design specialist, hundreds of completed bathroom projects (all styles, all investment ranges). Author of "THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling," co-host of a home improvement program on a local radio station for over three years. Currently hosting "Today's Home" on Lifestyle WebRadio every Sunday afternoon (http://www.todays-home.com).

NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association), NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), PRO (Portland Remodelers' Organization), IDPC (Interior Design Protection Council).

"THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" (my book, published in 2003), Designers' Illustrated Magazine, Gentry Magazine, Kitchen-Bath Business Magazine, Kitchen-Bath Design News Magazine,Interior Coordinator Magazine (Japan); San Jose Mercury News, San Mateo Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Statesman Journal, Portland Tribune, Oregonian.

Multiple degrees: Bathroom Design, Residential Interior Design, Kitchen Design, and Lighting Design. Regularly attend classes and seminars to maintain current knowledge about codes, trends, sustainability, new products, etc.

Awards and Honors
Awards: Henry Adams Designer of the Year, CoTY, Master Design, Best of the Best, Chrysalis, Excellence (best home in its category), and NABE (best how-to book, 2003). "THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling" received #1 listing in the City of Chicago publication, "Hiring The Pros".

Past/Present Clients
To see photos of completed projects, visit my website: http://www.dp-design.com/portfolio

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