Are your building’s washrooms losing their luster? Maybe you spotted mold around the base of the faucet, or foot traffic has worn down the tiles. The washroom’s appearance can negatively impact how users view your business, so if you notice signs of age, it’s time for an update.

When to Renovate
Office washrooms may not be renovated until the facilities start showing their age, while a chain hotel might renovate on a set schedule. But deterioration won’t wait for a planned project, so keep an eye on common trouble areas before they become permanent eyesores.

“Wherever there is any tilework, such as in a shower, you can see the blackness of the grout and smell the mustiness,” says Scott Smith, vice president of sales and marketing for ProjectStone by Belstone, a producer of natural stone surfaces. “Surface material used on the countertops, such as cultured marble, begins to wear in five to seven years. Some of the less expensive Chinese granites, for instance, are very porous, so you’ll see some deterioration, especially around faucets.”

A push for LEED-EBOM certification or more hygienic facilities can also result in renovation projects that include washrooms, says Andy Clement, director of hand hygiene and tissue business for Kimberly-Clark Professional. Systems that are motion-controlled serve both purposes and lend the space a modern look.

“More and more people are moving toward touchless systems in the restrooms,” Clement says. “Increasingly, hand sanitizer is provided inside or just outside the restroom in an electronic dispenser to make sure people sanitize their hands on the way out. A lot of places are removing the doors so there’s one less thing to touch and then adjusting how the bathroom is shaped.”

Fast Fixture Replacement
A deteriorating faucet may jump out at building occupants because they look at it every day. Hard water affects fixtures’ finish and life expectancy, and excessive use can also lead to breakdowns. Refreshing the space with new fixtures updates the washroom’s look without requiring you to remove tile or counters, which would temporarily put the washroom out of commission.

“In general, a move to more modern technology is considered positive by tenants,” Clement explains. “Other than their desks, people spend more time in the restroom than any other part of the office building. When you see an improvement in restroom fixtures, it impacts tenants positively.”

You can delay replacing the faucet if you’re careful to avoid harsh cleaners and scratchy pads – over time, they’ll breach the chrome plating and expose the base metal, which corrodes faster and may harbor bacteria, says Rick Nortier, Sloan Faucets’ product align manager for faucets.

If you do have to replace the faucet, look for fittings with physical vapor deposition (PVD), a hard, tough finish.

“The faucet is harder to wipe clean when it’s scratched up,” Nortier explains. “The chrome plating is like the top layer of your skin. The best thing you can do for your hands is to wash them with mild soap and water.”

Tough But Elegant Surfaces
Countertops, floors, and other surfaces also impact users’ perceptions of the washrooms, Smith says. Natural colors and stone are consistently popular, and purchasing durable products can keep the space looking contemporary for more than a decade, Smith says.

“Cultured marble in the bathroom is passé because it doesn’t last,” Smith explains. “It has a very short lifespan compared to real granite. Everyone’s moving to quartz because of its look and durability, and it’s much harder than granite or marble. If surfaces are well-maintained, they could be in a property for 10, 20, or even 30 years.”

Know exactly what your budget is and how far you want your dollars to go before you seek out a supplier, Smith recommends.

“Sometimes people have rich taste but don’t have the budget for it. That’s when they have to write new shop drawings and go through the process again because they didn’t plan effectively,” Smith adds. “You can renovate much less expensively than you think you can by opening up the space with something unique.”


Janelle Penny ( is associate editor of BUILDINGS.


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