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Using a Computer Program to Design Your Bathroom

The best way to help you visualize remodeling possibilities for your bathroom is to do what the professionals do: Make a scale drawing of the space. The process of creating a scale drawing forces you to take careful note of the existing room and everything in it, and it gives you a concise record of the key dimensions of the area you plan to change. As you work through the design with a contractor or designer, or if you do the work yourself, a scaled drawing gives you information to carry on an informed discussion, ask questions, and choose materials and fixtures more confidently. The process involves these three basic steps:

  • Using design software tools: To design your bathroom, you can use graph paper, buy inexpensive software, such as Broderbund’s 3D Home Architect (about $30), or use the online tools available on the Internet at manufacturer websites such as Kohler.com. If you don’t have a computer, go to your public library, where you can get access to the Internet.

    The real advantage to the high-tech approach is that after you create the basic floor plan, the computer can render a virtual bathroom from the floor plan that lets you see what the bathroom might look like in a three-dimensional image. These tools also can generate a shopping list of all the fixtures and cabinets you need.

    Expect a learning curve when using design software for the first time, but you can figure out most simpler house design programs without too much anguish.

    Even if you use a computer to create your design, you still need to do some low-tech tasks with a tape measure, paper, and pencil because any computer software you use is based on the data or dimensions you put in it. Spend the time and effort to get accurate measurements and preliminary drawings of the existing bathroom or area you want to remodel because any new designs depend on the accuracy of this initial information.

  • Making an overlay: The scaled graph paper floor plan becomes the background that you can use with several different designs on tracing paper. To make your first one, place a piece of tracing paper over the sketch on the graph paper and hold it in place with a piece of masking tape. Then trace over the floor plan with a sharp pencil to transfer the floor plan to the tracing paper to get an accurate rendition of the existing floor plan as a starting point for your new design.

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  • Making templates: Place your plan on the photocopier and make a copy of it. Then cut out the shapes of the basic fixtures and use them on the scaled drawing.

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    Alternatively, you can purchase a plumbing fixture template from your local drafting supply or art store. Most house plans use a scale of 1/4 inch to a foot, but because the bathroom is a smaller area than a house, a scale of 1/2 inch to a foot is easier to work with. If you can’t find a template of 1/2 inch to the foot, purchase the 1/4-inch-scale template and make each square on the graph paper equal a foot.

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